Metal Box

Vivan Sundaram

Date : 2008

Medium : Photography

Size : 105 x 194 cm

Archival pigment print, Edition: 5/10

Vivan Sundaram works in many different media, including painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, installation and video art, and his work is politically conscious and highly intertextual in nature. His works in the 1980s showed a tendency towards figurative representations, and dealt with problems of identity. His works constantly refer to social problems, popular culture, problems of perception, memory and history. His current series, Trash develops a theme that has engaged him since 1997, and he explores the social implications and aesthetics of urban waste and second-hand goods. Vivan Sundaram's deployment of urban detritus, the result of the frenzy of global consumption, recalls modernity's fascination with recycled objects and the modernist procedure of bricolage.

The guide

What is this strange landscape?
At first glance, we are attracted to the bright colours, the confetti-like aspect of this festive image. The familiarity perhaps places the work in the world of Pop art.

Have you identified the recurring pattern in this sea of colours? They are cans, the "metal boxes" mentioned in the title, evoking Andy Warhol's Coca-Cola bottles. But the intrusion of this metallic carcass at the centre of the image is in stark contrast with its saturated, happy colours and elicits a tension that more careful examination of the image reveals.

Can you see the green can that appears to float on the sea of colours in the foreground?
Is this not the exact same can we see in the very centre, over here, and in the distance, over there? Look more closely: you are looking at a photomontage.
Vivan Sundaram assembled a panorama from a few cans that he simply multiplied into the horizon, giving the illusion of a sea of cans.
To create this shot, the world-renowned Indian artist looked no further than his studio, where he intentionally accumulated the trash, reflecting on the long-term implications of consumer society.

Through photography, installations and video, he has developed a particularly social and engaging body of work.
Investigating our relationship with the world, here he touches on the question of ecology and the collective responsibility that now also involves the new Indian moneyed classes. By directly confronting his fellow consumers with a reality manipulated to better catch our attention, Sundaram hopes to prompt a new, restorative awareness.