March 14, 2018 - Wellcome Collection - Ayurvedic Man
March 14, 2018

Wellcome Collection

Animal shaped surgical tools, India. Photo: John Gribben. Courtesy of the Science Museum Group/Science and Society Picture Library.

Ayurvedic Man
Encounters with Indian medicine
November 16, 2017–April 8, 2018

Drawing the Bombay Plague: November 16, 7–8:30pm, conversation with artist Ranjit Kandalgaonkar inspired by his commission

Wellcome Collection
183 Euston Road
London NW1 2BE
United Kingdom
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"Diseases do not go away; they just resurface whenever we disturb the balance of climate, the environment and an ecosystem in temporary equilibrium."
Ranjit Kandalgaonkar

Wellcome Collection’s latest exhibition, Ayurvedic Man, sheds light on its historical collections that relate to Ayurveda and Indian medicine and traces how health narratives have been shaped by multiple cultural encounters. It takes its title and inspiration from the Ayurvedic Man—an 18th century Nepali painting depicting the organs and vessels of the male body according to classical Ayurveda.

The exhibition features a new commission by artist Ranjit Kandalgaonkar called Drawing the Bombay Plague, which reimagines the events that took place during the Bombay plague outbreak of 1896—from the harsh measures imposed by the British colonial administration to a range of local responses.

Taking the form of an intricate long drawing, Kandalgaonkar’s work depicts a set of staged characters navigating a non-linear timeline constructed around a menacing miasmatic cloud that is punctuated by goddesses, technological devices, riots, medicinal plants, fleas and architectural features.

Drawing the Bombay Plague becomes an exercise in highlighting how public misconceptions or perceptions about disease persist through fear, fantasy, paranoia and rumour. Interspersed alongside the drawing are misplaced technological know-how and statistical data on plague measures, produced by the authorities to shock subjects into submission, albeit with varying results.

An accompanying digital platform unveils Kandalgaonkar’s research within two collections that capture the colonial and local imaginations respectively: photographs and documents from the Wellcome Library, and satirical cartoons from Pickings from the Hindi Punch, a monthly magazine held at the Asiatic Library in Mumbai.

Ayurvedic Man showcases an exquisite range of material from Wellcome’s collections, including Sanskrit, Persian and Tibetan manuscripts, vibrant gouache paintings, erotic manuals, animal-shaped surgical tools and never-seen-before letters from Wellcome’s archives. The exhibition also includes a new film by Nilanjan Bhattacharya that evokes the labyrinthic nature of traditional medicine in India.

Ranjit Kandalgaonkar lives and works in Mumbai. Modelled Recycled Systems (2008–) is a long-term project of his recording ship-breaking practices at Alang in India. Part of the project, Shipping and the Shipped, was recently showcased at the Bergen Assembly’s Art & Research Triennial in 2016.

Kandalgaonkar’s commission follows his residency at Gasworks, London, which was supported by the Charles Wallace India Trust and Inlaks Shivdasani Foundation.

Ayurvedic Man: Encounters with Indian medicine runs at Wellcome Collection from November 16, 2017 until April 8, 2018. It is curated by Bárbara Rodríguez Muñoz, with curatorial advice from Sita Reddy, exhibition design by Andrés Ros Soto, and graphic design and digital development by Hato.

Wellcome Collection
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