In January 2018 I spent 5 weeks in India, field recording and photographing the north-western state of Rajasthan. My journey ended in the city of Kolkata, West Bengal, where I partook in a 10 day artist residency.
Arriving in Kolkata, it was clear to see the city had seen rapid transformation in recent years.
Vast multi-story malls, towering high-rise office blocks, and most recently the construction of a new "Trump Tower" all stood as monuments to this economic expansion. I later learnt that these developments were the legacy of a repressive communist regime that had betrayed the state, forcing people to forego their land in favour of industrialisation without adequate compensation.
During my trip I read local newspaper articles that highlighted the rising death toll of free roaming cattle, due to ingestion of plastic.The roads and rivers were littered with plastic, and the air was thick with the fumes of burning plastic.
The rich beauty of Rajasthan's historical architecture, and the romantic allure of its culture and traditions is starkly contrasted by the states waste pollution problems.
Holy River of Plastic
During my residency in Kolkata, I co-created a site-specific audio/visual installation with local video artist Baishampayan Saha.
Through deconstruction and abstraction of field recordings made on walks around the city, I aimed to convey the impacts of globalisation on the rapidly developing region.
The composition transitions from the imagined journey of plastic waste flowing through the sewers of the city, to an abandoned litter of puppies whose cries are drowned out by a tsunami of car engines and train horns. And ends with recordings made at the cities industrial burning ghats, where the bodies of the dead are incinerated on pyres under a vast web of twisting pipes and humming extractor fans.
'Holy River of Plastic' was exhibited in Kolkata in January 2018, on a boat that carried audiences along the Hooghly River from Babughat up to the Burning ghats.
Special thanks to the good people at Littlei & Culture Monks for providing me with their local knowledge, facilities, support and friendship.
Audio-Visual installation, 13 min 40sec. Exhibited on a Boat on the Hooghly River, Strand Rd, Kolkata, West Bengal 700021, India (2018).
Solo Acoustmatic Composition, 13 min 40sec, (2018).
Heavier Than Air
On returning to the UK, I co-created a second audio-visual piece with film maker Buster Grey-Jung. 'Heavier than Air' is a response to the north-western desert state of Rajasthan. Shot on 8mm film stock, the 16 minute short draws inspiration from a culture heavily steeped in spirituality and ritual. The title is a reference to the many kites that dot the skies in the cities and towns throughout Rajasthan.
In July 2018, Buster and I attended a residency in Poland and set up a site specific installation of the piece in the grounds of an 18th century Baroque Palace.