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The Salt Lab

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Through its various ongoing phases of research and documentation, The Salt Lab reflects on the urgency to develop salt-tolerant and drought-resistant food crops in India. The project explores both indigenous saline tolerant rice varieties in India, as well as recent developments in transgenic rice from mangrove species and halophytic species, technologies that may shape the future of food in India. The Salt Lab analyses and probes cultural, philosophical, ethical and social questions connected with scientific and technological research, all of which contest our assumptions about our relations with science, technology, and the environment. Drawing data and vital information from the fields of Biotechnology, Microbiology and Eco-technology, the artistic investigation speculates about a future where the transgenic becomes vital for human survival. While we become aware of the tools used to create new hybrid life forms through the role of genetic engineering, we perceive that to create new life forms we must work within the boundaries of ethics, biosafety and security.

The Salt Lab is a space for observation, speculation and contemplation that offers nodal points for artistic enquiries into the role of nature, the purpose, preservation & conservation of life, and the role of humankind as ‘makers’.

The ongoing body of work is based on participatory and anticipatory research by the artist on the effects of salinity on food crops such as rice. Over twenty indigenous saline tolerant rice cultivarsand transgenic plants impregnated with genes from mangrove species have been grown in laboratories and documented by the artist under contained conditions. The plants are being examined for tolerance to salinity stress. The indigenous saline tolerant rice species include Pokkali, Matla, Kaksal, Nona Bokra, Nona Soren, Gheus and Rupsal among others from various coastal regions of India.

(Under) Currents & Crosswinds is based on the artist’s conversations and interactions with scientists, experts and environmentalists across India, as well as her own observations and field notesthat indicatethestrains and dichotomies between the nature of speculation, thought and action, as well as connections across and tensions between the structures of power that order inclusion and exclusion at different moments in time.