L. N. Tallur, HaloX Body—Two, 2017, bronze, concrete, iron, 64 x 20 5/8 x 36".

L. N. Tallur, HaloX Body—Two, 2017, bronze, concrete, iron, 64 x 20 5/8 x 36".

L. N. Tallur

L. N. Tallur, HaloX Body—Two, 2017, bronze, concrete, iron, 64 x 20 5/8 x 36".

Ancient and contemporary, traditional and modern conflate in L. N. Tallur’s sculptures, making them historically ambiguous, unbounded by time. Trained in museology, Tallur seems to be particularly concerned with issues of age, provenance, and authenticity as well as with the museum as a site of cultural and evolutionary taxonomy and with its inherent politics of representation.

In his essay “On the Annals of the Laboratory State” (1988), sociologist Shiv Visvanathan talks about how the time of modernity became the time of the world. In it, he describes how the cyclical theory of time of the medieval period, which permitted “decadence and reversal,” eventually gave way to a “linear, irreversible notion of time.” By resisting this linearity, Tallur seems to be challenging not just this Eurocentric temporality of modernity but also the logic of capitalism and globalization. He does this, however, with wry humor, not to mention erudition and relentless experimentalism.

In Tallur’s sculptures—made using many different materials, processes, and technologies—figures from Hindu iconography transmogrify into cybernetic creatures. A folding mechanical arm made up of several grindstones replaces the trunk and head of an elephant figure in Antila—Two (all works cited, 2017). In Calibrator, a pipe wrench becomes the upper limbs of a bronze human form wrapped in galvanized wire. HaloX Body—Two is another bronze human form, this one drenched in concrete; it is split in half by a rotary saw blade that is also part of its torso. Joy Ride is a reference to a broken artifact in a local museum, depicting the goddess Durga slaying the buffalo demon Mahishasura. In Tallur’s variation on the artifact, the deformed figure of the goddess seems to ride the buffalo with the aid of a gear stick attached to the animal’s back. Threshold’s loops of band-saw blades resting on a stand at different heights form bean and dumbbell shapes of varying sizes that together evoke a sort of meditating machine god but also carry phallic symbolism.

The impish wordplay, satirical references, and wide-ranging metaphors in Tallur’s titles, as well as in the content of his works, allow for multiple readings. He indulges in visual puns, making the neck of the elephant out of millstones in Antila—Two, and emphasizing the apocryphal nature of a petrosomatoglyph footprint in The Interstice by adding a toe knob and turning it into a paduka sandal. The saw blade in HaloX Body—Two slices the concrete-covered bronze human figure in half, symbolizing the dualities of body and being. In Intolerance—Two, what looks like a perfectly balanced cairn, which is related to religious offerings and wish fulfilment, is in fact only a sly illusion of stones that have been laboriously and skillfully piled on top of each other; the sculpture has been carved out of a single stone. It was one of many works in the show that dealt with weight and burdens. Tallur is skeptical of modernity’s vision for a better future and its promise that today’s hard work and sacrifice will be meaningful tomorrow. He considers this orientation toward the future a form of intolerance toward the present. He invited viewers to use an electric engraver and leave petroglyphs on the “stones” in Intolerance—Two: Their stories were dispatches not from the annals of history, but from an urgent present. 

Roshan Kumar Mogali