Riding Rocinante from Bombay to Shanghai via Sardar Sarovar and Three Gorges - Art Exhibition by Tushar Joag.
Tushar Joag’s current body of work is a continuation of his major 2010 project Riding Rocinante, where, over 53 days in August-October 2010, he took his 350-cc Enfield Bullet with sidecar from Bombay to Shanghai, travelling across India, Nepal and China.
The title of the exhibition refers to Don Quixote’s horse, astride which Cervantes’ hero famously tilted at windmills, believing them giants threatening the landscape. Joag directly invites comparisons between himself and that delusional Spanish grandee with disarming candour and wry humour. His ‘Rocinante’ bore her burden over river valleys, forests and plains in India and onward to cross the Himalaya through landslides and storms to the high plateau of Tibet before descending into the Yangtze valley en route to Shanghai.
On reaching the Chinese financial capital, Joag and a team of mechanics dismantled the, by then, rickety motorcycle, immersing the machine components in two purpose-built steel moulds, one in the shape of a curled-up human form, the other in the form of a horse. This assemblage, along with other artefacts of the journey including battered boots and helmet, torn waterproof clothing, spare parts, tools, maps and photographs were installed in the exhibition Place.Time.Play: India-China Contemporary Art, the first ever project to involve Indian and Chinese artists in a dialogic relationship.
Joag made it a point to include stopovers at the Sardar Sarovar Project in the Narmada Valley and at the mammoth Three Gorges dam project on the Yangtze River. Both projects have been projected by the respective nation-states as hallmarks of modernisation, and both have resulted in dispossession and environmental degradation of epic proportions. Joag’s continuing sense of solidarity with marginalised peoples was tested on these stopovers, and finds a way into the new work, where columns made of the contorted bodies of Indian and Chinese peasants are presented as emblems of a continuing and futile search for social justice.
In the exhibition, Joag mediates between figures of Don Quixote, Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, the Buddha, Sun Wukong and Xuanzang together with silver cut-outs of Rocinante infesting the landscape in these works. He seeks to marry his performative and activist work to gallery-based objects. There is a great deal of self-reflexive humour in the work, deliberate asides being made to the aesthetics of kitsch and popular religiosity.