Critics’ Picks

Waylon James D'Souza, The Cascade of Futures Past: Journey Through the Eocene and Speculations on the Post-silicon Age, 2019, mixed-media installation comprising a print on sustainable produced hemp fabric, salvaged ghost nets, gill nets, beach debris (plastics), oyster shells and other mollusks, 108 x 60''.

Mumbai

“Mutarerium”

Mumbai Art Room
4th Pasta Lane, Colaba Pipewala Building
June 13–August 31, 2019

Only what mutates can survive in curator Adwait Singh’s ecologically oriented three-person exhibition, titled after an amalgam of terrarium and mutare, the Latin word for the verb change. Priyanka D’Souza’s How to Unromanticise the Anthropocene, 2018, charts a history of industrial whaling and marine pollution across four panels delicately painted in a Deccan miniature style. Two works zoom in on the interior of a whale’s stomach permeated by a plastiglomerate—a new geological hybrid formed when plastic melts into lava, shells, coral, wood, and sand, glinting in the rock like confetti. Displayed on a table nearby, an excerpt from a 1940 issue of the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society cites a troublingly early example of cetacean poisoning and suicide.

Elsewhere in the show, even angrier species confront destructive urbanisms. In Mustafa Khanbhai’s three short films—What Will Survive of Us?, A Final Message, and You are Never too Close (from “The Critter Series,” all 2019)—a strangler-fig tree crushes through concrete; lizards scamper over broken buildings, growing fresh heads and thick new tails that swell from old stumps; pigeons return to their native sea cliffs, reclaiming their habitat while also dropping sheets of glass into the ocean. In The Cascade of Futures Past: Journey Through the Eocene to Speculations on the Post-silicon Age, 2019, Waylon James D’Souza assembles an apocalyptic mandala of the Ganges’s Himalayan watershed. Printed on eco-friendly hemp, an image of the city of Varanasi spills into a dried, dammed-up riverbed, encircled by a ring of Gangetic dolphins represented in various stages of their evolution. Near the bottom of the tapestry, these endangered creatures leap above ghost nets and plastic flotsam that pool onto the gallery floor, scattered with oyster shells—those natural sea cleansers—and other pearly mollusks. With its compassionate attention to nonhuman forms of life, “Mutarerium” tenderly reminds us of the elegant and precarious survival tactics of species whose activity on this planet is mortally bound up with our own.