Health, Wealth, Name, and Fame (Ban Ganga) / Gautam Kansara

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Identifier: FA.OSS3.1111
Object type: Books
Dimensions: 11 x 11 inches
Creation dates: 2009
Affiliation with Center for Book Arts: Center for Book Arts Workspace Artist-in-Residence 2009
Created by: Gautam Kansara
Case bound, oversize book with purple printed cloth; an mp3 player has been embedded into the cover. Book contains images of family portraits and landscape photography. Audio footage presents the artist's family conversing.

According to the artist, this book is part of a larger series of works entitled, Health, Wealth, Name, and Fame. This wide-ranging project is structured around 3 editions of hand-made books, each of which contain an mp3 player embedded in the cover. The covers themselves are made from a selection of the artist's Grandmother's saris, making each book unique. By flipping through the sets of images, while listening to audio collages which features the artist's family conversing, bits of history and family lore are revealed, and murky narratives emerge. As a starting point, these works consider and reflect upon the death of the artist's grandparents in 2008, the void left within the family, their subsequent pilgrimage to India, and his changing relationship to his "homeland", which until then had been embodied within the artist's grandparents and their community in London.

The project is split into three parts and includes the edition of books, multi-channel video installation with sound, as well as photography; HWNF(Maheshwari Udyaan) is structured around untangling recollections of my great-grandfather, and his role in the Quit India movement as a freedom fighter, which led to his repeated imprisonment during the 30's and 40's. Maheshwari Udyaan, also known as King's Circle, is the park in Mumbai that is named for him.

HWNF(Rangpur) is centered on the remote village of Rangpur in India, a rural farming community where my grandfather was born. Located in western Gujarat, near the border with Pakistan, the village doesn't appear on any maps and is accessible only by dirt road. The massive Reliance Refinery is the only landmark nearby. The soundtrack of the piece is collaged from conversations where my grandfather is remembering his village and dreaming of returning there. He recounts details of growing up as the youngest of nine children in a family of straitened circumstances, going to boarding school in Bombay, and having the chance to start his professional career in London.

HWNF(Ban Ganga) is centered around the scattering of my grandparents ashes in the sacred water tank in Mumbai known as 'Ban Ganga', which is thought to be a tributary of the Ganges. Images of Ban Ganga are positioned alongside portraits of my grandparents, taken throughout the course of their lives and arranged consecutively. The soundtrack is again made up of fragments of conversation, this time focused on the hierarchical shifts and role reversals that occur within a family as its members age and personalities evolve, as well as the resulting confusion of care-taking roles.

While the details of the work may be specific to my family, similar domestic episodes unfold in other families, in other homes, and such private dramas are universally recognizable, emotionally accessible, and intuitively understood.