Poulomi Basu

2010 - 2018


"These are strange times for reality. The deeper we are entangled in the era of post-truth, the more malleable both it and our own perception become. We no longer believe our own eyes, seeing only what we already believe."

‘Centralia’ is a tale of fractured landscape in extremis. The shifting planes of reality: an India of the mind, a place both hyper real and metaphorical; familiar yet alien. 

Dazzled by an apocalyptic beauty; by eclipse and fire; by joy, dread and dream; by life and death. 'Centralia' is a passage deep into the forests of central India where a little known and under reported conflict between a Maoist guerrilla army and the Indian state slowly simmers.

The endgame is confusion. Truth is expedient with alliances and identity shifting: shadows across a landscape, ghosts emerging from a jungle wilderness.

Encounters are faked by the military and former insurgents wear the uniform of the police. Massacres are brutal and reprisals are swift. Within this labyrinthine conflict, the people of this mineral rich land are transfixed.

My hybrid methodology eschews specificity, and is deliberately disjointed, stripping images of trite visual cues that often simplify complex geopolitical realities. Like shadows across the Moon, specifics rarely herald understanding. The idea inherent – seeing is believing – ‘Centralia’ explores the unsteady relationship between reality and fiction and how our perceptions of reality and truth are manipulated.

The tale draws on contemporary documentary practice to reflect the bewildering atmosphere of a nation using pictures of foreboding landscapes and rituals alongside images of locals uncovering crime scenes.

Seeking to liberate images from the oppression of specificity, gazing beyond the Jungle Book, and associating this invisible conflict with wider issues of environmental degradation. Such exploitation comes at a price: the transmogrification of violence into the de-facto language of politics. The voice of resistance is buried by alternate facts. Freedom is shrinking and what we say and who we are is being obscured.

‘Centralia’ is a cautionary tale of where we are heading as a global society. Taking a cue from Walter Benjamin, we live in a permanent state of emergency, the rule of law is always backed up by brute force and in the fragmented reality of this insurrection, this reality is revealed, in all it’s horror and splendour.

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