Mutarerium at Mumbai Art Room

‘Mutarerium’ is a portmanteau derived from the Latin verb 'mutare' meaning to change or exchange, and terrarium, an independent glass unit for growing plants. As such it connotes the imagery of our planet as a mutating terrarium, or at the very least, a closed system within which life is mutating in perceptible and imperceptible ways. Seen against the backdrop of the Sixth extinction or Anthropocene extinction, where we stand to lose up to 50% – 95% of our biodiversity, the darkly glowing orb that is our planet appears to be in a state of suspended animation. In all probability, life would, as it has before, find a way in spite of human intervention, but the critical question is would it be life as we know it?

Curated by Adwait Singh, the exhibition features artworks by Mustafa Khanbhai, a visual artist from Delhi, Mumbai-based artist Priyanka D’Souza, and Waylon James D’Souza, who is a Goa-based artist and designer with a research-driven practice. This exhibition is their interdisciplinary research-driven approach at extrapolating more-than-human evolutionary strands – be it of whales, dolphins, lizards or strangler figs – that nonetheless convey the weight of human-wrought devastation as well as the urgency of holistic, de-centred environmental action and policy making.

Elsewhere in the show, even angrier species confront destructive urbanisms. In Mustafa Khanbhai’s three short films—What Will Survive of Us?, A Final Message, and You are Never too Close (from “The Critter Series,” all 2019)—a strangler-fig tree crushes through concrete; lizards scamper over broken buildings, growing fresh heads and thick new tails that swell from old stumps; pigeons return to their native sea cliffs, reclaiming their habitat while also dropping sheets of glass into the ocean.

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