A Dying Man Sings Of That Which Felled Him
Installation with rebar, furniture, closed circuit video
Sub-contingent, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin (2006). Bombaysers de Lille, Maison Folie Moulins, Lille (2006-07)
“A dying man sings of that which felled him” presents its viewer with a silent song of a thousand words, a bier of iron rods for the repose of a fallen man, a setting sun, and an empty chair awaiting a visitor. Here, in this long twilight, a story from the Bhishma Canto of the Mahabharata realized with construction materials, is configured to form a meditation on contemporary global capitalism.
The list of a thousand words (reminiscent of Bhishma’s death-bed incantation of the thousand names of Vishnu) may be thought of as a ‘dying declaration’, or as a eulogy chanted by a dying man to the power that felled him. The installation involves us all as witnesses to this terminal state. At a time when the rhetoric of impending ‘super-powerdom’ resounds in the metropolises of South Asia with an exhausting monotony, this installation is a reminder of the whimsical contingencies of the operation of power which spare no one, not even those who imagine themselves at the helm of affairs.
The iron rods – a notational trope that recalls both the building and destruction of cities as well as Bhishma’s deathbed of arrows made by Arjun during the Mahabharata battle – act as a reminder of the fragility and tenuousness of our hold on the world.
The visitor is invited to contemplate their own recorded image within the matrix of this installation, and to reflect on the caveats that this work offers to the discourse of triumph that surrounds us today.