This site-specific project is the culmination of a year-long journey. Butail traveled through Iran, Israel and India researching memory and living traditions that are passed on through teachings of chants, oral poetry and storytelling since 6500 – 3000 b.C. The artist conducted this investigation after receiving BMW’s Art Journey award in 2017-2018.
The exhibition, commissioned by The Gujral Foundation and curated by Reha Sodhi, is a collection of works whose titles are excerpts from hymns from the Rig Veda. ‘In the Absence of Writing’, Butail combines aspects of ethnography, spirituality and sociology, to draw connections between the Avesta of the ancient Persians, the Torah of the Jews and the Veda of the Hindus. Through varied media such as video, sound, sculpture and interactive installations, Butail invites the visitor to actively explore cultural values, lived spaces and the notion of time.
“In ancient traditions, memory and knowledge were often transferred using the basis of mathematics and algorithms, Astha Butail's practice responds to this by incorporating geometry to explore ways in which composite elements relate to a whole. In a fast-paced, technology-driven world, Butail reconnects us to worlds in which traditions and ideas are still shared slowly, through deeper interpersonal connections.”- Reha Sodhi, curator of ‘In the Absence go Writing’