Murari Jha


Baggage From 'The Longest March' Murari Jha

Baggage From ‘The Longest March’

Returning to Earth – A Kinder Search for Home
Commissioned by: Samdani Art Foundation and Kiran Nadar Museum of Art
Year: 2022-2023

Murari Jha’s project, “Returning to Earth – A Kinder Search for Home,” reimagines community as an ecosystem where the concept of home is explored through interconnected components of the landscape. Jha creates a tangible, sensory landscape that resonates with viewers, inviting them to engage intuitively with its symbolic, ecological, linguistic, and psychological dimensions. The project views the landscape and the act of returning as performative and exploratory endeavors.

Reflecting on the harrowing journeys of millions of migrant laborers returning home during the initial COVID-19 lockdown in India, Jha contemplates a return to the earth as a compassionate quest to rediscover and redefine the meaning of home. His installation prompts participants to immerse themselves in this evocative arrangement, reconnecting with memories of their upbringing and their relationships with natural elements like the sun, moon, mountains, earth, trees, water, and animals.

Through interactive elements such as personal stories, colloquial expressions, and idioms used to describe landscapes, Jha encourages visitors to actively participate in constructing their own understanding of the landscape. This engagement allows participants to contribute to and reshape the narrative of home within the installation, leaving their mark through expressions, drawings, and writings on a slate provided within the exhibit.

Returning to Earth – A kinder search for home

Commissioned by Samdani Art Foundation and Kiran Nadar Museum of Art 2022-2023

Murari Jha stages a seen, felt and absorbed landscape that we carry within us. It is equally an invitation to approach the space around us with an intuitive, symbolic ecological, linguistic and psychological understanding. For the artist, landscape and the idea of return are a performative and exploratory form. He developed this work while reflecting on the desperate return of the millions of migrant laborers who started their against-all-odds homeward journeys even at the cost of their lives during the first covid lockdown in India. Thus, a return to earth is a kinder search and knowing of home. Jha prompts us to insert our bodies into his scattered arrangement, and replenish the memory of the landscape of one’s growing up; our relationships with the sun, moon mountains, earth, trees, water and animals. Inviting and accumulating observations stories, personal and social associations with each element, colloquial phraseology and idioms for describing a landscape – chanda mama (moon as uncle), billi massi (cat as aunty), samay ka pahad ban jana (an insurmountable sense of time as a huge mountain to cross), zameen ka jamm jaana (sedimentation of soil) – Jha invites DAS visitors to interact, play, touch, speak, experience and construct a landscape and return it to him through our expressions, drawings, and writings on a slate he provides within the installation. Jha works in a range of mediums, including performance, sculpture and painting. His work opens up aspects of the personal as political, the performativity of objects/body and the psychological processing of everyday occurrences and environments.

समय पहाड हो गया हैl (‘Samay Pahad Ho Gaya Hein’)
Subtitle: A memory of time
Type: Installation + Durational Performance
Size: 268x129x100 inches
Venue: Dutch Warehouse, curated by HH Artspace in collaboration with the Kochi Biennale Foundation

The live art at Dutch Warehouse, curated by HH Artspace in collaboration with the Kochi Biennale Foundation, was a powerful exploration of time and memory through performance. Held from early morning until night, the performance encapsulated the daily labor actions of repetitive sounds from anklet bells and deliberate body movements, combined with a slow progression of intense physical presence that shaped the space into a performative sculpture resembling a mountain. This mountain symbolized the “holding time” of past memories, inspired by a metaphor from Jha’s mother, a North Indian phrase: “Samay Pahad Ho Gaya Hein,” which means “Time has become a mountain,” expressing the absurdity of time. This mountain also invited spectators to become performers themselves, allowing them to sing, talk, and experience the texture, warmth, and smell of the space, transporting them back in time. Jha’s performance intricately focused on the relationship between the body, time, and structure within the context of performance, creating an immersive and reflective experience for all involved.

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