B R O K E N F O O T
U N F O L D I N G I N E Q U A L I T I E S
C u r a t e d b y –
P r a b h a k a r K a m b l e
& R u m i S a m a d h a n
The Constitution unfolds itself as a live text, as millions of migrant-labourers marched thousands of miles, homewards. What were the conditions which made them take these arduous journeys on foot, till the time their feet developed cracks like cracked earth? These are the broken people of the times, broken from their homes. Can one stand united as a society on a broken foot? In the context of inequality, we can't progress as a nation with a broken foot; a divide called discrimination as the Pandemic starkly revealed.
A force that built homes, offices, bridges, and the cities and monuments as we know and imagine. A force that raises the economy of the Nation. A force that builds the Nation. The Pandemic revealed - without this force, the Nation could come to an economic standstill. Today, this force that is physically involved in creating wealth in the Nation, was left on the fringes of the society in a precarious situation; broken, seeking Hope.
The CONSTITUTION ensures protection for all citizens especially the underprivileged. When we define ourselves as WE, ‘the people of India’ under the oath of the word WE and the PEOPLE, where the ‘Native’ (Nation) is the being of the people; those who live by the consent of the Constitution, and the ‘Demos’ is the voice of the people, we remind ourselves of the promise of EQUALITY. THE DIRECTIVE PRINCIPLES OF STATE POLICY which regulates the State to establish a social system for the promotion of public welfare as per Article 38 (Part IV). In this, the state should ‘strive’ to promote the welfare of the people by establishing and preserving a society that will inspire all aspects of national life, through social, economic and political justice as effectively as possible.
The foundation of the Nation was built through the Constitution and its directive principles that Dr. Ambedkar laid out. His concerns with people and Nation, equality and democracy, social welfare, and protection of fundamental rights were his core responsibilities while framing the laws and policies for a justified society, ensuring directive principles for the political and cultural assertions of the exploited and underprivileged classes - a space for ensuring inclusivity of the Secular fabric of India and above all Equality granted under Article 14, including the entire body of Fundamental Rights under Article 19, which speaks of freedom of speech and expression, to form associations or unions, and so on.
The curatorial vision locates ‘Labor’, as ‘WE’, the force of the ‘Nation’, as we look into their interrelations’
Locating the dual framework of ‘LABOR’ within the ‘NATION’, this dual framework is methodically expanded on within the curation -: Locating ‘LABOR’ as ‘WE’ within the Nation/ ‘NATION’- its ‘Identity’, and its interconnections with Labor. Within the ‘Nation’ framework ‘Unfolding Inequalities’ locates the Existential migrant-labor crisis as a ‘Rupture’, as an ongoing as well as a historical trajectory of ‘Forms of Inequalities’.
The artists have been invited specifically to build a context for the curatorial vision, as they help generate a Fundraiser for the artists in need. The invited artists representing this project are socio-political conscious, representing a critical view of Postconceptual art emerging from Existential conditionings. They respond through collective and personal histories to their times. Each of them represents an integral specific context of either the ‘Labor’ subject and/or its location within the ‘Nation’. Within this dual framework, they register the unfolding of the migrant labour crisis, which is going through its transitional stages, addressed as an existential National crisis.
We invoke the directive principles through the understandings of Constitutional morality, we present a reminder of the Dignity of Labor, as the voice of the Nation, the Janta, We, the people. Within this crisis in the Nation, this project locates, identifies, and centralises Dr. B. R. Ambedkar’s contributions towards labour movement and labour laws that he incorporated for a protective measure of a developing country and its people; especially the vulnerable.
Dr. Ambedkar symbolises the ‘Constitution’ and the notions of ‘Equality’ itself which becomes the fundamental reason to invoke him in the current times. The project observes the flouting of labour laws in Covid-19 times, as politics of economics is twisting humanitarian concerns, as India witnessed an exodus of inequality.
As the Pandemic unfolds the societal inequalities of the times, as well as ecological, we subject the concerns of the social as political, within the ecological. We bring in subjects of ‘Urbanisation’ and its conflict with ‘Ecology’ as territorial invasions, as common markers stemming from notions of ‘Progress’ and ‘Power’, which brings us towards contemplations on the notions of ‘Equality’ both in Ecological terms and Anthropological.
‘The Artists respond to Spontaneous Solidarities as well as Forms Of Inequalities as they subject ‘The migrant labor crisis and its shifting form of inequality, an unfolding of a critical overview of an ‘Inheritance of Forms of Inequalities’, through collective voices of Dissent.’
As the Pandemic reveals the societal inequalities, one may pause, to ponder upon the other great epidemic we have been suffering from as a society—the contagion of caste and its relation with untouchability, and the suppressions /discriminations which emerge from it. One can also probe into the roots in caste, class, and gender struggles, and the patterns of migration which are steeped in caste issues. As the contagion creates isolated existences and Alienations of the Self, it’s the right time to ponder on the caste question as we experience the prohibitions related to ‘Touch’.
The select artists’ work centres Labour as Force of the Nation, and reimagines—WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA- the Janta, the Constitution; the interconnections of economy and labour as the health of the Nation. Labour, construction and architecture in historical or urban-rural spaces and its connections with cultural heritage and absence of labour; Justice and Dignity, Democracy and Equality as a measure for strengthening fundamental and civil rights become subjects. We respond to the emergence of interconnections of identity, data, biometric technologies, and surveillance as it unfolds. In this context, Home, Homeland also becomes the locations of search and inquiry within the Nation. The works bring in concerns of the Land and its People, and the Environment, the land and its relation with agriculture as well as Rivers, Ocean as Reservoirs.
Some artists have shown spontaneous solidarities through their works towards the migrant-labour crisis, responding as well as documenting the current times through their practices, whereas some artists subjected labour-nation, and the other integral subjects mentioned above through their works. Inclusivity of Tribal Art as well as documentations of Tribes is a way to encompass the Secular texture; to ensure a space of respect for traditions of life and art of the everyday. We look at interrelations of socio- political, economic-ecological as well as technological aspects that build our milieu, where Existential Social Realities become the core aspects of life.
We are looking at a ‘protected ignorance’, a blind eye towards forms of societal defunct we are part of. The question arises at this stage: as the world is subjected to a pandemic, can we reboot and form rational forms of sustainable livelihoods? Professor Y.S. Alone tells us in his essay, Caste Life Narratives, “If the objective of rationality is to kill ignorance, then it becomes a righteous rationality, and if it is the opposite, it signifies an unrighteous rationality and, consequently, a “protected ignorance.”
Addressing the ecological crisis, which has imprints of human impact on the Earth, here within the Pause created by the Pandemic, we could collectively introspect the collective damage we cause. The pandemic brings in a realisation of ‘Power’ as a self regulatory elemental force, as we realise as one species among many others to adapt to new inclinations of co-existence, non-violently. We may remember Buddha’s teachings here which speak of life, death, beauty, suffering, ahimsa, and compassion, and above all Wisdom and Equality, to create a discourse of compassion, assertion and direction, to lift the horizons.