Lost in Translation

Vikrant Kano’s practice has consistently been preoccupied with collecting oral histories on his family’s passage to India during the partition, the life they left behind, and the life they built in Delhi. Over the last several years he has been conversing with his father to draw upon the varied notions surrounding ‘home’ and ‘belonging’. This has also included practice-based research with other precarious communities and on housing policies that have defined and supplemented socialized, psychological and personal attachments that bind themselves to experiences of ‘home’.

During the Covid-19 pandemic and related lockdown, the artist has only had access to his own family and neighbors to inform his practice. Making the most of his confinement to the domestic space that he shares with his immediate family, he has been attempting to trace the third generation legacy of migration from material, inherited memories. In ‘Perch’ we see Kano in conversation with his parents, as they recall their individual memories borne by objects that his grandparents were able carry with them across a newly defined border. What was precious to his grandparents for their material value and everyday use are now of totemic significance, made even more valuable as the only link to the traumatic journey undertaken by a previous generation and a home left behind, that intimately entrenching his family’s history within one of the most important chapters in the political history of the region.

Another conversation with his neighbor revealed to Kano his grandmother’s practice of mark-making by means of a mnemonic that she arrived at borrowing from the formal elements of English, Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu and Mathematics, to keep track of her laundry list. Even as she was unconsciously developing a ‘new language’ based on the various cultural and linguistic influences in her past without any in-depth understanding of any of them, the process carries with it her defiance of singular identities and impositions of language based on the nation construct. In his grandmother’s notes, which he is unable to decipher, the artist discovers echoes of his own practice of documenting familial histories in his artworks. In the series of works, ‘Lost in Translation’, the artist mirrors her linguistic experiments as an act of acknowledging this serendipitous intergenerational purpose, establishing and blurring the framework of his practice as one that was inherited and at the same time his own.