Monuments, Mausoleums, Memorials, Modernism |Sahil Naik

Monuments, Mausoleums, Memorials, Modernism |Sahil Naik

Sahil Naik’s practice traverses evidence, architecture, mythology and the internet through the act of witnessing and history making. His current project Monuments, Mausoleums, Memorials, Modernism studies the violence of the nation-building project in the Non-aligned world. In his sculptural installations, the fine line between the real and the staged blur. Naik is particularly interested in examining that moment where evidence, architecture, reality and rumours come together and lead the viewer to build a narrative or imagine its history.
Architecture is a complex cultural technology at the intersection of economic, technical, scientific, artistic, legal, media, religious, and political interests. Sahil Naik’s interest in the “political” and how it shapes all the above registers architecturally underscores his second solo, Monuments, Mausoleums, Memorials, Modernism at Experimenter – Hindusthan Road. The exhibition previews on 8th January and will continue to be on view until 25th February 2020. The embrace of geometry and concrete was part of an attempt to escape tradition and “become modern”. In this rejection of the indigenous was also a form of erasure – violence meted onto the native. The Austrian architect Gustav Peichl, claimed that there was no such thing as democratic or fascist architecture, but only good or bad. It is indeed, at times difficult to link form to ideology. It is apparent today, that just as there was architectural modernism inspired by socialist ideology such as Nehruvian Modernism in India; there is also a version that was inspired by fascism. Naik is interested in these opposing intersections and explores architecture in its ambivalence between form and ideology, and the resurgence of the political right. In the impulse of nation-building Naik is also interested in the relationship of the state infrastructure to its citizens. In the aggressive act of building and a fidelity to aesthetic – was also the condition of time and people in waiting. The pace of building was not commensurate to those in waiting, a preferencing of ambition over need. The idea of “usable past” is also crucial to the body of work presented in the exhibition and Naik’s work. The term was coined around 1918 by the American literary critic Van Wyck Brooks. Although a “usable past” could mean many things, it may at face value denote an account of past events relevant in some way to confronting present challenges. Its seeming straightforwardness is disarming because the idea of “national past” was hidden within its origins and was at the time beginning to show its cultural, political, and economic influence.

Over the past few years, Naik has been investigating architectural histories in South Asia. The structures he works with are now emptied of the ideologies that made them to allow for new understandings of the abstract aspiration. Each of the nation states inherited monuments, buildings, landscapes, and infrastructures, which were constructed specifically for political postures and representations. As regimes changed, most of the inherited institutional architecture was left vacant, repurposed or continued as modern archaeological ruins. Naik’s ongoing project Monuments, Mausoleums, Memorials, Modernism inspects the violence of the nation building project in South Asia through reforms, public housing, government schemes and the establishment of a new aesthetic for new nations.

Using g reconstructive, digital, forensic science and conservation technologies, Naik builds propositional sculptures in the exhibition, that reflect on violence and erasure of histories, the unrealised, abandoned, futile and/or waste architecture. The sculptures become his ways of reflecting on strategies for rehabilitation, preservation, excavation and conservation of these narratives and histories under threat, incarcerated, coloured, endangered or already extinct. The works on paper, Modernist Facades for New Nations, charts the nation building project in the overlaps between socialist republics, post-colonies, the Non-Aligned countries and the global south. It imagines modernism as an ambitious transnational universal project and the seeking of a new universal architectural aesthetic for developing nations – futurism of sorts. Influenced by space travel, science and modern technology, modernist architecture became a vehicle of exploring the future – one that was equally liberating and destructive. The works dwell on the repetitive leitmotif of the facades that ornamented these structures almost like a formulaic developmental aesthetic across diverse political agendas. Naik dwells on a moment where history repeats itself, architecturally. It attempts to find ways to reconcile, reproduce, and perhaps digitize these histories for the future in the backdrop of an erasure of the legacies of the pre-colonial, colonial, Nehruvian and Non-Aligned ideologies through the demolition or “modernization” of several “unstable”, “irreparable” or “unusable” structures. Critical ideas about modernity and architecture as a form of history-making are confronted in the exhibition through sculptural installations, works on paper and architectural facades in Naik’s body of works on view in the exhibition, Monuments, Mausoleums, Memorials, Modernism.

Text and Photos: Experimenter, Hindustan road.

The exhibition will be on view from ⁣ Jan 8 – Feb 25, 2020

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