48 Degrees Celsius Public. Art. Ecology was a nine-day festival of public experiments and interventions situated around Delhi, India, involving Indian and international artists. Each public artwork focused on the theme of ecology and interrogated the complex environment of Delhi as one of India’s largest cities. Eight key sites of cultural and/or historical significance were selected to exhibit works by 25 artists. In addition to the artworks, a diverse schedule of public programs was presented, including a two-day symposium, urban eco-tours, films, performances, urban eco-talks and a concert.
In the words of curator Pooja Sood, the festival’s title is an urgent reference to the exigencies of global warming which can be felt in Delhi’s continuously escalating summer temperatures, as also to the frenzied paradoxes of a city that seems to be in perpetual, strident overdrive, yet is also mutely, violently, ‘running on empty’… The snarled throb of daily gridlock, the grotesque, gigantic spasms of steel and concrete structures, the rags of cloud drifting across glass-faced corporate towers, the obdurate stratigraphy of caked roadside detritus, the phantom horizon: all these are superimpositions on an urban matrix whose embedded reality is fracture, rupture, corrosion, squalor and steady decay.
The Yamuna Blues by Haubitz +Zoche.
Haubitz +Zoche created a video sculpture that focussed on the environmental conditions of Delhi’s Yamuna River. A 40-foot high bamboo tower was constructed at Kashmiri Gate, part of the historic walled city of Delhi. Resembling a makeshift lighthouse, the tower projected a beam of light displaying images captured from above and below the river onto the ground. The images revealed the high levels of pollution, raw sewage, industrial waste in the city’s main water source, and its overall degradation.
Roshanara’s Net by Mary Miss.
Located in a public park, Roshanara’s Net reflected on the health and wellbeing of urban dwellers. A temporary garden of medicinal plants was installed alongside a visual arrangement of tin plaques displaying information about the medicinal qualities of each plant. This work was made in response to the fast growing population of Delhi and the continued ecological effects of this growth on the environment and people.
The Stainless Steel Bucket by Subodh Gupta.
The Stainless Steel Bucket was a giant sculpture of a bucket on a rusted metal plinth, with continuously overflowing water. This work remarked on the constant usage and wastage of water both globally, and also specifically in Delhi, where water scarcity is a severe concern and becomes increasingly apparent as water levels drop each year.
Crane + Tree by Krishnaraj Chonat.
Crane + Tree was created in response to the rapid urban expansion and redevelopment of Delhi in recent years. Chonat’s work involved an uprooted tree hovering from a crane over the lawn of an abandoned colonial-style bungalow on one of Delhi’s major thoroughfares, Barakhamba Road. The dead tree was symbolic of the hundreds of thousands of trees that have been removed from Delhi’s streets to make way for high-density buildings.
Flotage by Vivan Sundaram.
The plastic water bottle is a global symbol of consumption and waste. Using 10,000 plastic bottles, Sundaram created a raft that he set afloat on the Yamana River. The assemblage of plastic bottles was designed to be a spectacle and drew attention to the many issues surrounding water, including the potential for future ‘water wars’ over access to the precious and limited resource of clean water. The work commented ironically on the relative abundance of the ubiquitous commercial drinking water container polluting the waterways.