The Playful Cynicism of Tallur L.N.

By Faye Hirsch

Perseus wore a magic cap that the monsters he hunted down might not see him. We draw the magic cap down over eyes and ears as a make-believe that there are no monsters.
—Karl Marx, preface to Capital, vol. 1

In contemplating the sculptures of Tallur L.N., we feel time and place come unmoored; metaphors proliferate. But that is only after we experience them physically, as works of weight and substance. We are made aware of their constituent materials and facture, encouraged to move around them, even, at times, to alter or assemble them. Still, the great strength of these sculptures is the opportunity they present for interpretation. Tallur asks us to be conscious, curious viewers. History, geopolitics, economics, cultural exchanges, anthropology—these are among the many access points to the work’s meaning. Layer by layer, we probe its depths, until the singular object we are contemplating has become many things, and rather than inert and passive, nearly alive in its mercurial possibilities. Within this density, the artist maintains a light, even jocular touch; in what might be seen as manifestations of the “thickened present”—the sense of overload that Terry Smith has discerned as the condition of our times and art-making —Tallur deploys a wealth of irony and humor.
Take his monumental undertaking of 2012, a work called Veni, Vidi, Vici, which operates on dual ranks of materiality and conceptual play. The piece has so far had three iterations: at the 2012 Kochi-Muziris Biennale, billed as the “first Indian Biennale,” held in Kochi in Kerala, on the southwestern Indian coast; at the artist’s gallery, Jack Shainman, New York, in spring 2013; and in the Unlimited section of the ArtBasel fair in Switzerland the same year. Fabricated, like all of Tallur’s work, by others (we might almost call it “outsourcing,” though only in hindsight, given that that the practice has been common for decades among artists, from Andy Warhol to Jeff Koons and Ai Weiwei), the constituent parts were produced in Mangalore, in Karnataka, Tallur’s native province, adjacent to Kerala. The city is famous for its terra cotta tile-works. In Tallur’s installation, an entire peaked roof of Mangalore tiles has been sliced into two parts along its axis and positioned on the floor. Rather than reconstituting the shape of a roof in situ, with the peak at the center, the halves have been installed so that they rise toward the opposite walls of the room in which they are displayed. They are therefore easily scrutinized by the viewer who, walking between them, is able to see, posted along their sloping surfaces, small terra cotta figurines of Indian yogis striking poses.

Veni, Vidi, Vici: “I came, I saw, I conquered.” The title, of course, is the famous quote by Julius Caesar on his conquest of Pontus in northeastern Turkey in 47 B.C. For an artist who often taps into the vicissitudes of colonialism for his subject matter, the quote is heavily freighted. Who, Tallur is asking in this work, is the conquerer, and who the conquered? The answer is not simple. As a South Indian who came of age during the period of the subcontinent’s “Economic Liberalisation,” Tallur has witnessed the adverse residues of colonial conquest and neoliberal development, as well as seeing, in his many travels, the explosive wealth that can result for certain sectors (not least the art world). He has witnessed the reverse tide of resurgent economies—their products, their labor—seeping into the lives of developed nations. And what of “cultural capital,” which is just as complex in its trajectories as goods and services? Whose architecture is it? Whose yoga?
Most of Tallur’s works bring with them an elaborate back-story, and Veni, Vidi, Vici is no exception. The first and third installations of the piece—in southwest India and Basel, Switzerland—are places that are threaded into its content. In the middle of the 19th century, a group of Swiss Protestant missionaries established a tile-works factory in Mangalore, a town that had access to large deposits of red clay along the Nethravathi and Gurupura rivers. There the missionaries employed the converted locals, at an establishment called the Basel Mission Tile Factory, the first tile-works in Mangalore, and began exporting the product to Europe. After World War I, the company was taken over by the British, and renamed the Commonwealth Tiles Factory. In 1977, it was handed over to India. The tiles produced in the company’s early days were prized in Switzerland, and widely used in roofing in Basel and elsewhere. In a sense, at both locations of Veni, Vidi, Vici, the roof had come “home”: in South India near its point of material and artisanal origin, and in Basel at its destination. The roof thus represents the movement of goods and labor in both colonial and post-colonial times. And, not unlike today’s cultural tourist, it has traipsed to prestigious international art-world events, a biennial and a fair.
