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ARTSOME Exhibition

Meera Devidayalopens a solo show "A Terrible Beauty" on April 28 at GalleryChemould

Meera Devidayal, Rose Garden, 2011

Shakti Mills, just another abandoned Mumbai mill, the kind usually stuck in foliage-overrun decaying limbo - and usually awaiting the closure of a court case or owner squabbles so it can be swallowed up by a developer and poured back out as a "multi-use" concrete and glass highrise with shops and flats and offices. It is this mill, suspended in a kind of realty purgatory that Meera Devidayal tracks in her show A Terrible Beauty at Chemould Prescott Road gallery. Her photographs and videos, many of them of Shakti Mills, show their blackened ruins as is, concrete stumps and girders that appear like ugly ruins rising amidst lush growth and picturesque water bodies dappled with sunlight. Others are manipulated, Bollywood-style, painted over with flamingo-pink skies, fountains and beds of tulips and roses that could well be the setting for an item number.

"The photos appear to be romantic and picturesque, except in the context they're not," says Devidayal. "It's the opposite, a kind of reverse romanticism." Long before 1991, when an amendment in the law gave mill owners the ability to use the land for purposes other than industrial use, the mills sustained entire communities of low and middle class cotton textile workers. When the amendment passed, many of the 58 mills sitting on 602 acres in the middle of the city, were sold by the owners to private real estate firms who built malls, residential towers and office complexes almost exclusively for the use of the wealthy. In a bizarre fall-out, emblematic of Mumbai's illogical local politics, green spaces were left isolated within these gated premises, open to all but yet completely inaccessible or as was required of the law, not built at all for public use. Devidayal's photos capture some of this cruel and strange irony, whereas with Shakti Mills, the unused land was eventually colonised by drug dealers, homeless people and gangs of men who like the politicians and the builders saw in this spooky isolated premise the ultimate Mumbai dream: a piece of land to do with and on it exactly what they wanted.

The exhibition runs through July 9, 2014.
Venue: Chemould Prescott Road
Address: Queens Mansion, 3rd Floor, G. Talwatkar Marg, Next to J.B. Petit School, Mumbai 400 001
Opening Hours: 11am - 7pm (Mon - Sat)
Nearest Transport: Khadi Bhandar Bus Stop and Churchgate Station

ARTSOME

April 2014