Gigi Scaria’s latest exhibition at Vadehra Art Gallery is titled Ecce Homo (‘Behold the Man’), after a term in art history that refers to depictions of Christ wearing the crown of thorns. It is also the title of German philosopher Nietzsche’s tract Ecce Homo: How One Becomes What One Is, a semi-autobiography that became famous for its ironic chapter titles like ‘Why I Am So Wise’ and ‘Why I Write Such Good Books’. Scaria’s recent sculptures combine the influences of prodigious antecedents in Christian art and nihilist philosophies like Nietzche’s; like the former, they meditate on suffering as aesthetically and personally valuable, and like the latter, they reflect introspectively and self-reflexively on the artist’s own life and career. Also like Nietzsche, they sardonically posit that man is more divine than Christ – that real enlightenment comes not from perfect altruism, but from an intimacy with the self that allows for an honest confrontation of man’s failures and weaknesses. Exploring the self from different angles, Scaria thus asks: what is, and what makes, a man?
Scaria’s anthropomorphic sculptures, videos and drawings embody these moral doubts and anxieties, projecting them onto the fate of humanity at large. His works can be read as a hymn to the strength of the human body, and its ability to confront the hardships of the contemporary world – urbanisation, migration, conflict, and environmental degradation. The human forms the artist creates are depicted as empowered in their resistance to these global problems, while equally serving as analogies for their future doom. Scaria’s bodies are broken and contorted, moulded by the bleak world around them. The exhibition offers sobering insights into the human condition in the 21st century, both melancholic and hopeful about the Christ-like will of man.