Meanwhile, an industry that in the beginning thrived not only because the right clay was readily at hand but because the labor that produced the tiles was ample and cheap, became a source of employment in Mangalore and elsewhere, and its employees specialized workers whose handiwork was part of the very appeal of their product. Yet the tile-works of Mangalore are just one example of what happens to small industries in the wake of economic streamlining, and here the story becomes even more complicated. Tile-works are just one industry that is disappearing in India as multinational consolidation forces homogeneity on a once hugely diverse economy. In 1994—three years into the Indian “economic liberalization”—there were 75 tile factories in Mangalore alone. But by 2007, as resources became scarcer and workers refused to “modernize,” a euphemism for the resistance to streamline, some 50 percent of tile factories across India were shuttered. In effect, Veni, Vidi, Vici represents the last gasp of an international hybrid. To the purchasing nations far away, the labor producing the tiles was always invisible, which it was not in India. Yet the artisanal aspect of tile production has doomed it in its homeland, as quicker and more anonymous means of production are demanded to maintain global competitiveness. Tallur has captured the tiles at the tail-end of their long history, compounded of myriad forces that have shaped the very roof we see before us.
But it is the sheer absurdity of this split-and-lowered roof that allows the piece to live and breathe as art. Tallur manipulates scale in this work, placing a whole roof within interior spaces so that it looks outsized, even though in reality it would cover a structure of rather modest scale. And the scale changes have an additional Alice in Wonderland quality, for the yogis striking their poses are just tiny red-clay details in a vast expanse of red clay. Like the laborers who are the casualties of globalization, the little figures in Veni, Vidi, Vici are barely visible. Based on figurines commissioned in the 19th century by the British staff of Bombay’s Victoria & Albert Museum (now the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad City Museum, Mumbai), the yogis were among the various social and religious groups of India represented in ethnographic displays. In real life, the yogis’ strenuous efforts—their devotions might entail holding a pose for days—were eccentricities to the curious ethnographer. Today, the craze for yoga in the West has made the practice one of India’s most pervasive exports. While the link between roof tiles and yogis may at first seem arbitrary, and their conjoining awkward, both represent aspects of the indivisible links between East and West, and of trade both economic and cultural.


In 2011, Tallur mounted the exhibition “Quintessential” at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum (hereafter BDLM). For it, he installed a number of site-specific or topical works that touched on the history of the museum, established as the Bombay Victoria & Albert Museum in 1855. There is a long line of contemporary artists who have taken as their subject the museums in which they are showing, and many who utilize the collections in the making of the work they display there. Among recent examples are, for instance, an ongoing series at the Brooklyn Museum in New York, in which artists are invited to intervene in the institution’s historical period rooms; and, at the most recent installment of Venice Biennale in 2013, the Angolan pavilion, in which the artist Edson Chagas placed takeaway piles of photographs showing Luandan vignettes in the Palazzo Cini, a small museum filled with masterpieces of early Italian Renaissance art. The stark contrast between the jewellike Christian devotional paintings in the museum and the impoverished details from the streets of the Angolan capital inspired a meditation on artistic value and the displacement of people around the world. (Chagas’s installation, Luanda: Encyclopedic City, won the Biennale’s 2013 Golden Lion for Best National Participation.)
For Tallur, the chance to create an exhibition in the BDLM must have been particularly resonant. Born in the village of Koteswara in Karnataka, he received his B.F.A. from the University of Mysore, then went on to study museology at the University of Baroda in Gujarat, where he wrote a thesis entitled Multi-sensory Approaches in Exhibition Design before resuming his art studies at the University of Leeds in the UK. In other words, wedged into his development as an artist was a period in which he spent much of his time thinking about museums. So for Tallur-unlike many artists who create site-specific exhibitions in museums—the BDLM show was especially loaded. He went into it with his sensibility uniquely fine-tuned to the issues raised not only in regard to this museum, but to institutions in general. It was the perfect opportunity, as well, to indulge his interest in issues of time and periodicity, playing upon the archaic setting and objects of antiquity in a particularly Indian manner. “Living in India means living simultaneously in several cultures and times,” wrote Gulamohammed Sheikh in 1989. “The past exists as a living entity alongside the present, each illuminating and sustaining the other.”
