On Seeing, 2020, Artist Talk at the Berkeley Art Museum – Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA)
In this interview Gauri Gill presents the artistic work she has been doing in Rajasthan since 1999. For us it is an opportunity to look back at the Traces exhibition of 2018, in which Museum Tinguely presented two major groups of works by this artist.
Since 1999, the Indian photographer Gauri Gill (born 1970 in Chandigarh, lives in New Delhi) has spent a great deal of time with marginalized rural communities in the desert of West Rajasthan. Traces is one of several series to emerge from her extensive archive Notes from the Desert. The photographs are portraits of graves that she visited with relatives of the dead, or fellow community members, and that are often so discreet as to be barely recognizable to outsiders. As physical sites of memory in the midst of the desert landscape, they are just as exposed to processes of coming into being and passing away as those buried there were in life and death. On a mound of sand, these markings in the landscape bring together stones (bearing inscriptions), shards of pottery or personal items. In the simplest of ways, a place is labelled and memory cultivated.
With the same empathy and matter-of-factness, the Birth Series, eight small-format photographs, shows coming into being as the counterpart to passing away. Gill’s friendship with the midwife and feminist Kasumbi Dai allowed her to be present at the birth of the Dai’s granddaughter. The little girl’s first contact with the world is the sandy floor of their dwelling. For all its ‘naturalness‘ and simplicity, as an event the birth has a solemn, almost meditative component, as expressed in the midwife’s vividly lined, life-filled face.