Humans are a part of nature. However, we are engaged in a constant struggle with nature for survival and proliferation through organization into societies and creation of habitats. This struggle has brought forth numerous traditional practices and knowledge systems that seek to retain a balance with their environments; wealth for such societies is spiritual and lies in safeguarding the environment. Industrializing societies, on the other hand, see wealth in abstract terms. Environment for them is merely a treasure of material resources which need to be translated into abstract wealth. Such societies, predominantly dependent on rampant urbanization to prop up production & consumption, have little or no regard for the notion of balance. There are laws and regulations, abstract again, which can change depending on circumstances of access to resources and not nature.
The idea presented above is a simplified version of a binary system of organizing societies to understand our relationship to nature. In reality, however, the matter is much more complex. Nature itself has parasites that exhaust their host. Most of us are caught up between production, consumption and reverence for the environment, between wanting & not needing or needing but not knowing how to ask. Very few, as individuals and societies, have not experienced the rupture from traditions in the face of technological onslaught. Each of us, collectively or otherwise, ends up drawing boundaries. Very few find courage and perseverance to question these boundaries and to nudge and prod the routine of lifeless meanings or meaningless lives.
While the pursuit of boundaries, meanings and routines helps us in our need for order, the pursuit often results in meaninglessness and irony. Nevertheless, the humor as well as humility offered by our collective untiring endeavor against entropy is in plenty. It may help us to imagine and manifest boundaries as inhabitable thresholds instead of being razor sharp edges; thresholds where we may meet our fears, the new and the other. The following ten images, shot between September 2017 & October 2019 and between Netherlands, Italy, Turkey, UAE & India, frame thresholds of order, entropy, harmony & irony emanating from human habitats & survival.
Windows between Worlds
Whether of opaque brick or figure-glass, segregation of our worlds – inside/ outside, public/ private, intimate/ exhibit, street/ home and so on and so forth – is through wafer-thin partitions against the scale of our lives; boundaries are a matter of belief
Piazza lighting beyond visiting hours lends chiaroscuro to the corner of the under-renovation basilica; the architectural marvel is perhaps visited more by tourists than pilgrims; whether through religion or pleasure, people seek beauty & divinity
On the Road through the Forest
An elderly man with forage returning home at day’s end to Ram Nagar town on the edge of the reserved forest; the bicycle adorned with reflective stickers shines light on the risks of this daily commute
Reigning in the Dunes
A steel fence demarcates the group housing layout from the vast expanse of desert; the marker is simultaneously assuring and inconsequential considering its ability to draw a temporary limit while meaning nothing in the grand scheme of things
Enchanting Meaningless Juxtapositions
Graphic posters, hoardings & signage compete against each other, as well as the social, architectural & urban announcements; cities too are made up of shifting dunes of meanings and relationships; there is such a deluge of information that we are always at the risk of losing sight of meaning, if at all we were to find any
The Quiet Light of Dusk
Thin floating sheets of clouds converse in effervescence with the mighty old mountains; at the edge of the city, the empty street and the quite buildings listen to this gentle conversation with rapt stillness
Light, shadow and children don’t mind pretension; they play in spite of RCC mimicking history; their conversations are also oblivious to the beauty of the stone columns and how three of them meet in a corner to shoot up four cardinal arches
Between Here and Now
Man removes from rocks and also adds together; momentarily interrupting omnipresent space and marginally deflecting ever-moving time; to create a tactile experience of the divine, a sacred sanctum to enter himself
In the Stillness of Inner Light
Evening lights up a wall with religious inscriptions in one of the dark social chambers of the palace. Whether in austere spiritual practices or through opulent material indulgences or merely the humble routine of the ordinary, we seek transcendence; boundaries are important but temporary; our purpose is to transgress
Picture of Self-Sustenance
This mountain dwelling is an image of negotiation: accessed from a terraced land, the house cascades down to a patch of farmland; the different faces of the house tell us where light is available; the roof, while talking about rain, allows for drying of edible forage & produce and perhaps also suggests where the hearth is within; there is also a loom in the verandah beneath and also cattle on the other side; with the giants in the backdrop, the small house talks about the scale, the struggle, the determinism and resilience of people & communities in this abundant and unforgiving landscape