Once again, we feel the careful discernment of Tallur’s titles; “Quintessential” is an odd word to characterize the works in the show, which are in many ways profoundly contingent, dependent on context and back-story for their messages. Indeed, the eponymous work in the show was anything but “quintessential,” in the sense of being a kind of “perfect embodiment,” as Webster’s defines the term. Quintessential (the work) mainly took the form of a large heap of wooden fragments resting on the floor of one of the galleries. They looked not entirely unlike the kind of debris one might have found in a work by Gordon Matta-Clark or Richard Long. Yet, rather than adducing a particular landscape as their work did, Quintessential referred to something much closer at hand: the great stone elephant that stands in the Jijamata Udyaan, formerly the Victoria Gardens, outside the museum. Dating to the 6th century, the elephant comes from the island of Gharapuri, better known as Elephanta, famous for its ancient rock-cut sculptures of sacred figures. The name was conferred by the Portuguese colonizers specifically for the rock-cut elephant—this elephant—that greeted visitors to the island. In 1864, the British successors to the Portuguese decided to transport the elephant to England, another trophy from a far-flung empire. The logistics proved daunting, however. The elephant only made the much shorter distance through the harbor to Mumbai where, as it was being unloaded by a crane, it fell and broke into pieces. While George Birdwood, the curator at the Victoria & Albert, was able to piece it back together, the cracks are still visible in the elephant, which presently measures over 13 feet long and 7 feet high; and India retained its patrimony, albeit at a remove from its original location.
Paying tribute to this sorry event from the history of colonialism, Tallur created his own fragmentary elephant—clearly identifiable as such, as in a detail of the creature’s hindquarters—which visitors were urged to assemble (fruitlessly) into a whole. Visitors found not only the fragments, but an old ledger book recounting the Elephanta elephant’s entry into the collection, as well as a live video feed of the garden. In the feed, they could watch other viewers regarding the visibly repaired Elephanta elephant ensconced in its transplanted locale. In Tallur’s work, then, the shattered state of the elephant is only one aspect of a condition of fragmentation; the split point of view—outside and inside, garden and gallery, destabilizes the position in the museum of both Elephanta elephant and Tallur’s “replica.” Presented with the evidence, we are invited to piece together a largely invisible history.
Such dislocations are part and parcel of Tallur’s endeavor. Tallur himself, dividing his time between his home region of Karnataka and that of his wife, in Daegu, South Korea, and constantly traveling around the world for his exhibitions, is emblematic of today’s peripatetic, cosmopolitan artist, and although many of his objects touch on Indian history, their materials, production and display can cross many borders. “Like many artists from India before him,” writes Chaitanya Sambrani, “the experience of profound cultural displacement has been instrumental in the development of Tallur’s particular, sharpened claim to contemporary visibility.”
For the exhibition “Quintessential,” Tallur’s focus was museological, and he seized on the opportunity to deconstruct the very institution in which his work was being shown, playing on its old-fashioned displays and ethnographic mission.
He has said: “I believe, when an object of art is ‘museumised,’ that creates a fifth dimension, which is a further addition to Einstein’s four dimensions (time-space).” It is in that “fifth dimension”—perhaps that of metaphor—that Tallur’s objects resonate. In one gallery, a freestanding vitrine like the others in the room—still containing their BDLM displays—presented a pyramidal rock inscribed with the paradoxical legend, “Temporarily Removed for Installation” (also its title); another case—mechanized by the artist—was fitted with wheels and a vacuum cleaner nozzle, through which it periodically sucked up the museum’s own dust, which swirled around inside (4 Thatwamasi). While obviously presenting something of a tautology, the latter also made sly reference to some paradigmatic Western works-one thinks of Marcel Duchamp’s and Man Ray’s photograph Dust Breeding (1920), in which the artists recorded the accumulation of dust on the surface of Duchamp’s Large Glass, or of the vacuums that Jeff Koons placed in a display case (e.g., New Shelton Wet/Dry Doubledecker, 1981, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York). Tallur’s debt to Dada and Surrealism has been often noted, and his affinity to Pop is likewise evident. Of course, in the instance of Koons, the vacuums are inside the case, in a pristine display; by contrast, Tallur’s vacuum is the case. In delivering the dirt, Tallur’s machine clues us in to the fact that his content is at base untidy; a storied museum is never clean.
