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.
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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.
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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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