Here in Columbus, at the Center for Epigraphical and Palaeographical Studies at OSU, we celebrated the opening reception of VOID WRITING – an exhibition by 조은영 (which I blogged about a few days ago). As part of the exhibition of five of Choey’s monumental hanging pieces, the curator of the Center, Wendy Watkins, selected some squeezes of inscriptions from their collection and displayed them on a table.
The juxtaposition of these squeezes from ancient Greek inscriptions placed flat on a table and the vertically hanging pieces of a contemporary artist brought to mind the installation of the work of the Indian photographer Gauri Gill at the Epigraphic Museum in Athens as part of documenta 14.
Of all of the series included in the installation in the museum, there were two that particularly struck me as most directly in dialogue with the fragmentary remains of ancient inscriptions: Traces and The Mark on the Wall. I went to Gill’s website to learn more about these specific works and here is how they are described, accompanied by a representative work and then how they appear in the context of the Epigraphic museum in Athens (once again via Instagram posts of the installations on site).
Traces, is a series memorialising unmarked and marked graves in the desert. The handmade graves belong to people with relatively few economic resources—peasants, nomads and other inhabitants of remote villages in Western Rajasthan; and from both the Muslim and Hindu communities, pointing to a more heterogenous complexity underlying national thought and religious traditions. Created from materials found in Nature, the graves exist lightly upon the earths surface. They might include personal offerings from the home, or individually hand-inscribed gravestones. Over time, they are reabsorbed by the landscape as they are imbibed by other creatures of the earth, or erased by sand and the elements. Either partly embraced or nearly wholly immersed, each site is as unique and significant as a monumental work of art, although free of the heavy subjectivity of permanent historical record.
The Mark on the Wall is a set of photographs in which Gill documents drawings made by local artists, children and teachers in government schools in Rajasthan under the now lapsed Leher Kaksha scheme, initiated by the state to help children learn visually from the walls in their classrooms. From the most tentative marks to those ever more sophisticated, from determined depictions of children making their way to school to individualistic expressions of nature, from maps of the village to symbols of the State, in what these fragments choose to express—to represent, point to, aspire to, or impart as learning—are offered revealing glimpses of the collective mind of a rural community.