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KHOJ International Artists’ Association presented Another Life is Possible, a solo exhibition by Jithinlal NR.

KHOJ‘s first Artist for Artist Grant was generously supported by Bharti Kher and Subodh Gupta. Jithinlal NR was the recipient and this exhibition was a culmination of the project supported by the grant.

Jithinlal NR’s notes on the exhibition:

Though they seem to invoke a point of origin in a historical past with which they continue to correspond, actually identities are about using resources of history, language and culture in the process of becoming rather than being: not ‘who we are’ or where we come from’, so much as what we might become, how we have been represented and how that bears on how we might represent ourselves.

Identities are therefore constituted within (and) not outside representation. They relate to the invention of tradition as much as to tradition itself, which they oblige us to read not as endless reiteration but as the changing same: not the so-called return to roots but a coming to terms with our routes. They arise from the narrativisation of the self, but the necessarily fictional nature of this process in no way undermines its discursive, material or political effectivity, even if the belongingness, ‘the suturing in to the story’ through which identities arise is partly in the imaginary (as well as the symbolic) and therefore, always, partly constructed in fantasy, or at least with a fantasmatic field.” (Hall, 1996:4)

Another Life is Possible is an earnest attempt to bring to discourse the possibility of becoming in a world where differences are based on the idea of equality. The title is borrowed from an essay by K.K. Baburaj. (The essay thinks through popular Malayalam film songs looking at Dalit singers and music composers who are making a mark in the industry independently. It explores the questions or doubts that arise with the issues of essentialising identity, and its layered interpretations)

Since everything we find on Dalit history in Indian historiography is biased or tinted with the casteist/colonial gaze, the traces of Dalit music history perhaps only remain in folk songs and stories – a documentation of the slave castes by themselves. The fantasmatic field that Stuart Hall mentions in his essay on ‘cultural identity’ becomes a point of departure for this exhibition. Fiction and imagination become strong spring boards in narrativising the self within and in the world we live in.

Drawing on the other hand, has always remained ambiguous, it has questioned the notion of the complete and finished and/or absolute, thereby remaining a radical medium of processes, becoming. It is also a medium of traces and un-concealment, where each mark that crosses through the paper remains a singular gesture, a human presence that cannot be denied or obscured. Most of my resources come from earlier representations and the popular, which is improvised and appropriated into my own stories. With this comes the other humongous task of the freed slave castes thrown in to modernity to identify themselves with the narratives of resistance, or the image of a free man!

A Dalit is thereby exercising liberation, fighting invisibility through perceptibility (assertion) to become human again, an emancipated person: the whole world is a new place waiting to be explored and every thing a new possibility, a new vision, a new gaze…hence another life!

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