Horizon and Beyond

Bheeshma Sharma's practice has consistently maintained interest in human-made and industrial disasters from World War II onwards. Growing up, he was surrounded by material remnants such as hollow bombshells from the bombing of Imphal by Japanese forces during World War II, following his family's migration from Rajasthan to Manipur, which led to his grandfather's displacement from his home. This event, popularly known as the Battle of Imphal in 1944 was an attempt by the Axis focus operating from Burma. They were defeated and pushed back by Indian soldiers fighting on behalf of the British Empire.

What started as an effort to understand the larger historical contexts that impacted his family history, turned into studies on the effects of large scale human-made interventions for Sharma, which also included Chernobyl and other nuclear disasters.

During the pandemic-related lockdown in 2021, Sharma travelled to the village of Umrah in Varanasi with his Grandfather and spent several weeks there. During this time he interacted with the farmers in the village as well as their children, and also observed, informed by his ongoing research, the precarious state that anthropogenic ecological crises have left the agricultural industry in. This experience led to his latest body of work on view here. He digitally manipulated and enhanced his photographs of the village landscape to highlight the effects of climate change, overproduction and deforestation. In his works, the villages are wrapped in smog-the result of the industrial activity in nearby areas-cutting off the sunlight that is vital to the survival of agricultural crops. Produce is vulnerable to untimely rainfall during harvest season, lightning, poor quality water supplied by the municipal council, and lack of availability of seeds, pesticide and farming equipment. Faced with potential harm from these multiple, varied sources, there is no assurance that the yield will match the hardwork and effort committed to the land by the farming community. Without required support from the state and increasingly unpredictable climatic conditions especially compound the uncertainty faced by farmers each year. The ourboratic relationship between climate change and industrial activity continues to threaten their livelihood, not to mention landlords who lease land to them in return for half of their produce, further depleting them of the result of their hard labour. The body of work presented here is an affective response by the artist to this situation.