She confronts history

27 March,2022 07:07 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  Nidhi Lodaya

The present is determined by our memory of the past. A Chicago-based Indian artist is questioning the collective narrative around historical events including the partition of India

Among the primary sites for Pritika Chowdhry’s project were Jallianwala Bagh memorial and Minar-e-Pakistan

As a socio-political, feminist artist, who has witnessed the generational effects of India's partition, Pritika Chowdhry has devoted her art practice to examine traumatic geopolitical events. In 2007, on the 60th anniversary of the division of British India, Chowdhry started the Partition Memorial Art Project. It uses art to tell the story of how a border was hurriedly drawn on religious lines, and comprises anti-memorials, which are sculptural installations that intentionally question public monuments dealing with colonial massacres, declarations of independence and the suppression of independence. The ongoing site-specific, research-based art project interrogates the role of public monuments in the formation of collective memory, urging people to look at the many truths that make up a historical event. "The anti-memorials, which are quietly provocative and temporary, incorporate visceral materials, and create experiential environments where viewers can be vulnerable with unbearable and difficult memories," says Chowdhry, who chooses, for instance, to explore sexual violence against women in war, something that the original memorials do not represent.

The project includes a series of exhibitions, each covering a different aspect of the Partition. Her latest, Broken Column: Monuments of Forgetting, is an anti-memorial that triangulates public monuments in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, through artistic interventions. It also juxtaposes the counter-memories of the Partition of India, and the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. The primary sites for her research were Jallianwala Bagh memorial in Punjab, Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore, and Martyred Intellectuals monument in Rayer Bazar, Dhaka.

"For the Broken Column anti-memorial, I have made latex and silicone casts of the stairs, walls, doors, and ornaments, capturing details and textures of intimate spaces within the larger architecture of monuments. The silicone and latex casts are like the ‘skin' that make the ‘body' of the monument accessible in a corporeal manner," she says.

Pritika Chowdhry

Each location took a few weeks to create, recalls Chowdhry, who embarked on the project in 2011, when she first travelled to Lahore to make the cast for Minar-e-Pakistan. "Getting permission from local authorities to make the cast of monuments has been the most difficult and challenging part of this project. I needed to travel to specific cities, and source materials locally, and stay on the site to make the casts."

WHAT: Broken Column: Monuments of Forgetting
WHEN: Till mid-April

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