I remember always struggling with Indian philosophy during my college days. Western philosophy seemed more lucid. So I started interpreting Indian philosophy by breaking it down into simple examples. Here’s one: Think of a man who has never seen an antelope but knows what a deer looks like. So you tell him that an antelope is like a deer but while a deer typically has branched antlers, antelopes have unbranched horns. Also, deer are usually more robust and stocky, while antelopes tend to be more slender and agile. Now, while walking in the forest, the man spots an antelope, and immediately his mind thinks of the comparison that you told him. This is the foundational idea of Upamana or knowledge gained by comparison. It is borrowed from the Sanskrit words upa (similarity) + mãna (knowledge)
But why am I telling you all this? That’s because Upamana is the riveting titular exhibition we will explore today. It is the brainchild of visual and installation artist Raihan Vadra. Upamana is part of a series of 5 solo shows, spread over a decade, drawing from the 5 schools of logic in Indian philosophy (5 Pramanas). The immersive show employs installations, visual art, sound, and lighting to delve into various comparisons and analogies encountered in life.
This exhibition expands on themes like control, choice, compulsion, memory, and emotion that were previously explored in the artist's works Dark Perception (2021) and Anumana (2022). Each piece in the show depicts various aspects of comparison and how it influences our perception. Through curated daily walkthroughs, visitors can explore the artist's take on three comparison constructs - similarity, dissimilarity, and peculiarity.
The materials to be used in the show comprise metal, resin, fiberglass, natural trees and roots, archival paper printed with photographs, LED strip lighting, and vinyl. A unique soundtrack is produced for the exhibition, accompanied by a voiceover introducing each room, providing a complete sensory experience.
While my antelope and deer example is an interpretation of Upamana to understand objective reality, Raihan uses the same philosophy to veer into subjectivity. His artistic perspective centers on embracing individuality without the urge to compare oneself to others. His art aims to communicate the concept of endless potential that emerges from staying authentic and comfortable with one's own identity.
Raihan Vadra, on the exhibition's aim
Upamana by Raihan Vadra
Preview: 28th January 2024
Exhibition on Till: 4th February 2024
Venue: Bikaner House, New Delhi
Follow Raihan Vadra here.
If you enjoyed reading this, here's more from Homegrown: