Land of the Leal is DHI Artspace’s first solo exhibition with Jharkhand-born Kolkata-based artist Arjun Das. Inspired by the experiences of the migrant working class in Kolkata, Das’s work refers to the lives of younger generation workers who abandoned their studies in search of a new life in the city, an imagined heaven. Contrary to their expectations, the city pushes them to scarcity and exhaustion, leaving little room to accommodate themselves and their belongings. With an extensive set of conversations with the workers in Bara Bazaar, Kolkata, conjoined with his experiences as a young migrant in the city, Arjun Das responds to the interiority of a displaced laborer’s everyday life.
As the artist notes, “The spaces the migrants inhabit bear no clear demarcations of a kitchen, washroom, private room, and market. Further, they are like disparate elements assembled to create a makeshift shelter far removed from the comfort of their hometown. I attempt to make these conditions visible by bringing them into the space of art. I also try to capture their urban dreams drastically transform into a site of uncertainty”.
In Land of the Leal, Das extends his material preoccupation with wood to new explorations of metal, stone coal, terracotta roof tiles, and asphalt elements integral to the worker’s daily life in the city. Led by diverse material and interpersonal conversations, Das presents stories of unrealized dreams responding to the life he once lived and continues to reflect on.