The Contours of Currency

Review by Manjari Kaul
October 15, 2011


Review by Manjari Kaul
October 15,2011

Chromatophobia: The Fear of Money
L.N. Tallur
Nature Morte, New Delhi
April 4-May 10, 2011

In keeping with traditional Hindu beliefs, the entrance of the quiet little Neeti Bagh gallery is adorned by the auspicious figure of Deepa Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. However, these twin bronze sculptures of the goddess, lamp in hand, which stand facing each other, are anything but a traditional evocation of the goddess of currency. It is, in fact, a startling mutilation of both the representation of the goddess' body and the dreams of those who covet wealth. The torso is upright, and the body of the sculpture is nothing but a large lump of concrete with a fissure in the middle. Standing as a warning to the destructive aspect of the greed for money, the inside of the cleft is covered in the colour of blood.

L.N. Tallur’s exhibition at Nature Morte, “Chromatophobia – The Fear of Money” engages with the paradox of phobia and fetish for money and its reputation as ‘the root of all evil’, as put into stark relief by the recent economic crisis. The artist's installations seem to be a blessing or a propitious symbol having turned into a deadly curse.

The work titled Chromatophobia is an immense log of wood suspended between two dwarfed sculptures of Laxmi by a lever that runs through the two goddess’ heads. The log is speckled with coins that have been hammered into its surface.  The art piece invites the participation of the audience via two hammers suspended on a wall adjacent to the sculpture.  The viewer is invited to hammer one of their own coins into the work in order to achieve the 'wish' articulated on the wall. The sardonically worded 'wish' reads 'cleanse your mind of ugly thoughts and bad actions.'

A little way away, Arjun's chariot stands in a glass case drowned in sawdust. The work is titled LED (Light Emitting Diode).  The light of knowledge being imparted to Arjuna by Krishna is obliterated by the bloodshed and warfare between family members for the sake of material wealth and possessions. Another work titled 0+0=0-0: this Mathematical equation resonates with the losses and gains in monetary transactions on a non-material plane. In this work a statue of Vishnu – the preserver of the universe according to Hindu mythology –  stands behind the synthetic glow of tube lights that are lined from floor to ceiling. The unsettling element of the work is that Vishnu seems to be cutting off his own head with his 'sudarshan chakra': the disc-like serrated weapon that was used by the god to destroy evil forces. The chakra is represented by a threatening noisy drilling machine and alludes to how the money game can lead to insanity. It also prompts one to deliberate over whether we rightly equate evil with money. Does not the uncontrollable desire for money originate from within the same mind that demonstrates the capacity to create and preserve?

The epic story of King Midas is performed in the works of Tallur – the greed for money leads to misery and discontentment. In the artist's work it manifests in the form of concrete cement or corrosion replacing what would have been a symbol of creation, good luck or transcendence of the material world. The message is clear -- currency corrodes the ability to see rationally, gradually revealing jagged contours that pierce through those who covet it.


Enlightenment machine, 2011, Detail

Blessing, 2011