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Lockdown 2020 - Through the Eyes of an Artist

Sahej Rahal on the impact of the lockdown, Brahminical superstitions and the way forward.

Sahej Rahal

At his candid best, award-winning and globally renowned artist Sahej Rahal opens up about his quarantine-experience and how he spent time during the unprecedented lockdown.

TDC: How have you dealt with the lockdown?

Sahej Rahal: What has been appalling is the utter apathy of the central government towards people who have been stranded because of the lockdown and towards those facing the brunt of the devastation of Amphan, the increase in surveillance and  the systematic clampdown on people who have been critical of the government, and the jingoist applause that has met each of these moves.

"I am worried that the world we will return to will be far harsher, not because of the virus but because of the people we are becoming." - Sahej Rahal

Sahej Rahal, 'Dry Salvages', 2017

TDC: With the amount of free time, what serves your reading list?

Sahej Rahal: I've been utterly consumed by one book this last month - 'The Folklore of Bombay' written by Reginald Enthoven who was an administrator in the Indian Civil Service of the British Raj.

He was studying the occult practices in the Bombay presidency. It is an anthropological study of the Brahminical superstitions and rituals, establishing them as a mode social oppression that metaphysically bind notions of impurity, demons and disease to the lower castes. 

Sahej Rahal, 'Temporal Turn', Spencer Museum of Art, 2016

TDC: How have you been catering to the artist in you? How has the lockdown impacted your work? Do you think this will effect your work in the future? Sahej Rahal: I've been a bit anxious about the lockdown with projects and exhibitions getting postponed and cancelled and the general uncertainty with everything, then I kind of mentally decided to treat this lockdown period as going back to art school, like an MFA degree without the student loans, I'm getting back to a sustained habit of reading and learning new skills, in the last couple of years I've been making video games and AI programs to create mythological worlds, and I've been exploring this part of my practice more during the lockdown.

Sahej Rahal, 'Continuous Voyage', Vancouver Biennale, 2019

TDC: What have you been watching?

Sahej Rahal: Last month I've signed up for the New Centre for Practice & Research which was offering a discounted membership, since then I've been trawling through their vast archives and auditing lecture series by philosophers Reza Negarestani (Currently directing the critical philosophy programme at The New Centre for Research & Practice, Reza Negarestani is a world renowned Iranian philosopher and writer, popularly known for theoretical-fiction best-seller 'Cyclonopedia'), and Jason Bahbak Mohaghegh (An Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at Babson College, Massachusetts, Jason Bahbak Mohaghegh is popular for his views on the rising currents of radical thought in the Middle East and the West, explicitly translated through a number of books written by him).

TDC: Your current go-to podcast playlist? Sahaj Rahal: Here's my podcast playlist: Very Bad Wizards, Plaguepod by Urbanomic, Lie Cheat & Steal, Bhartiya Janta Podcast, Chapo Traphouse, Lore, The Partially Examined Life, Newslaundry Hafta & Charcha.

Chapo Trap House

Reminiscing the last day he spent outdoors, Sahej indulged in an excursion to the Borivali National Park, where he clicked pictures while walking all the way up to the Kanheri Caves.

"It is absolutely crucial right now that we care for the people who have made our lives easier through their hardwork and those who are less fortunate than us, I would request everyone to reach out and give back to them directly and unconditionally, it is honestly the only way we will all make it through these uncertain days." - Sahej Rahal




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