Critics’ Picks

Rakhi Peswani, Indexing Extant Labor -IV, 2018, burlap, cotton, velvet fabrics, wood, iron nails, wool, charcoal and ink stains, 36 x 36 x 2".

Mumbai

Rakhi Peswani

The Guild
1/A Pipewala Building 4th Pasta Lane, Colaba
November 25, 2018–February 7, 2019

Rakhi Peswani’s “Conditions of Infirmity” was developed over the last eighteen months, during which her mother passed away after prolonged chemotherapy and the artist’s dog was also life-threateningly ill. Informed by this tremendous loss, the works in the show invite us to reflect on how disease relates to our “unhinged interventions in nature’s rhythms and processes.” Peswani has brought together forms and processes including sewing, painting, drawing, text, print, collage, sculpture, and assemblage with scavenged or found objects.

Material itself becomes the subject in the textile works, which urge us to better understand the intimacy we share with our fabrics. Primal Reminders (Our Bodies), 2017–18, uses hand embroidery as drawing to make this association directly, through words and images stitched into small pieces of cotton fabric. One of them reads, “your skin”; another says, “your body.” The metaphor lingers in Remnants of Someone Dead in the Body of Someone Living, 2018. The work, a result of intense physical exertion, comprises a tightly wound piece of fabric that hangs from the ceiling in an organza sack. The multipart works Indexing Extant Labor and Bed of Infirmity, both 2018, imagine textile as skin and body—undergoing the wear and tear of a laboring body and the deterioration of an ailing one.

Peswani brings in her meditation on degradation to a global scale by invoking Guy Debord’s A Sick Planet (1971) and linking this entropy to human nonchalance and carelessness amid capitalist expansion. Debord calls to attention the contradictions of our epoch—our means to change conditions of life on this earth combined with our indifference toward our actions affecting it. A similar tension colors the act of stitching; the needle punctures even as it mends. This perspective on suffering extends in this show from the unwell individual or the toiling body to provide an understanding of what Peswani calls “anthropocentric devastations.”