The work of Sudarshan Shetty (born in Mangalore, India in 1961) reflects on the nature of contemporary Indian society and the objects that define it. Working with mechanically-reproduced multiples of common objects, the artist attempts to reveal the many meanings that lie beyond face value.
Shetty’s cast models of 42 “crashed” miniature Volkswagen Beetle cars, displayed in rows of clear stacked and dated cases, draw attention to the environmental damage caused by the combustion engine. Encased in a coffin-like box and on display as a museum relic or artefact, each vehicle mimics children’s toy cars, a reference to a childlike desire and nostalgic memory. Plurality, repetition, and sequence are frequently used to capture attention, harkening to historical religious ritual and contemporary advertising. History of Loss is Sudarshan Shetty’s North American public art debut.
In Taj Mahal, Shetty has created hundreds of miniature reproductions of the historic shrine, bolted together to form a monumental block. Re-scaled and repeated, the image is transposed from its original context and meaning to become decorative, nearly meaningless. Near the installation, a video of Taj Mahal is overlaid with an image of flames, reinforcing this idea of destruction. With this video we are meant to understand the meaning of the process of disintegration in the same way the monument has migrated from private gesture through national symbol to a ubiquitous image robbed of potency, akin to the tourist souvenir. In this sense, the artwork reflects the notion of absence. In the first instance, Taj Mahal stands in monument to a dead wife; in the second it stands as a symbol of a (constructed) notion of national identity.
The artist’s strategy of radically altering the scale of the objects and his choice of steel as material are also intentional, serving to reorient the viewer’s perception and act as a commentary on the everyday, the contemporary nature of society, its economy, and its road to modernization.
Artist: S. Subramanium
Artwork: Dan Fairchild Photography