The Fuschia Tree
Editor's Note.
This poem, by Tracy Smith, is a poem that I have found myself returning to. Not only does it play with scale--miniaturizing the giant and magnifying the tiny--but it pulls taut with it a fundamental tension that braces our existence. The tension between the cosmic and the earthly. When we spin around ourselves in a field, and the stars seem to be spinning too, why do our arms begin to pull away from our sides? Our local frame is inextricably linked to the rest of the universe.
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By Himali Singh Soin, Issue 15, The Light & Dark Issue, November 2012
A lot of your work deals with the cosmic, the metaphysical and the larger ideas of religion, truth and death. This same work will, almost eerily, straddle the concrete: in the case of Epilogue, it is rotis, but in the case of say, Public Notice 3, it was numbers, a symbol of man-made measure. Outside of your art, and in your life, how do you view or understand the relationship between the big Other and the smaller everyday?

To reconcile the world we see with eyes open and the world we see when we shut our eyes to look inwards is to match the sounds we hear around us with the sounds we create every moment through our biological rhythms. These serve as cosmic reminders of the still present.

The tight binding begins to loosen, the balance of the book is upset: heavier in one hand than the other, you know the story has been revealed, and this is the final note that comes after. An ellipsis. So that we sense the cyclical life of the story, so that it doesn’t quite end at the end. This is the Epilogue. The last, thin fragile piece of paper between thumb and index finger, each aware of the other in the imminent meeting of the part of yourself that began this journey with the part of yourself that is completing it.

And so Jitish Kallat’s piece, Eiplogue, holds taut the physical self and the self that thinks, analyses and feels. The part of you that looks and the part that sees.

22,000 moons, packed into a long, winding series of 753 frames, photographed and installed to hang along corridors recording the life—and finally the completion of it—of the artist’s father: 22,000 moons amounting to 62 years, from 1936 until 1998. The Epilogue comes then, as Epilogues normally do, over a decade later (2010), not as an afterthought, but as a tranquil observer distanced from the immediacy of turmoil, able to reflect on the patterns of the story.

The moons are made of rotis, in waxing and waning stages of being eaten, metaphorically depicting the essential dualities of existence: superfluity and scarcity, the cosmic and the earthly, the spatial and the temporal and light and dark. Isolated in frames, these dualities merge and a waning life becomes a waxing death. The light of the camera illuminates the darkness, a heavenly body made of cheese becomes an everyday bread made of wheat, and as you consume space, elongating the hallways, you track time.

If there were any truth found in what we imagine of death, then it is perhaps that death follows similar cycles as life. 753, adding to 15, one more than the 14 day lunar cycle, a sonnet extended, an epilogue. 22, like the Catch, a palindrome, caught, this way and that. Even in Death there is mathematics, and rhythm, a pattern that we and the things we create—art—by virtue of not-knowing more, must imitate.

So that when the last frame ends mid-cycle, it could be read both as a finality of something before, or as black space open to possibility. As if this epilogue might be a prologue for something else.

Jitish Kallat was born in 1974 and lives and works in Mumbai.

Himali Singh Soin lives inside a flower on The Fuschia Tree.

Also in this issue

  • 9 Steps to discovering the real Gravity of Black Holes (and how to make your own).
    Light allows us to see, perceive and experience the optical world. This same light, however, can play foul when we attempt to comprehend its inverted partner, darkness.
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  • The Binaries of Becoming.
    Every City has its secrets... but Calcutta, whose vocation is excess, has so many that it is more secret than any other. Elsewhere, by workings of paradox, secrets live in the telling: they whisper life into humdrum street corners and dreary alleyways; into rubbish-strewn rears of windowless tenements and the blackened floors of oil bathed workshops. But here in our city where all law
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  • Makeshift.
    Summer evenings of Delhi in the 90’s saw many power cuts. We lived in a Delhi Development Authority colony. The DDA designed these flats for India’s growing middle class. The architecture was uniform, with little heed to aesthetics. The houses were originally painted a sulphuric yellow but over time residents indulged daringly in fifty shades of chalky pink.
    Read More

Illusion: Seeing Beyond Seeing
Meaning: In Search of Significance.
Melody: A Different Tune
Rhythm: Ordering Time

Dhrupadi Ghosh is an old friend of mine. We have often had long sessions of adda late at night, discussing her dream projects since her college days at Santiniketan, where she majored in Sculpture.