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A Staged Hearing Before the Commission of Inquiry under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952.

Landscape as Evidence: Artist as Witness staged a hearing before a Commission of Inquiry requesting that it consider the recently cleared River Linking Project under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952. The matter had been referred to it by a direction of the Lok Sabha pursuant to a petition. The petitioners, KHOJ International Artists’ Association and Zuleikha Chaudhari opposed the River Linking Project on the basis of the devastation caused to the environment.

This staged hearing before the Commission looked into the merits of an enlightened perception of justice and how to measure loss, premising art as valid evidence and artists as valid witnesses.

“I want not land for land but a running brook for a running brook, a sunset for a sunset, and a grove of trees with shade for a grove of trees with shade. So my right to life is a right to my specific civilisational mode of being in the world. And I cannot be rehabilitated or compensated outside a recreation of what life means to me”.

In the early 1970’s, legal scholar Dr. Upendra Baxi submitted a preliminary petition against the Narmada Sardar Sarovar project, as referenced in the above quote, which coaxes us to revisit and re-consider fundamental questions about justice and loss.

This project considered reinterpreting the language of the law through art, by positing that contemporary art is capable of inventing creative and critical approaches that analyse, defy, and provide alternatives to reigning political, social, and economic forms of neoliberal globalization.

The domains of law and art both assert productions and reproduction of truth and reality; the construction of narratives; a historical frame of reference; and the creation and possibilities of alternate conditions and visions of the present. It is this parallel between law and art that mandates an exploration into how art can fortify jurisprudence and legal mechanisms with truthfulness and function as an integral factor in preserving justice.

This project was formulated in response to critical conversations with Dr. Baxi and with the help of environmental lawyer Arpitha Upendra and developed with eminent lawyer Anand Grover.

This project was in collaboration with Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna.


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