Of Kafka and Freud

by Team ACF
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Celebrated German novelist Franz Kafka wrote the novella ‘Metamorphosis’ – a psycho-analytical tale about the dreary life of a salesman who transforms overnight into a giant insect – as far back as 1915, but the theme of both chaos and aspiration in the human psyche is as relevant today, or so believes Delhi-based architect and artist Rohit Raj Mehndiratta.
In his latest solo show titled Navigating Mindscapes, Mehndiratta deals with the theory of the conscious and unconscious mind through a uniquely complex visual language that captures the everyday landscapes of the mind. The exhibition, that includes photographic prints, pen & ink drawing and acrylics and oils on canvas, can be viewed at the Arpana Caur Art Gallery till March.
This exhibition seeks to explore the ideas of alienation and instability that human mind undergoes due the pressures created by society,” says Mehndiratta, an MIT post-graduate in architecture and urbanism, “I am also interested in psycho-analysis so the subject of the sub-conscious mind appeals to me greatly. I like to question our perception (and at times obsession with) of the real, the tangible and the structure that forms society. The IT and social media boom, I believe, is alienating humans from their real selves more and more.”
No wonder then, Mehndiratta finds the Freudian theories of id, ego, and super-ego equally fascinating. His first solo show in 2016, held at Alliance Francaise titled (Un) fettered, presented similar and visually stimulating inner-scapes depicting the constant struggle with the external world. Before that, he has held a solo photography show in 2014 in New York titled Placed Settings that explored the vagaries of life in Brooklyn & New York. A full-time practising architect, who runs Studio VanRO with wife Vandini Mehta, the 44-year-old says that he always drawn to the medium of art even though he was studying to be an architect.
A photographic work titled ‘Doors’ – that was taken in a village in Himachal Pradesh – includes multiple images to explore the idea of “what lies behind what meets the eye”. ‘Knots’ is also a photographic montage that symbolises repressed desires that remain in the mind, removed from consciousness yet operative at a personal and collective level.
The Unconscious, an acrylic and oil on canvas is a dreamscape and a prison simultaneously in which all repressed desires, longings and passions are collected and heavily guarded, while Chimeras is about Kafka’s insect that symbolises the unconscious. “So I ask – then are chimeras mythological, fire-breathing grotesque monsters genetically mutated and a manifestation of the social unconsciousness, of the fight to repress those dark desires or is it a repression of the unbelievable and hence fearful power of the unconscious if illuminated will transform us into species of a higher order.”

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