The Gujral Foundation was pleased to present Pur[e]suit, an exhibition of photoworks by Deepak Singh Kathait from 23rd – 30th November 2017. In this series of photoworks, the artist captured the ritual of purification enacted by millions of believers each year on the banks of the river Ganges. Taking a leap beyond prevalent touristic photography, Deepak complicated the gaze of the viewer by removing context and identification markers. In the final artworks, one encountered the multitudinousness of the river bathing site through the process of repetition, creating an alternate manufactured context akin to the one we see in supermarkets and departmental stores.
Acts of purification have manifestations in all forms of life from river rituals, to Catholic confessional booths, to one-click online petitions delivering us from capitalistic guilt. Through his journeys to Rishikesh and the creation of this body of work, the artist challenged the idea of these easily available means of purification. How do these rituals, through which society repeatedly placates conscience, play into systemic cycles of greed and consumerism?
The series of work also reopens questions of purity in art, here in the canon of photography. How does one constitute the purity of the photographic image in the time of advanced technological interventions, and is there a need to do so? With the proliferation of the mobile phone camera, photography becomes a tool for voyeurism, surveillance and citizen reportage. Deepak through this work points towards new tools to look at the body, identity and the pure in photographic work.