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A Sculptural Representation of Failed Futures

Artist Blog by Akshay Mahajan

Once, a friend pointed out that architecture can function as “a sculptural representation of failed futures.” In this city scarred by absurdities, crises, and injustices, our surroundings offer clues to where we’ve been, to where we’re going. There are “the remnants of the ancient Buddhist caves in Bombay harbour that the Portuguese used for cannon practice.” There are the Neo-Gothic structures, their soaring spires built from the spoils of the one-time cotton boom. The Art Deco buildings were built to herald the departure from the colonial. Now overshadowed by hoardings and the relentless salt air. Other exploitative colonial relics have been repurposed as equally oppressive investment banks. There are “forsaken relics of late-fifties Nehruvian functionalism” in the old financial centre, stark against the skyline. The forgotten gardens are now just patches of green used by tired labourers for quiet respite between work shifts. The “prodigious, lost-era” skyscrapers were abandoned “on the brink of rationalism.” Buildings - their designs and locations, the condition they’re in, what they replace and what they conceal - record histories and gesture toward one-time paths forward.

Contrasting sharply with these monuments' past are the spontaneous sculptures in the city's street, which is littered with truly human detritus. To some, these may appear as mere garbage, a sort of mess and grit that clutters the streetscape. Yet, in my eyes, they are in themselves a kind of found sculpture, emerging organically from the city's throbbing heart.

Here, a palm frond curves gracefully under its weight, resting against the market’s edge – a natural installation forming a canopy over the fruits of daily toil. There, a mound of sacks huddles like a slumbering behemoth, wrapped in tarpaulin shrouds, encapsulating the labour and sweat of countless souls. A painted stone deity gazes out serenely from the rubble.

An abandoned chariot, adorned with faded whimsy, stands frozen in time, its vibrant horses arrested mid-gallop, evoking a fantastical pause in the mundane rush. Birds of prey, like sentinels, perch atop stacks of concrete cylinders, a tableau vivant representing nature's watchful eye over man's stacked and ordered world.

These found sculptures are an important element in my series “To die is to be turned to gold”, while not chiselled by design, are moulded by the ceaseless cycle of the city's life, shaped by the invisible hands of necessity and chance. Together, the city's architectural relics and the impromptu art of its streetscape weave that is at once historical and deeply human. They are testaments to the myriad destinies that intersect within this urban labyrinth.

Akshay Mahajan is part of »Guest Room: David Campany & Taous Dahmani«.