This Place, That Place, Displace
- Kiran Chandra
The seeds of this project were planted during a visit to villages in Chhattisgarh, over the summer of 2011. Leaving Raipur I was warned about Maoist uprisings and a hostile countryside. I was told it was best to stay in the city, to avoid the villages at night, that the space between urban areas was unsafe and best avoided.
While the dangers, and the extent of the uprising, were greatly exaggerated, the level of anger and discontent at feeling harmed by development was not. I conducted interviews with villagers, echoed on the gallery walls by speech patterns rendered from recordings, who explained that the rising tide of development did not raise their boat but, in fact, had swamped it. Nearly literally illustrating this, I interviewed a farmer and his family who lost their farmland to a dam built to supply Raipur and its attendant industry with water. Before the damn he had land sufficient to maintain his family. Although given a payment by the government, the one time payment cannot sustain a family. This man now seeks out short time work as a labourer. He acutely feels his loss of independence and identity. He also described, along with many others, feelings of betrayal after many broken promises from the government.
These conversations with villagers, tribals, journalists, and local activists posed more questions than answers: What space is there in a rapidly developing and expanding country for those on the margins? What does it mean when development takes a decidedly urban and industrial vision to those who are neither? What does development mean when it comes at the expense of some citizens? What does it mean for a country to build its first billion dollar home when 256,913 farmers have committed suicide as of 2010 due to crushing poverty and debt? What role is there for art in engaging debates in society? How can an artist intervene and interpret the world? Can the world of art, urban and urbane, be the site for discussion and reconciliation between the center and the periphery?
American Abolitionist Frederick Douglass stated,
If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.
This Place, That Place, Displace seeks to imagine the question of Whose struggle, whose progress?