Even more than the mechanisms of display, Tallur seized upon the contents of the museum, which was founded with a mission to collect ethnographic materials in order to fashion for the delectation of the British a compendium of the folkways of India—or, at least, the India imagined by those who conquered it. Like his contemporary in China, Ai Weiwei, Tallur appropriates and transforms traditional objects in order to critique current practices in his native country and in the art world. Sacred statuary and artifacts of material culture appear frequently, only to be transgressed in one way or another, and in varying degrees. Like Ai, Tallur can exhibit a biting humor. Placing a small circular saw in the hand of a wooden goddess, for example, the artist has her grinding down her own head (0+0=0-0); another work, Pedestal on Pedestal, presents its historical statue only by implication, as that putative figure has vanished like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, leaving behind only a pair of feet on a pedestal. The fragment—feet, pedestal—is duplicated four times, once on each facet of a cubelike amalgam that balances on a low plinth. (In fact, the work looks a bit like an oversize ankle bell.) In such works, one is reminded of the sheer plethora of artifacts, decontextualized, forged, pillaged, flooding the lower end of the market as touristic replicas or, if real, smuggled around the world as contraband. Similar associations arise when one considers Ai’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac (2010), based on a famous 18th-century Qing dynasty fountain destroyed by Europeans in the mid-19th century; it is a large installation in which the twelve giant animal heads appear on poles so that they resemble trophies or-in a more garish association—conjure the decapitations of war.
As with Ai, an iconoclastic spirit pervades Tallur’s appropriations. In 1994, Ai painted a priceless Han Dynasty urn with the Coca-Cola logo, and in 1995, for a photo-action, dropped another Han urn, shattering it. Thus Ai has skewered both the commercialization and the heightened veneration of art. For his part, Tallur may not actually destroy “authentic” works of art, but he provokes a similar frisson in the viewer with works like Unicode (2011), in which he ostensibly ruins a Chola-period Dancing Shiva—one of the most beloved and best-known typologies in Indian sculpture. While we see the encircling nimbus and, at the bottom, the dwarf Mushalagan, whom Shiva tramples in his dance, the graceful dancing figure is invisible, encased in a big awkward lump of concrete studded with coins. Eraserpro, a life-size bronze of a striding man with a walking stick, conjures not only similar figures in ancient Egyptian art, but the revered Mohandas Gandhi, who is shown in this pose in popular images. But we cannot name the figure in Eraserpro; he has been partially “erased” by Tallur—or, in the conceit of the work, by a software program that has destroyed the integrity and thereby undermined both the identity and the iconicity of the figure. Vitiated by technology, which has eaten his body away like an acid, the walking man becomes a contemporary grotesque. One is reminded of the flayed zombies of the contemporary Polish sculptor Pawel Althamer, whose installation The Venetians (2013) at the 55th Venice Biennale presented dozens of cast-plastic portraits of local citizens in tattered clothing, their visages intact, but their open bodies emptied of organs.


To the British curators of the erstwhile Victoria & Albert Museum in Bombay, the holy man, or sadhu, must have seemed the very embodiment of exoticism—thus his inclusion in the array of terra cotta figurines that represented India. Before he appropriated the little yogis in Veni, Vidi, Vici, Tallur created a mini installation for “Quintessential” entitled Hatha Yoga, which incorporated a version of one such figure. A terra cotta sadhu wearing a loincloth, his skin painted with the parallel white lines, or tilaka, associated with devotion to Shiva, reclines comfortably on a bed of nails. Placed in a vitrine on one side of Tallur’s grouping, the yogi seems to gaze imperturbably at a nail-making machine in the middle of the room—perhaps the very machine that produced the nails on which he lies. To either side are two, much larger statues—a kneeling wooden angel into which nails have been driven, and a standing plaster [STONE?] angel that holds a small bundle of nails in its hand, like an angel at the crucifixion of Christ in some Western representations. Looking closely, one notices the hybrid nature of the standing angel, a mixture of Indian and Western sculptures, with the body of female deities on Hindu temples and the wings of a Christian archangel.
