Lands, Waters, and Skies
Performance by Nikhil Chopra
September 12- 20, 2019
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York

“I shall speak, not of self, but of geography” – PabloNeruda

 

In his recent performance at the The Met, Nikhil Chopra has slipped into different personae while slowly moving from one gallery to another like a nomad walking across the civilisations and cultural landscapes. An overarching timeline, as he depicted here, thus included colonialism to the contemporary crisis of migration. ‘Lands, Waters, and Skies‘, the nine-day-long odyssey of the artist explored different vantage points to look at the land, water and the sky while making a strong statement on the plurality of its inhabitants by adding an extra ‘s’ in the title.

This performance piece included long hours of drawing, singing, eating and sleeping at The Met premises. Being continuously watched by the visitors and the CCTV camera he allowed himself to be subjected to the same gaze that examines the objects displayed in the museum and thus transforming his own body into an object to be looked at. In the long history of The Met, he is the first artist to camp inside the museum gallery.

His penchant for the act of drawing, as evident in his previous performances, has inspired him to create a long scroll depicting the land, water and a vast blue sky clustered by white clouds. And on the final days of his performance, as he positioned himself in the Robert Lehman Wing at The Met where the exhibition In Praise Of Painting : Dutch Masterpieces was on display, his drawings paid tribute to the Dutchmasters. Flaunting a studded costume made by designer Loise Braganza, he ended the piece by dragging his exhausted persona across the museum and finally lied near the statue of seated Pharaoh.

This is no surprise that Nikhil, an alumnus of the MSU Baroda, has chosen performance as his way of making statements as his father was a great theatre enthusiast. His long commitment to this medium has produced some of the noteworthy pieces throughout his career at AspinwallHouse, KochiBiennale, Kochi, Chatterjee & Lal, Mumbai, BDLMuseum, Mumbai and VeniceBiennale.

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