The Water Diviner
Material: Video projection, single channel animation, Duration: 3 minute loop, 2.4m x 1.8m
An activist and photographer documenting the women's movement in India since the '80s, Sheba Chhachhi brings the contemplative into the political, transforming contemporary concerns into lens-based works of art. She creates both site-specific public art as well as independent works through which she investigates questions of gender, ecology, violence and visual cultures, with a particular emphasis on the recuperation of cultural memory.
Chhachhi's immersive environments often recuperate pre-modern iconography, myth and artisanal visual traditions. She has worked with pre-cinematic devices over almost a decade, developing a unique artistic language of moving-image light boxes: mobile palimpsests in which multiple translucent and transparent layers offer fluid temporal readings of the present moment. Born in 1958, the artist received her education from Delhi University and the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad.
The Water Diviner offers a visceral experience of the loss and possible recovery of cultural memories rich in eco – philosophy, ways of being in relation to the natural world.
The environmental crisis has led us into an instrumentalist relationship with nature, particularly with water, where we are merely beleaguered consumers trying to meet our needs in the midst of contamination and scarcity. Chhachhi reminds us of the psychic, spiritual and cultural associations of water not just as a commodity but also as part of our symbolic life.
Evoking pleasure, loss, and rejuvenation, the video transforms the traditional symbol of wisdom, power, and fertility in Asia. The elephant becomes a figure emblematic of a subjectivity and eco-philosophy which has been submerged, displaced, fragmented.
The work asks us to reflect upon the need to reconnect with pre-modern knowledge systems, epistemologies and experiences as the source of a profound eco- consciousness. The video is part of a large immersive installation with the same title.