As has been widely noted, it is not only human labor that becomes subsumed in capitalism, but—in the accelerated global economics that structure our lives—even the most abstract qualities, aesthetics included. Some have argued that there is no transgressive act that can effectively thwart the absorption of human labor and creativity into capital, though “an enlightened cynicism” can provide a degree of relief. Seen in this light, the humor in Tallur’s project may be interpreted not merely as absurdist—absurdity after all was a strategy of modernism—but as a tactic that allows the truth of capital to flash before our eyes. The many layers in Tallur’s work, and particularly the subtleties that privilege artifice over authenticity, and miscegenation over purity, promote a consciousness of the many ways in which capital pervades our lives. Flanked by pseudo-sacred inventions and gazing at an outmoded machine producing supplies that are instantly coopted, the little yogi is himself no more than an emblem of cooptation, his efforts rebranded as a lifestyle choice in the worldwide cultural marketplace.
At times Tallur shades into darker moods, as in Genetically Modified Landscape (2010), in which he piles silicone rice on a hospital bed. It is a fairly direct comment on the efforts of multinational corporations to consolidate their control over agricultural production in emergent economies through the introduction of patented, genetically modified seeds, and the hoarding of food stores for commodity trading. An alarming increase in suicides among Indian cotton farmers over the past two decades has been attributed by some observers—though not without disagreement even from those who deride the actions of Monsanto and other corporations—to the undermining of indigenous farming practices. Karnataka, Tallur’s home region, is one of the areas that has seen the uptick in cotton-farming suicides. The activist Vandana Shiva has written and lectured extensively about the patenting of a kind of Vitamin A-packed “golden rice” whose inventors claim could revolutionize the health of those who embrace its cultivation—a claim she argues as bogus, given the multiple sources of vitamin A more readily available in other native food products. Tallur’s coupling of the pile of rice and the hospital bed would seem to argue his adherence to this point of view.
However, in Tallur’s “enlightened cynicism,” outrage is usually more diffuse than in Genetically Modified Landscape. Viewers may be invited to vent their anger or make a wish, taking pleasure in their own unexpected sense of agency, however ridiculous. In Tallur’s BDLM installation ATM (Anger Therapy Machine), 2011, two chairs were placed facing each other beneath what looked like an authentic colonial punkah, a large canopy-like fan that would once have been operated by servants. Visitors were invited to sit in the chairs and operate the fan themselves, pulling a rope that moved the textile canopy above back and forth. The face-to-face position was oddly reminiscent of the arrangement in Marina Abramovic’s emotionally-charged performance “The Artist is Present,” at the Museum of Modern Art a year earlier, in which visitors to the museum sat opposite Abramovic for however long they wished, the two staring intently at each other. Precisely what, one wonders, was the nature of the “anger” presumably being expunged in Tallur’s “therapy?” That the sitters were unwitting props in a narrative of post-colonial hybridity is suggested by the many subtle details of the work: “authentic” carvings on the wooden support are, in fact, contemporary inventions that combine traditional European and Indian vegetal motifs, and the crowning motif is the rupee symbol, which had only just been accepted as a universal currency sign in financial markets, in 2011. Not least, there is the title itself, with the punning double-entendre in its false “translation” of ATM, from “automatic teller machine” to “anger therapy machine.” What appears at first to be a quaint artifact of the past—one into which subservience was built—is transformed into a present-day symbol of global economics, implying that the colonial past, with all its coercions, still lives in the present.
