The Compasswallah and the seashells

The Dadar-based film studio and alternative music venue, Sitara Studio, is showcasing an exhibition that revolves around topics as divergent as tides, the moon and seashells. Aptly titled, He Sells Seashells On The Seashore, the artworks are conceptualised by artist Rohit Gupta, a writer and historian of mathematics and science. Gupta also goes by the moniker Compasswallah (slang for British surveyors who roamed the Indian countryside with telescopes in 19th century India). The exhibition is an initiative by arts lab Khanabadosh, a travelling arts project initiated by curator and writer Gitanjali Dang.

Untitled by Compasswallah

He sells... focusses on how shells can present a chronometric etching of evolution (the marine clam Arctica islandica boasts of a lifespan of more than 500 years). The patterns on mollusc shells can be caused by tidal motion, which is controlled by the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun. Thus, changes in temperature and chemistry of the waters acting on seashells transforms them into an archive of cosmic forces.

For the artworks on display, Compasswallah used a computer program to alter the evolutionary process and activated half a dozen variables, including planetary gravity, to generate new fictional molluscs. Curator Gitanjali Dang explains the idea, “We wanted to use the mollusc/ seashell as a sort of metaphor for time, space and connectedness. One of Compasswallah’s key interests is to bring math and science into the realm of the everyday; to create a public engagement with them. The exhibition comprises drawings, prints, a site-specific installation and soundpiece and an album called Songs
for Molluscs.”

Compasswallah is inspired by 16th century Italian monk, mathematician and philosopher Giordano Bruno’s book On the Infinite Universe and Worlds (1584). It emphasises on how the universe could contain an infinity of worlds populated by other intelligent beings.

Till November 18
At Sitara Studio, 4A, National Engineering Compound, Garage Lane, opposite Tilak Bhavan, Kakasaheb Gadgil Marg, Dadar (W).
open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 2 pm to 5 pm; otherwise by appointment

Why Sitara studio?
“Sitara Studio is wonderful; a sort of quintessential city venue, it is hidden behind garages and tea stalls. We’re working out of a former green room and recording studio in Sitara. It’s a small space that lends itself to the project in many ways. The exhibition is about flux/ evolution and the space itself undergoes transformations on a daily basis, in that when the exhibition is not open to the public, the space is used as a DJ booth or whatever else. The exhibition room is like a provisional space that reflects the reality of a lot of Mumbai’s city spaces,” explains Dang. 

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