Telegrams to Bollywood from a Mad Landscape Scout


Concept Statement

Ink, Print, Tea on Paper, Wood, Glass

"Telegrams to Bollywood from a Mad Landscape Scout, the series was created with the aid of the FICA Emerging Artist Award 2017 and conceived during its attendant residency in Switzerland. As appropriations of artefacts, the telegrams are visibly tattered and have been “restored” with an archival impulse. Each telegram is covered with calligraphic marks in thick, dark densities, which reveal themselves as layers of indecipherable text upon perusal. Cumulatively, the text in ink inscribes a landscape on paper through repetitive motions, and implies a persistent—but futile—attempt at legibility. As a conclusion to the dissolution of linearity in the text, the scout is presumed to have gone mad. But what does madness mean in the context of warfare, displacement and sensory disorientation? Against an imperative for survival, the political illegibilities of the state find expression in the mark-making, foregrounding an embodied trauma. The photographic image in this archive departs from its linear impulse to categorise and engages instead with fiction and storytelling. This results in amplifying histories that do not follow the imperialist, causal logic of the institution―forming its own language for what a record can be. The military progression of text is dismantled in favour of an informal code, where fiction and fact come together to upset the link between language and landscape. Using the representational strategy of the archive, Shah creates a crisis of authenticity and subverts its relationship to normative accounts of history, where the image becomes a militant counter to visual records of the Kashmiri terrain (and its surrogates) in mainland cinematic imaginations." Najrin Islam, Art Critic and Writer