Thursday, 3 November 2011

Human Currents At The Rubin Museum

Photo Courtesy The Rubin Museum of Art

The Rubin Museum of Art is featuring an exhibition of images of the 2001 Maha Kumbh Mela by Swiss photographer Hannes Schmid. The exhibit appears (according to the pictures, as I have yet to drop by the RMA) to be extraordinarily well installed.  It's also an unusual set of photographs, as they're all closeups of crowds or groups of pilgrims...instead of the more exotic Nagas, sadhus, charlatans and mendicants that I vividly recall populated the Maha Kumbh Mela. I'm not sure what the intention of showing snapshots of crowds is, but it got Schmid an exhibit at the perhaps I'm missing something here.

Human Currents is located in the RMA's Theater Level Gallery. Admission to the Theater Level Gallery is free of charge.

According to the RMA's press release, Schmid’s large C-print (ie Chromogenic color prints) photographs depict the enormous act of faith that was the Maha Kumbh Mela. The exhibit presents seven of these images, along with an accompanying video installation, that shows us the event's claustrophobic crowds, myriad colors, and frenetic energy of this greatest of Hindu pilgrimages. 
“Driven by an enormous religious power, there was absolutely nothing that could have stopped these pilgrims from fulfilling their vows.” -Hannes Schmid
The Maha Kumbh Mela occurred  from January to February 2001, when tens of millions of pilgrims converged in Allahabad, India for the festival, which was held only once every one hundred forty-four years. It was the largest gathering of human beings on earth, and saw devotees of all ages, castes, and classes from every corner of India. 

I remember being in my hotel room in Allahabad readying myself to photograph the Maha Kumbh Mela, and quickly turning off the television set because it was showing the inauguration of George Bush as President of the United States. It seems it was only yesterday but it wasn't. While I had serious misgivings about his presidency, little did I know then it'd be as disastrous.