Climaterics

Punjab Lalit Kala Chandigarh, 2018

Climacteric dispels conventional wisdoms ossified in our environmental studies by foregrounding the importance of exploring the relations of capital, history and theory, political interventions in ecology, and the role of economy and culture in environmental degradation. Vibha Galhotra puts together this meticulously researched solo exhibition with a sense of urgency; through this exhibition she calls upon academics, citizens, activists, artists and scientists to collectively tackle the issue of climate change.

She draws this exhibition’s title from the term “the Great Climacteric” which was coined by the environmental geographers Ian Burton and Robert Kates as a way to address the ongoing global ecological problems and identify the global transformations of this period which are critical for the future of this planet. This term provides the conceptual framework to locate the coordinates of environmental destruction in global capitalism and warns us about the continuous systematic violence on nature undertaken in the name of development and growth.

Galhotra assembles a range of critical perspectives, concepts, scientific reports, and field-notes that address ecological destruction to artistically intervene, foster newer discussions and influence policy making. This exhibition is therefore informed by the theory of Anthropocene, the idea of planetary shift, acceleration graphs, and even the testimonies of those who were displaced due to environmental destruction.

Galhotra is deeply aware of how the theory of Anthropocene circulates through various modes of visuals such as data visualisations, satellite imageries, climate models, graphs, etc., and draws on these varied visual resources to produce this body of work. Galhotra’s sharp critique of globalisation finds both the modern state and its economic model equally guilty in treating the environment as a cheap resource to be exploited without any taking any cognisance of the irreversible damage caused by environmental degradation.

Through various works in this exhibition, i.e., video works, installations, photographs, graphs, sculptures, testimonies, etc., Galhotra brings to fore the relevance of the ideals of equality, justice and sustainability as a tool to solve the critical crisis that we are increasingly embroiled in.

She critically examines modernity’s jubilations and the cataclysmic human impact that it has left on our geo-history, our collective present and the impending future.

Galhotra compels us to recognise the need of a newer critical tools to analyse environmental damages and new conceptual frameworks that can redeem us from a “damaged world” (Anna Tsing) and newer parameters to assess the human impact on ecology. In the wake of atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy appealed that we should remain “exposed” and continue to endure the tragic loss in order to sense the depth of our wounds.

He believed that if we normalised or erased the memory of this trauma, capitalism would brush it under the carpet. Similarly, Galhotra also warns us to embrace the environmental wounds and mobilise memories and experiences of violence on earth in order to interrogate and impede the forces that cause exploitation and destruction. Through her works Galhotra sharpens our comprehension of our epistemological limits, and highlights the necessity of radical aesthetic strategies. Her works attempt to shift our political and conceptual axis and alter the terms and parameters required to survive in a fast-changing environment. She advocates that as a species inhabiting a damaged earth, we cannot afford to dismiss any possibility; at this critical moment that will define the very survival of our planet, we need to collectively become a force of change.

Premjish Achari