One might say that Tallur’s loosening of time (in his manipulations of “ancient” artifacts) and place (his mixed decorative vocabularies) is closely linked to the notion of labor and currency as free-floating variables in a single world market. “Capitalism,” writes Mark Fisher, “is what is left when beliefs have collapsed at the level of ritual or symbolic elaboration, and all that is left is the consumer-spectator, trudging through the ruins and the relics.” Nothing stays put; origins are uncertain. Tallur seems to delight in engineering his own currents within that market—diverting the stream, as it were—and in slowing the pace of “progress” by forcing us to think about what we see. Such is the case in Chromatophobia, a large stone Buddha with a log lodged in its head and a fissure down its center. Viewers were invited to nail coins into that log and make a wish. The Buddha was fabricated in South Korea using stone from China; the log was Indian. The parts were shipped to the U.S. and assembled for an exhibition at Jack Shainman Gallery in New York. The Buddha was stamped “made in the U.S.” One wonders exactly “what” about the sculpture was made in the U.S. Was this merely a joke, referring to the cheap replicas of sacred figures, particularly Buddhas, that flow in quantity from East to West? Or might it refer to pop consumerism, which one might well argue was “made in the U.S.,” and is one of America’s most powerful exports? Whatever the truth—or lie—of the stamp, Tallur allows a few moments when visitors can spend some time engaging with the work and simultaneously, as Tallur sees it, allay their anxiety about money. “Chromatophobia,” he writes, in a mock-serious definition, “is an abnormal and persistent fear of money. Sufferers experience undue anxiety even though they realize their fear is irrational. They worry that they might mismanage money or that money might live up to its reputation as ‘the root of all evil.’” Of course, as they bang away at the log, they also commit a sacrilege toward the cracked Buddha below, seen at the very least with a massive headache.
Works by Tallur are striking for their fine craftsmanship, the handiwork of others. Unlike Jeff Koons and Ai Weiwei, however, Tallur is quick to acknowledge the laborers—the tile-makers of Mangalore, for example, in Veni, Vidi, Vici—and indeed seeks out in particular the workers of fading industries, in which the human element is slowly being outmoded. At the BDLM, an actual human worker “performed” in the piece Enlightenment Machine, producing small brass tourist-industry statuettes on an old-fashioned, hand-operated machine placed between two giant wooden wheels—referring both to the chariot of Arjuna and the kinds of wheels used in small industries. Cut off at the bottom to look as though they were embedded in the floor, the wheels veritably shouted dysfunctionality. Tallur thus structured into his installation both productivity and obsolescence—twin characteristics of the Indian “economic miracle,” where, in order to compete on a global scale, a nation’s means of production must become streamlined and efficient—buzzwords that translate into layoffs and unemployment.
Tallur’s compatriot Subodh Gupta also takes note of a disappearing India, but Gupta’s focus is on the common domestic implements and wares that are fast being replaced by a flood of cheap plastic goods. Tallur’s focus is more often on precious and rare things that have become debased over time—and on human labor. That he considers the agent of this debasement to be money is made clear in yet another work, a subtle and elegant metaphor for the capitalist subsumption of human labor. At the BDLM, there is a vitrine that displays old branding stamps that, heated, were once used to tattoo the adherents of various sects. Taking his cue from that collection, Tallur created his own vitrine in which he neatly arranged 15 silver brands, a work he titled Password. To the left, as if in demonstration, one of the brands is being symbolically “heated” by a cluster of flickering incandescent bulbs. Looking closely, we can see that the symbols on the brands are international currency signs; and, significantly, that the one being heated is the rupee—which, in joining the family of international currency signs, gave India the “password” to prosperity. Yet the link to the human body is unavoidable once one understands the source material for Tallur’s brands, and we are once again reminded of the human element that is so often—and perhaps of necessity—elided in the abstractions of economic development.
The series “Grafts” is among the most affecting of Tallur’s projects precisely because, within it, he so subtly and effectively engineers the dual levels—physical and metaphorical—at which his work operates. Large, wall-mounted, irregularly shaped wooden disks, the “Grafts” at first appear to be straightforward sections of trees, the kind of samples that are taken to determine a tree’s age. We see the rings and the subtle changes in coloration that occur over time. As we draw closer, however, we see that the wood looks almost as though it has mineralized. In fact, as we discover, each section is an exact replica of an actual tree sample whose ordinary wood was painstakingly replaced, bit by bit, with small pieces of rarer hardwoods. The artisans creating these doppelgängers are intarsia craftsmen from Mysore, practicing a skill for which the city is famed. Again, it is a dying industry, and the Mysore intarsia workers are—like the dwindling Indian forests—growing scarce.
