Critics’ Picks

Tallur L.N., Souvenir Maker, 2009, barb wire machine, gold plated barb wire, speakers, glass jars, dimensions variable.


Tallur L. N.

Chemould Prescott Road
G. Talwatkar Marg, Fort Queens Mansion, Floor 3
March 5–April 22

Dividing his time between Korea and India, Tallur L. N. hasn’t had a solo exhibition in Mumbai in ten years. This show, titled “Placebo,” is stuffed with macabre sculptural installations and makes up for lost time. Tallur’s medicinal title alludes to society’s tendency to delude itself and to believe that it has a cure for its ills. The artist took courses in museology at Baroda’s MS University, and the discipline exerts a strong hold over his art, which gleefully dismantles institutional structures.

“Placebo” lampoons stifling paradigms of power. Souvenir Maker, 2009, is its most impressive work. Occupying a single room, the site-specific installation includes a machine noisily engaged in producing barbed wire and a table on which pieces of gold-plated wire rest in glass bottles arranged in neat rows. A looped sound track plays the national anthems of forty countries, including India’s. Jingoistic nationalism (evoked by the anthems), violence, and capitalism are here equated with one another. After two minutes of walking around this loud display, visitors might be itching to escape. Perhaps this is exactly what Tallur intends. Less interactive but also dripping with irony is Untitled (Halo), 2009. Resembling an excavated site, a bronze statue of a bejeweled deity emerges from a slab of concrete. The past, Tallur hints, is political. The idol brings to mind the ruckus raised by the Hindu right whenever archaeological findings contravene its version of India’s history. While Tallur eschews new themes in these works (too many Indian artists have waxed equally vitriolic about the threefold evils of nationalism, fundamentalism, and capitalism), “Placebo” is witty, audience-sensitive, and thoughtful: a trinity that many who have labored over the same points have failed to unite.