Wheelchair ballet school in Vivekananda Rd, Calcutta
Oil on linen, 198 x 213 cm
In 1999 while visiting Calcutta I had to use Vivikananda Road. Vivikananda Road is full
of old, frail men carrying ridiculously oversized loads of stuff on their backs. The legs they
use to stumble around in circles on – all have gamey bandages wrapped around their
knees and ankles, and they are always bumping into each other and blaming the other
guy. That day when I was walking through Vivikananda Road a 20-metre metal pole
smashed into my eye, the pole was invisibly thin and rusty and the old man carrying it
over his shoulder was walking sideways and his head was facing the ground, he started
yelling at me in Hindi. I apologised “sorry for getting my fucking cornea in the way of your
rusty pole “. I made this drawing that night at the hostel. And when I got home I made a
painting on Vivekananda Rd called They opened a plastic surgery next to the mental
In 2008 I was in China just before the Olympics. The torch relay was covered by one TV
station there 24 hours a day and because the Communist government pay everyone the
same they have to reward their bureaucrats with favours such as running in the torch
relay, but there are so many bureaucrats in China that the torch legs are divided into only
5 metres each – so it looks more like pass the parcel than a relay
The torch relay had many photo opportunities to show Chinese culture. On one day the
TV showed the torch passing through a Wheelchair Ballet school so I made a drawing
that night and a painting when I got home, the painting formed part of a multi-panel called
The Olympic torch relay in Xinjiang Province
- The young girls at the Chinese wheelchair ballet school moving around the basketball
court waving their arms in the air and bumping into each reminded me of the elderly men
in Vivekananda Rd. I liked the idea of these children having all their disabilities beneath
them – behind them, and the elderly having them all above them – in front of them. There
is left to them a small space in between to do something, and with that space they do
everything they can.
In Vivekananda Rd. Calcutta all the buildings are battered up and patched up many times over. On both sides of the road and they form a guard of honour for the beaten up and and patched up people who walk down it.
After everyone went blind, everyone was afraid they wouldn’t be able to remember what they now couldn’t see
After Everyone Went Blind, Everyone Was Afraid They Wouldn’t Be Able to Remember What They Now Couldn’t See
oil on linen
overall size: 82 x 100 inches
Courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York
After everyone went blind, everyone was afraid they wouldn’t be able to remember what they now couldn’t see. And everyone became overprotective of their memories and antagonistic towards any contradicting memories. When someone died everyone thought they should build the coffin in the shape of their memory of the dead person. Many corpses were torn apart in the fight for their right to their contradicting memories of the dead. Some grievers agreed on a compromise but had to squash or cut off parts of the hardening corpse to fit it into the compromised coffin shape.
Fingerprints and footprints became an important part of recording where you were and who you were when your memory failed you. The city became covered with fingerprints and footprints. And it became illegal to wash any surfaces. Because of this the world became an incubator of disease and then was ruled by disease. Also models had to be touched now instead of looked at and modelling became the most unglamorous job ever there was.
When people couldn’t see they became more aware and afraid of the things they could never see in the first place ; like radio waves, love and bacteria. Bacteria like Tibercle, Entamoebe and Bacilli became household names and there was even a petting zoo of bacteria.
Most people try to keep their memories through taste. They would have cake, soft drinks and lollies to remember their childhood, junk food to remember their teenage years and alcohol for the rest. They mainly became fat which wasn’t a big deal because no-one could see them anyway.