Of Value and Labour
16th December, 2011 – 2nd January, 2012
The Guild is delighted to present ‘Of Value and Labour’ the first solo exhibition of Ravi Agarwal in the city of Mumbai.
The interrupted cycle of nature is inscribed by mass produced commodities which serve to fulfill wants and desires, and direct lives and materials. “A commodity is, in the first place, an object outside of us, a thing that by its properties satisfies human wants of some sort or another. The nature of such wants, whether, for instance, they spring from the stomach or from fancy, makes no difference. Neither are we here concerned to know how the object satisfies these wants, whether directly as means of subsistence, or indirectly as means of production.” wrote Marx.
Value is added throughout the chain with labour and technology, as both become equated in monetary terms. An ‘aura’ of desirability determines the price, till it becomes worthless, as waste, only to be recovered back into the commodity cycle by the labour of the waste picker. There is an ongoing theatre of aura and decay. Intertwined in this economy are narratives of many lives, often homogenized through contestations of power and powerlessness.
Some of the works being presented in the exhibition were documented in a monograph titled ‘Down and Out : Labouring under Global Capitalism,’ Jan Breman, Arvind Das and Ravi Agarwal, OUP, 2000, New Delhi. The body of the work was produced between 1996 and 2000 and was sited in South Gujarat, in and around the city of Surat, as a collaborative project with Jan Breman, the well known Dutch labour anthropologist who has been researching in India for over 45 years.
Ravi Agarwal is a photographer artist, writer, curator and environmental activist. He explores issues of urban space, ecology, capital in an interrelated ways working with photographs, video, performance, on-site installations and public art.
Agarwal has participated in several international shows including Documenta XI (Kassel 2002), ‘Horn Please,’ Kunstmuseum, Bern, 2007; ‘Indian Highway’ (2009 ongoing); ‘Generation in Transition,’ National Gallery of Art, Warsaw; ‘The Eye is a Lonely Hunter, Images of Humankind,’ at Fotofestival Mannheim_ludwigshafen_Heidelberg; ‘After the Crash’ at Museo Orto Botanico, Rome; his recent solo show being ‘Flux: dystopia, utopia, heterotopia,’ Gallery Espace, New Delhi. Agarwal recently co-curated a twin city public art project, Yamuna-Elbe.Public.Art.Outreach. He writes extensively on ecological issues, and is also founder of the leading Indian environmental NGO, Toxics Link. He is an engineer by training.