All that is Solid Melts into Air - Marx’s pronouncement on the dramatic reconstitution, an overturning of the world, so to speak, in the modern, industrial age, might have been filled with equal measures of promise and foreboding. But standing, as we are, in another time we find ourselves holding the short end of the stick.

The extractive processes of brick making and mining have literally hollowed out the solid core of the earth. We are confronted with these melting sets on which the curtains have descended – the trolley of trucks and equipment are making their way through Bellary district in Karnataka (at one point there were 149 mining sites functioning here), and the sprawling brick making units outside Guwahati in Assam, now ghost settlements with submerged half-built structures.

The landscapes are rendered as panoramas – a format that gained currency in the 19th century.  Prasad was interested in playing with that seamless overview of nature which when seen closely is a composite landscape built from various fragments of different sites. The eye runs over the details, sees variations in soil colors and textures, and plays with distances and proximities.

All that is Solid Melts into Air, 18” x 72”, 2021

Brick by Brick, 18” x 72”, 2021

In Through a Glass Darkly the early photographic technologies like the Camera Obscura becomes an object of scrutiny. The image quotes in part a French engraving of apparatus positioned in a landscape which was reproduced in Denis Diderot’’s Encyclopedia. This Encyclopedia was the first such compilation of objective comprehensive knowledge. Here the observation deck looks onto another landscape, this time reconstructed from Kemmanagundi in Western Ghats, Karnataka. Some remnants are found here as well – a white shirt draped on the chair and a memento of a small scoop of earth. 

Through a Glass Darkly, 24” x 45”, 2021

Fast Forward To Zero

Duration: 2:37mins

I have been preoccupied with the effects of industrialisation and the social, economic, ecological and ethical dilemmas they pose. Even as India’s post-independence development strategies are starting to show results, they are leaving behind tell-tale signs on the soil and this is what I am interested in excavating.

The film opens with a camera panning over a panoramic landscape that on closer inspection reveals itself as a collage of ravaged mine lands. The eye continuously confronts roads and pathways used to carry the minerals and resources juxtaposed with the actual textures and hues of the denuded earth. We make our way to the next logical location – the factory as the site of productivity with its large-scale industrial machines and furnaces. Does anyone believe the linear stories it tells – on progress, sustainability, and the future? The final sequence presents us with a static shot of ants clambering in and out of a hole in the ground, busily carrying soil. We return to the site of labouring bodies, collectively toiling. These notes on development would form a very different narrative if told from their perspective.

- Babu Eshwar Prasad

About the artist

Babu Eshwar Prasad trained as an artist, completing his graduation and post-graduation in painting and printmaking in the early 1990s, the latter from the Faculty of Fine Arts, M S University, Vadodara. He has held several solo exhibitions since 1996 at Sakshi Gallery in 1996, 2002 Bangalore and Mumbai, Bodhi Art, Mumbai, 2007 and Gallery Sumukha, Bangalore, 2013, as well as participated in several curated exhibitions..

Apart from painting, Prasad has sustained a deep interest in exploring other media like sculpture, sound, photography and above all video and film. His short videos have been screened at various venues --- . In 2014 Prasad made his first feature film Gaalibeeja (Wind Seed). A self-financed Kannada film, Wind Seed was selected for the NFDC Film Bazaar, Goa in 2014 in the rough cut stage and upon completion has been shown at MAMI, Mumbai Film Festival, Bangalore International Film Festival, 3rd, San Francisco South Asian Film Festival and FilmColumbia festival. He recently completed his second film Hariva Nadige Maiyella Kaalu (A running river is all legs) in 2020 December.

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