Sudarshan Shetty’s work 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, draws attention to the environmental damage caused by the combustion engine. Each vehicle is in a coffin-like box, on display as a museum relic or artefact while mimicking children’s toy cars, a reference to a childlike desire and nostalgic memory. The use of plurality, repetition and sequence is 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 the Taj Mahal is overlaid with an image of flames, reinforcing this idea of destruction. With this video we are meant to understand the process of disintegration in meaning, 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 piece reflects the notion of absence. In the first instance, the 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 is 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 modernisation.
Artist: S. Subramanium
Artwork: Dan Fairchild Photography