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Author: Ravi Agarwal
60 pages with more than 35 colour plates
Between October 2013 to August 2015, Ravi Agarwal spent time at a small fishing village, near Puducherry. In association with local fishermen, he sought to explore their cultural and political relationship to the sea, which has been central to them from time immemorial. . A first encounter with the sea and its ecology, it was new grounds for Agarwal’s ongoing exploration about questions of the politics of sustainability, environmental inequity, and embedded cultural views through which ideas of ‘nature’ have been formed. A diary, which was part of the exploration, along with the camera, and an engagement with ancient Tamil Sangam love-landscape poetry gave rise to a set of new reflections. It put into sharp focus, the shifting nature of the social, political and family life of this coastal region. The diary observations come in a time when contemporary ideas of the Anthropocene and debates around sustainability have become important. In the context of small fisherman and a different cultural milieu than that projected by the classical human-non-human binary, they bring forth a set of evocative personal observations.
“…The beach is always busy. There is activity nearly all the time. Early, predawn the beach comes alive as boats head out to sea. It is still dark, and there is barely enough light to see the silhouettes of the boats. As light strikes the sands, one can see nets, bunched up in piles and covered with plastic tarpaulin. On the far end of the beach are make shift thatched huts, where the fisher-folk store nets, boat parts, anchors, and also sleep in at night. As the day progresses, the boats start to come in with their catch. The nets are spread out and the fish or rubble caught in them are removed by hand. Some are luckier than others. The fish are piled in bunches, and it is then one sees the fisherwomen appear. They will take the fish to the local fish market to sell them. The men stay back to clean and if need be, to repair the nets. This activity continues for most of the day, till early forenoon. Some larger boats come in later in the day from their longer trips, and sometimes they need to order in large trucks with crates filled with ice to carry a very large haul to the market. The smaller boats however almost always have a small bag full of catch at best, which needs no trucks or containers to carry them. These are best hauled by hand, like in plastic bags.
The difference in the two economies is distinct and apparent. Economies are not necessarily democratic”
Ravi Agarwal is a photographer artist, writer, curator and environmental activist. He explores issues of urban space, ecology and capital in an interrelated ways working with photographs, video, performance, on-site installations and public art. Agarwal has participated in several institutional/Museum shows including Kochi-Muziris Biennale, 2016 curated by Sudarshan Shetty; documenta XI (Kassel, 2002) curated by Okwui Enwezor; Sharjah Biennial 11 (2013) curated byYuko Hasegawa ; Zones of Contact: Propositions on the Museum, co-curated by Vidya Shivadas, Akansha Rastogi, Deeksha Nath, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Noida, 2013; The Needle on the Gauge: The Testimonial Image in the works of Seven Indian Artists, curated by Ranjit Hoskote, Contemporary Art Centre of SA, Adelaide, Australia, 2012; Newtopia, curated by Katerina Gregos, various Museum venues, Mechelen, Belgium, 2012; Critical Mass: Contemporary Art from India, curated by Tami Katz-Freiman and Rotem Ruff, Tel Aviv Museum of Contemporary Art, Israel, 2012; Z.N.E!, Examples to Follow!, curated by Adrienne Goehler, traveling exhibition, Berlin, Mumbai, Adis Ababba, Beijing; Horn Please, Kunstmuseum, Bern, 2007, curated by Bernhard Fibicher and Suman Gopinath; Indian Highway 2009 , Serpentine Gallery, curated by Julia Peyton-Jones, Hans Ulrich Obrist ; Generation in Transition: New Art from India, Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland, and Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius, Lithuania curated by Magda Kardasz; The Eye is a Lonely Hunter: Images of Humankind, at Fotofestival Mannheim_ludwigshafen_Heidelberg, curated by Katerina Gregos and Solvej Helweg Ovesen; After the Crash at Museo Orto Botanico, Rome. His solo shows: Else all will be still at The Guild, Alibaug, 2015; Gallery Espace, 2016; Of Value and Labour, at The Guild, Mumbai, 2011; Flux: Dystopia, Utopia, Heterotopia, Gallery Espace, New Delhi. Agarwal recently co-curated a twin city public art project, Yamuna-Elbe.Public.Art.Outreach. He writes extensively on ecological issues, and is also founder of the leading Indian environmental NGO Toxics Link. He is an engineer by training.
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