Understanding a Mythos
Artistic Body of Research, Sculpture, Films, Performances, Photographs
(2017 - Ongoing)
I cannot remember a time in my life when I was not fascinated by the Brahmaputra. Growing up, I was told splendid tales about a God assuming the form of a river, older than creation itself, hiding countless secrets in its folds.
While growing up in a place that was far enough from the river to be minorly affected during the annual floods, I had a romanticized idea of the river that overlooked the finer nuances of the entire ecology.
Basing my practice upon deconstructing this romanticized notion of the Brahmaputra, I reflect my ideas against the views and belief of the communities that thrive on its banks.
The Brahmaputra plays a vital role in connecting North-East India through multiple aspects and establishes an intricate relationship with the ecosystem and the biosphere of the region. Its aura and the lifestyle that it instigates have inspired a distinct meta-cultural pattern which has been molded by the contribution of numerous ethnic groups who have settled along the region following its course, who collectively form the greater Assamese identity.
The unusual nature of the annual river floods, even though fueled by recent human-induced reasons like deforestation and climate change, remains majorly controlled by pre-existing climatic and topographical factors. Despite the devastating nature of the floods, the communities refuse to leave the river banks, sometimes owing to historical and emotional bonds, other times following a lack of immediate choice. The majority of the worst affected victims are marginalized families who live near the treacherous angles of the riverbank, economically too challenged to seek better lands. In spite of having all the necessary knowledge, the individual choice, or rather the lack of it, reflects itself as a contradiction, and the damage done by the floods almost appears as self-inflicted collateral.
Without the dearth of fair choice, the individual is rather forced to face unchallenged the repetitive consequences of a decision that is not entirely theirs, and the situation becomes an absurdity. Neither the reluctant victim can be told that it is not even remotely their fault that they choose to be in a place of peril, nor can the river be held as sentient and questioned about its action. This conflict also leads to the unwilling surrender of one’s destiny into higher hands, and it becomes relatively simpler to accept the disaster when the disaster itself is perceived upon as a part of God’s play.
What happens when the unstoppable force of nature clashes against the immovable determination of the human?
The toxic yet thriving relationship between the river and the people manifests itself as the endless loop, the serpent eating its own tail. The unlikely paradox serves itself as an ongoing discourse in my practice, as I try to look beyond common understandings and perceptions about the riverbank communities.
© 2022 Devadeep Gupta