Published August 22nd, 2023 by Sananda McCall
Twin Cities artist Roshan Ganu's animated exhibition at the Rochester Art Center leads the author on a journey across two fantastical nights
Where does the body go when the mind wanders? Similarly, when the body wanders — where does the mind go? Standing in between Roshan Ganu’s जत्रा (Ja-tra): A Feeling At The Beginning of Time, allows viewers to undergo a journey guided by thought — to see how the mind and its offspring could manifest physically if given the chance to truly be free.
This is a journey you can currently join in on at the Rochester Art Center through Ganu’s exhibit in the Davies Gallery. The multimedia piece is presented through projectors casting two different experiences on separate walls.
On one side, we see a moving visual of Jatra, a Marathi word for a village fair. Ganu uses this theme as a reflection of her relationship to growing up in Goa, India. One of the moments captured is the ‘Bodgeshwar Jatra’, an annual town fair dedicated to a demi-god known for helping guide those who are lost. In this visual the demi-god is identified as an enormous lifelike statue that overlooks the festival. Looking at the positioning of the demi-god in this piece, it’s located at the far-left end of the festival, implying that the lost ones must go through the crowd, the noise, the rides, and distracting signs in order to regain themselves.
Photo by the author.
Another moment Ganu shares is a solo folk-dancing performance. The dancer twirls and wanders on the stage and it seems her emotions become difficult to communicate to the viewer, who is also roaming the projected visuals of a ferris wheel, merry-go-rounds, people, and shimmery merchandise.These distractions force the viewer to relocate the dancer who suddenly appears swimming across the screen. This could either be interpreted as a reminder to bring the viewer back to focus or revealing the dancer succumbing to the environment. It’s important to note, she is not swimming towards the demi-god, but rather towards what’s being sold at this festival — the fake gold and shimmery fabrics.
On the opposite wall, the experience is still. It’s a depiction of what could be encountered if one seeks Bodgeshwar. It’s darker here, but peaceful. A woman sits along the Konkan coast of Maharashtra, in Ganu’s ancestral village of Kalambasta. This is where Ganu reveals herself and becomes vulnerable with the viewer. The water flows with jewels that look to be baiting Ganu in, but she remains on the land, grounded. The sparkling water reflects on a number of walls in this gallery — as mirrors have also been strategically placed on the floor, from the ceiling, and along the walls to extend the experience of time. When and where do Ganu and the viewer get lost? When and where are they found? We see Ganu by the coast using her finger to trace a circle along the water — possibly “testing the waters”, or seeking her own reflection amongst a pool of jewels. As a viewer, it’s interesting to think about how this water became polluted. What wastes away often finds itself in bodies of water. Unmistakably this is an area where lost thoughts have come to reconvene.
Photo by the author.
In Kalambasta, we see a full moon that passes overhead with a humanlike face. Could this be the end of a cycle of one’s journey to find themselves? The colors of the stream in the village shift from green and blue to purple and red hues. Representing refreshment, freedom, spirituality, and passion. All of which the viewer can find in the process of soul-searching.
In this exhibit, Ganu includes sounds of nature, mundane conversations from the Jatra, and her culture’s folk music. What’s appreciated individually becomes noise when they all come together. Ganu tells us the encounter is a representation of her immigrant experience of belonging which is amplified by the pandemic — a time when everyone was lost. She adds, this exhibit serves as the meeting place of “vulnerability, curiosity, language, and imagination.”
Both illustrations take place at night, where thoughts, confusion and feelings exist. During the Jatra, each of these things become louder but the body reacts — we must escape to Kalambasta. In the village, thoughts are settled and confusion gives way to soundness of the mind. Conversations can flow, the music and its words can be felt, and we remember to appreciate the performance, all while being in this moment.
Photo courtesy of the artist.
Despite finding this place of peace, we continue wandering to find ourselves in the mirrors of this gallery. Where do we fit in with our surroundings? Do we ever quite reach Bodgeshwar, with the noise and distractions still present? Is Bodgeshwar the refuge of being lost, or where the mind goes to get lost?
As the moon reaches its cycle and disappears, we last see the woman by the coast lay down to rest. In the midst of this journey, she remembers to close her eyes where she is now able to look into herself. Ganu’s addition of light in the night offers hope for discovering what is often lost in the dark. Before we are born into knowing, there’s a cycle to undergo before becoming who we are meant to be. It’s a return, almost, as though to a feeling at the beginning of time. ◼︎
Photo courtesy of the artist.
जत्रा (Ja-tra): A Feeling At The Beginning of Time is on view at the Rochester Art Center through November 5 with an Artist Talk & Reception on Sunday, August 27 at 1pm. Gallery hours: Wednesday – Sunday, 11am – 4pm.
Banner image: Roshan Ganu, Self-Portrait at the Fair, 2023. Digital collage of imagery from the Bodgeshwar Fair and my body. Courtesy of Rochester Art Center.
This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.
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