Art Major: Two Noteworthy Museum Exhibitions To See Right Now

Currently on display at the city’s major museums, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya and the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad, are widely different exhibitions.

The coffin containing the mummy at CSMVS.

The coffin containing the mummy at CSMVS.

Mummy: An Unsolved Mystery at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya
Every few months, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya disinters antiquities from his vaults for public display. Recently a few wonderful art works were shown for the first time as part of the Conserving the Collection exhibition. Two weeks ago, the museum opened one of its most significant exhibits of the year. Mummy: An Unsolved Mystery has on display for the first time the museum’s modest collection of Egyptian funerary antiquities. The centrepiece is a wooden coffin, the halves of which have been opened to reveal a mummy that dates from the third century BCE. A video of the mummy shot from various angles with a soundtrack evoking a sense of mystery is screened in the background.

The mystery concerns the nature of the mummy. Since it’s yet to be scientifically analysed, virtually nothing about it is known, such as the age of the corpse, gender and how the person died. It has been in the museum’s possession since the early twentieth century – the museum opened in 1922 – and the entire collection was among the antiquities brought from Egypt by colonial explorers. The cache includes bronze sculptures of Egyptian gods such as Osiris and Isis from around 700 BCE; a piece of linen cartonnage that had covered a part of the mummy; the human-headed lid of a canopic jar (vessels used to store organs); a withered, mummified hand from Thebes; amulets meant to protect the dead and a set of 11 shabtis, figurines representing servants that were interred along with mummies to help the dead in the afterlife.

The mummy has been examined by conservators from the British Museum with which CSMVS has collaborated in the past – they helped date it and found evidence of paint on the face of the coffin. Regular visitors to the museum might recall visiting the British Museum show three years ago that offered a 3D glimpse into the coffin of an Egyptian priest. However the museum needs funds to examine its mummy further and the idea behind this show is to raise money to study the collection in greater detail.

Mummy: An Unsolved Mystery will run until Wednesday, January 4. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Kala Ghoda. Tel: 022 2284 4484. Open daily, from 10.15am to 6pm. Get directions here. Tickets for visitors above the age of 12 are priced at Rs70 per person for Indians and at Rs300 per person for foreigners; tickets for children between the ages of five and 12 are priced at Rs20 per person for both Indians and foreigners; free entry for children below the age of five.

'80 Prepared DC Motors, Cotton Balls, Cardboard Boxes' by Zimoun.

’80 Prepared DC Motors, Cotton Balls, Cardboard Boxes’ by Zimoun.

Sound Reasons Festival V at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum
Sound Reasons Festival V, which has been organised by the Swiss Arts Council, comprises two sound installations. The curatorial note asserts that the “‘process of creation and the ‘subjectivity of the listener’ are the main focus” of this show. In other words, make of it what you will. The idea is to let your imagination fill in the blanks (of which there are plenty).

The first work is a sound sculpture by Swiss artist Zimoun, whose real name is Simon Hugli. The sculpture, titled ’80 Prepared DC Motors, Cotton Balls, Cardboard Boxes’, is an edifice composed of cartons. Motors within the boxes maneuver cotton balls that incessantly drum against the cardboard. The note, somewhat unhelpfully, points out that the installation is a “mechanized work of playful poetry’ its structural simplicity opens like an industrial bloom to reveal a complex and intricate series of relationships…” What it comes across as is a toy for the amusement of someone fascinated by engineering like say a character in a movie by Michel Gondry whose films celebrate invention and DIY craftsmanship.

The second work is ‘diFfused beats’ by Ish Shehrawat, a musician and sound artist living Delhi who is also the curator of the Sound Reasons Festival series. The work has an audio component called ‘Faulty scales can weigh you correctly’ and a video titled ‘A moth and a room’. A darkened room scattered with a few chairs and illuminated by a soft spotlight has six speakers that stream a fragmented soundtrack. The changing sonic landscape has a repetitive bass sound, tinny noises, voices, sibilant whispers, a sound like a ceremonial horn and so on. The video is an abstract, soundless piece involving a drawing of a moth, the profile of a woman and out-of-focus shadows. At times, the sounds evoke the sense of being in a forest with chirping insects and at others, the sense of listening to a shamanic drum circle. Even though the tempo and the sounds change continuously, there’s a meditative quality to it all and it’s easy to lose track of time conjuring mental images inspired by the audio piece.

Sound Reasons Festival V will run until Monday, November 30 at the Special Project Space, Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Rani Baug, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar Road, Byculla. Tel: 022 2373 1234. Open Thursday to Tuesday, from 10am to 5.30pm; Wednesday, closed. Get directions here. Tickets for visitors above the age of 13 are priced at Rs10 per person for Indians and at Rs100 per person for foreigners; tickets for children below the age of 13 are priced at Rs5 per person for Indians and at Rs50 per person for foreigners.

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