FROM THE 5TH MARDIN BIENNIAL ARTISTS BHAGWATI PRASAD

Born in 1976 in Delhi (India), Bhagwati Prasad (@bbhaggu) works with composite drawings and performance. He has conducted extensive research with Sarai-CSDS on Delhi’s popular culture, water wars, and media life from 2002 to 2012, during which period he published ‘Tinker. Solder. Tap.’ (co-authored, 2009) and ‘The Water Cookbook’ (2010). He is known for his large scale wall drawings, notably at Jaipur Kala Kendra (2018), and his ‘Hashtag series’ has proliferated on social media since 2017. He has performed at the 11th Shanghai Biennale (2017) and Serendipity Arts Festival (Goa, 2017). He has been part of many international residencies and was the recipient of IFA’s Artist Practice Grant (2015).
 
Prasad’s works include the Begumpura Series in which he revisits the egalitarian imaginary of Saint Ravidas. This work was shown at MACBA, Barcelona, in 2018-19. His work The Stutter of Food was presented at Five Million Incidents at Goethe-Institut, Delhi, in 2020. In 2020, his work Speculations on a New World Order was shown in the Shrine Empire online exhibition. Another work To Be Movementary was exhibited at Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai, China in 2021. His ongoing work Dumm (Breath; Perseverance; Courage) will be shown at Khoj International Artists’ Association in 2022.
All images courtesy: The artist

BHAGWATI PRASAD

INDIA

Begumpura – A Place Without Sorrow, 2022.
Installation with drawings, variable dimensions.

The regal realm with the sorrowless name:
they call it Begumpura, a place with no pain,
they call it Begumpura, a place with no pain,
No taxes or cares, nor own property there,
no wrongdoing, worry, terror or torture.
Oh my brother, I’ve come to take it as my own,
my distant home, where everything is right.
That imperial kingdom is rich and secure,
where none are third or second—all are one;
Its food and drink are famous, and those who live there
dwell in satisfaction and in wealth.
They do this or that, they walk where they wish, they stroll through fabled palaces unchallenged.
Oh, says Ravidas, a tanner now set free, Those who walk beside me are my friends.

The 15th century leather-working saint, Ravidas strikes a powerful hegemony-defying image in India. The reformist mystic is credited with the vibrant vision of a polity founded on egality, called Begumpura (literally the city without sorrow). Conceived as a utopia without hierarchies, taxes, and surveillance, Begumpura would allow free mobility and full freedom to nurture one’s desires. Reclaiming the socially ordained medium of the saint, i.e. animal hide, Prasad started listening out for the resonances of Begumpura in the contemporary. As the goatskin dries and becomes taut, it is able to take on new vibrations that can ripple through oceans, forests, animals, cities, tools, humans, machines, and plants. Begumpura reveals nature to be a lively medley of myriad agents — chemical, biological, and technical.