Tallur’s “Grafts” are among the loveliest of his sculptures. All too easily, they could exist merely as handsome if curious objects, seamlessly entering the art market as high-end commodities for aesthetic delectation. But the artist presents us with a choice—either to suspend disbelief, pulling the magic cap over our eyes, as in Karl Marx’s metaphor, or to contemplate the work’s many ramifications in addition to its beauty. There may be darkness in his message, but the delivery is deft, and, stepping back, we are free to think and act as we see fit.

Terry Smith, “Currents of Worldmaking in Contemporary Art,” The Visual Culture Reader, ed. Nicholas Mirzoeff, 3rd ed., Abingdon and New York, Routledge, 2013, p. 111 and passim.
One of the best, most concise histories (minus the indictment of labor practices) is to be found on an industry website—that of Pioneer Roofing Solutions: see “Roof Tiles in India,” at, accessed Aug. 25, 2013.
For the history of the museum, founded in 1855, see Louise Nicholson, “Mumbai’s Story,” Apollo Magazine, website, Nov. 2, 2007,, accessed Aug. 24, 2013.
Gulamohammed Sheikh, as cited in Chaitanya Sambrani’s excellent essay on Tallur, “International Vernaculars and Throwaway Epiphanies: The Recent Work of Tallur L.N., Placebo: Tallur L.N., exh. cat., Chemould Prescott Toad, Mumbai, and Arario Gallery, New York, 2009, p. 13.
Henry Yule and A.C. Burnell, A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases. . ., London, John Murray, 1903, p. 341; available on Google Books, accessed Aug. 24, 2013. See also Gunvanth Balaram, “Drop Elephanta and Revert to Gharapuri,” a 1997 article in The Times of India reprinted on the website,, accessed Aug. 24, 2013.
Sambrani, “International Vernaculars,” op. cit., p. 7.
Tallur is quotes as saying this in many sources, including an online review of the BDL show by Zeenat Nagree, TimeOut Mumbai, Dec. 9, 2011,, accessed Aug. 24, 2013.
Richard Vine raises the question of whether the shattered urn was genuine, or, “This being China and the artist being Ai Wewei . . . a clever fake.” Richard Vine, New China, New Art, rev. ed., Munich, London & New York, Prestel, 2011, p. 113.
The phrase is used by Steven Shaviro in “Accelerationist Aesthetics: Necessary Inefficiency in Times of Real Subsumption,” e-flux journal 6, 2013,, accessed Aug. 24, 2013. The article is reprinted from his book Post-Cinematic Affect, Zero Books, 2010.
See, for example, Vendana Shiva, The Corporate Control of Life/ Die Kontrollen über das Leben, dOCUMENTA 13, 100 Notes—100 Thoughts/100 Notizien—100 Gedanken, no. 012, Ostfildern, Hatje Cantz, 2012; and “Rice, Genocide, and the Patenting of Life,” a 2001 lecture posted on the website Deconstructing Dinner;, accessed Aug. 24, 2013. The anti-GMO positions of Shiva and many others in the green movement have lately been challenged by dissenting views within the environmentalist community; see Mark Lynas, in a lecture to the Oxford Farmers Conference in Jan. 2013, posted on
Mark Fisher, “It’s Easier to Imagine the End of the World than the End of Capitalism,” The Visual Culture Reader, op. cit., p. 309.
Though it bears the same title, this sculpture is a different one from the Chromatophobia (2010) that was included in an eponymous exhibition at Arario Gallery in Chungnam, Korea, and Nature Morte in New Delhi in 2011. Chromatophobia, The Fear of Money, exh. cat., Arario Gallery, Chungnam, Korea, and Nature Morte, New Delhi, 2011.
Tallur L.N., in ibid., p. 7.
Deepika Sorabjee notes that the wheels resemble those of roadside knife sharpeners, another trade that is disappearing in India. See Sorbjee’s review of “Quintessential,” June 12, 2012, on the website Take/Sculpture, issue 10,, accessed August 25, 2013.
Chaitanya Sambrani links Tallur’s “archeology of obsolescence” to his idea of the contemporary, “International Vernaculars,” op. cit. p. 9.

Published in 2018 by Pro-Digi Printing India. ISBN; 978-81-934404-2-1