to the privileged, (2020)
Sculptural replica of a plinth in Bombay which once held the statue of Queen Victoria, the Empress of India. Now, the plinth is free. Free of the weight of her feet, warships, brutalities and suffering. The legend goes on to say that the sculpture was stolen, broken in pieces and sold on the black market. Who's searching?
The act of removal, the vacuum, is a space of active protest.
The East India Company was established for the exploitation of trade with India of spices in the late 1500s. What started as trading opportunity between two countries turned into a full administrative control of territories by the Crown that later came to be known as The British Raj. The history of spices is a history of lands discovered, empires built and brought down, wars won and lost, treaties signed and flouted, and flavours sought and offered. Spices brought the British to India.
to the privileged,
Result of a research based fellowship with the British Council at the British Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2019
Passport: 13.5cm x 9.5cm x 1 cm
To the bearer of this passport,
to the privileged, is an artwork consisting of four equally important aspects. Firstly, it’s vital to mention the location of the exhibition as it’s the vessel that carries the artwork. The exhibition took place outside the Giardini in Venice, one of the main locations of the Venice Biennale. Then the passport book itself that consists of a piece of text explaining passport privilege and the rest of the pages include 15 countries represented at the Venice Biennale along with their global passport rank, a stamp dated back to 1414, when the first passport was issued by King Henry V in England, and a washed out image of the country’s artistic representation in their national pavilion at the Venice Biennale. This is important because pavilions housed at the Giardini are owned by the exhibiting country and stepping into the pavilion would essentially mean stepping into that country’s border.
Confronting Passport Privilege, a privilege that is based on the origin of an individual's passport that either makes the world for them borderless or full of obstacles. If born in the 'wrong' country, they'd have to prove their decency as a human at every step outside that country. Passport privilege remains an entirely unaddressed, conveniently overlooked inequality that defines every single immigration debate and crisis of movement. It is important to recognise these inequalities and the contribution they make in producing a world in which the 'high powers' are not only more free to move but in which the hierarchy is clearly laid out in 'Global Passport Rank' as common sense.
As small a step as it is, the Venice Biennale brings together 89 countries on one land, accessible through one ticket. For someone with a lower passport rank, it was a liberating experience to feel like an equal in the contemporary art world, if not the globalised world.