Anish Kapoor goes to Dharavi

Why are children from the slum creating their version of the sculptor’s popular work, asks Aastha Atray Banan

Photo: MS Gopal

WHEN THREE NEW YORK-BASED artists — Alex White Mazzarella, Casey Nolan and Dutch photographer Arne De Knegt — escorted a bunch of slum kids from one of Dharavi’s many NGOS to Anish Kapoor’s show at Mehboob Studios in December 2010, little did they know the trip would inspire a work of art. The trio discovered the canisters used to store the wax used by Kapoor in his work Shooting Into The Corner were being sent to Dharavi to be recycled. Later, the artists got the children to recreate the work. The result is an installation, a sheet of tin standing proud with splotches of red wax, which is part of the exhibition, Artefacting Mumbai. Other works include a collage of passport pictures of various residents of Asia’s largest slum, a small house made of plastic water bottles, a selection of photographs threaded together on a string and a ‘beehive’ made of used cans of paint that resound with the buzzing of bees, all exhibited at Dharavi’s 13th Compound. “We wanted to show Dharavi’s humanity, not poverty,” says Nolan. “And it has been a great experience. We have made new friends, and the residents have been immensely supportive. We have made a video of the whole experience and this will be exhibited in New York once we leave.” It is a different matter then that a befuddled housewife could be heard wondering, “Why are these people here?” or a paanwala ruing, “These guys have not even left us any place to pee.” The artists may go back with a new-found respect for India’s poor and their resilience, but it’s difficult to say how much the residents of the slum really felt part of it.