SAMANTA  BATRA  MEHTA
The Anthropology of Time (detail)
2012
Original antiquarian maps and engravings, antiquarian books, collaged art catalogs, gesso, 23 k gold leaf, vintage medicinal & laboratory glass containers, teak and glass cabinet
Installation size variable; approximately 60 x 16 x 10 inches
In 'The Anthropology of Time", four antiquarian editions of John Stoddard's 'India and the Passion Play' are juxtaposed with plastic plants bought from Chinese and Thai importers in Manhattan. Collages elements from reproductions of Indian miniature paintings and ink drawings adorn selections of the text. John Stoddard was a Western writer and traveler who wrote a series of travelogues. In 1897 he published his travel writings and photographs on his travels in India. I chanced upon these writings in an antiquarian bookshop in New York. While much of these writings were descriptions of the places he visited, they were also a commentary of the social, cultural and civic situation of the time viewed from his position as an upper class white traveler to a land of the 'natives'.

As I journeyed back "home" over the past 10 years, I realized that I unconsciously assumed the position of a critical commentator, onlooker and observer on the changes she I saw in urban India witness. Upon self reflection, I realized that even while I oftentimes felt ire upon reading Stoddard's commentaries, I myself unconsciously slipped into creating conclusions based on my position as a Western-educated, Western-returned "NRI" to my own native land.