Revisiting old photographs and hearing them telling family stories, remembering people and lives, Indian artist Jayeti Bhattacharya enters into dialogue with her family's past recreating contexts and meanings.
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With different stories embedded within, I found a packet of very old photographs that was left out in the dust, on top of the cupboard for the silver fish.
I started to gather collections of photographs from the family’s close relatives, people who were also present in these photographs but never talked about them. While going through this huge lot of images from my relatives’ archives I was really amazed to find so many which have a deep connection with my roots and identity.
I thought of looking again through them and decided to create visuals with my interpretation of the ambiences where the scenes represented in the photographs must have been part of.
As my family shifted its base from the other side of the border to several different locations, and lastly settling down in Kolkata, it received the visits of countless family relatives who would come to visit the city, to stay here as a basis for medical visits and check ups, or on their way to move to other parts of the country, for their own turns in the city of Kolkata, or many other innumerable reasons.
I feel that these works are celebrations of those special moments lived by the many relatives and friends. These photographs carry the character of both the known and the un-known. Known seems to be the people whom I knew personally, and un-known seems to be those whom I only knew through the words of the known. I feel a relationship grows here between the known and
the un-known. The known plays the pivotal role in conveying the moments and the lives lived with the un-known. The photographs trap different layers of relationship with the times, the situations and the places where the shots were taken and that are captured within their surfaces. The time here becomes ephemeral to me. I feel as if through the photographs I can peep into those moments and those situations, embedded within their surfaces. I thought I could express the importance of time and relationship through it.
I thought of questioning whether these relationships still cherish the same affection or whether they now only share the same photograph surface, and whether the land which we belong to now breaths the same way as before. Many photographs expressed sibling love, which in today’s world is getting much
objectified. With all these ideas in mind, my project was to create a new visual language, using the original photographs and archiving the local history, which connects us to the past and leads the way towards the un-predictable future.
Different question rise in my mind: what if we had to live in a land of nature without the box structures around us (our houses), what if humans had to live alone and survive by themselves alone, what if the animals were to live inside the boxes and humans were to roam around? Apart from these thoughts, humans are entangled in numerous relationships throughout their lives. But over here, again, do these relationships continue to be memorable and significant, or are they just reduced into a pile of old photographs lying in the dust to be found by future generations? In a way the essence of the present is being moved away from the present, but it does live until its enigmatic end.
Jayeti Bhattacharya is an artist living and working in Kolkata, India.
She holds a Master’s of Fine Arts from Kala Bhavana, Visva Bharati University.
Her work has been shown in many exhibitions, including ‘Defining a Relative Space’ at A.M. Studio; ‘Bad Smell Good Smell’ at Studio 21 in Kolkata; ‘Last Image Show’, both in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in 2018 and Lusaka, Zambia, in 2019.
She was also part of the CIMA Award Show 2019 in Kolkata. Many of her works include a combination of painting and mixed media and address overarching themes related to time, space, land, history and existential reality.