Prabhakar Pachpute & Rupali Patil: Harbingers of Chaos

Prabhakar Pachpute and Rupali Patil deal with the mining industry, farming, and the influence of human existence on nature. Guided by the need of promoting justice and respect, they’ve been traveling around the world for many years, discovering bridges between different, seemingly distant worlds. They juxtapose the community of miners from Upper Silesia with those from Turkey, Germany, India, and Australia, as these communities have their own longstanding traditions and fully formed habitus. Thus, they create a map of experiences and practices, which shape the perception of the condition of a given country, but also our contemporaneity, since some mechanisms of action are also present in a wider sense, since they are a part of general social behaviour. In a world of migrating signs and symbols, read in a cosmopolitan perspective, modern art emerges as the space that defines the conditions of our life, of the here and now.

The installations of Pachpute and Patil are suggestive landscapes of the future, presenting the consequences of mutual relations between different forms of life and the environment, understood in a wide sense. The existential philosophy of the artists nears understanding the present as Anthropocene, an era when humans are considered the equivalent of natural forces that governed the previous eras. Human, apart from the inherent role of a biological actor, now also assumes the role of the collective geo-actor, who lives off the Earth, utilizing its supplies and influencing the environment in a real, destructive manner.

This experience of working and living conditions in regions dominated by industrial exploitation of nature becomes the basis of the artists’ reflection on our contemporaneity. Artists choose India as a reference point for their landscapes, dominated by mechanical activities of man. Coal is the main source of energy; as an export commodity, it constitutes one of the most important factors that determine the economic growth of the country. Coal value is still high, and its use has an effect on deforestation of large areas, since new mines are often created in protected areas, inevitably endangering the fauna and flora or systematically degrading large plantations of grain, cotton, and rice. In turn, creating a new infrastructure for renewable energy would require investments that are deemed too large. All of this impacts the local population in an enormous way. After expropriation, land owners become a part of cheap, exploited labour force. One can arrive at such conclusions when learning the common name of Chandrapur – the city of black gold with major deposits of coal and limestone, where both Harbingers of Chaos artists come from.

In the context of history and tradition of the Polish mining industry, what fascinated Prabhakar Pachpute and Rupali Patil the most was the extraordinary respect for the miner profession, the accompanying iconography, as well as methods of underground work and a considerable number of women in the mining industry. Inspired by works such as the study of Karolina Baca-Pogorzelska, who spent a few years talking to women miners, and watching the relations between workers and miner families, they created an image of a mine as a place that mirrors the general social framework. “On the one hand, the miners have been saying for tears that a broad in a mine brings bad luck, but on the other – it didn’t prevent them to pick a female patroness, St. Barbara (who, as the patroness of ‘good death and difficult work’, watches over steelworkers, sailors, fishermen, soldiers, and even prisoners).” This quote – important to the artists – accentuates the dissonance between respect and uncertainty of a woman, who is even associated with a curse. This not entirely clear and ambiguous attitude towards women and their often mythical perception (assuming the iconographic form of the “Polish Mother”), confronted with the Bhārat Mātā (Mother India), similar in function within Indian culture, is a theme that speaks of cultural dissemination and links various aspects of functioning of different – even if only geographically – societies.


PRABHAKAR PACHPUTE (born in 1986 in Chandrapur) is a sculptor, and author of drawings and installations. In his works, he constantly returns to the subject of working conditions in mines and the cultural values of the mining industry in his home state of Maharashtra. He graduated from the Sculpture Department of the Faculty of Fine Arts, Maharaja Sayaijaro University of Baroda (2011). Winner of several awards, such as the Certificate Award of South Central Zone Cultural Center (Nagpur, 2008) and Professor Mahendra Pandya Foundation Award (Baroda, 2010). His works were exhibited at the Black and White collective exhibition (Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, 2013), How to (…) things that don’t exist exposition (as part of the 31st São Paulo Biennale, 2014), and the 14th Istanbul Biennale (2015). Clark House Initiative in Mumbai hosted his individual exhibition entitled Canary in a Coalmine (2012), and the National Gallery of Modern Art in Mumbai – the exhibition te tolanche dhaga navhate / no, it wasn’t the locust cloud (2016). He is the member of the Shunya Art Collective. He lives and works in Mumbai and Pune.

RUPALI PATIL (born in 1984 in Pune) creates graphics, artistic objects, and installations. She graduated from the Graphics Department of the Faculty of Fine Arts, Maharaja Sayaijaro University of Baroda (2011). She usually collaborates with Prabhakar Pachpute, creating site-specific installations that tackle the themes of agrarian cultures and global social problems. Her works were presented at exhibitions such as Eros (Parasite, University Museum and Art Gallery, Hong Kong, 2014) and Kamarado (Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 2015), as well as during the 14th Istanbul Biennale (2015). In 2014, Clark House Initiative in Mumbai hosted her individual exhibition Everybody Drinks but Nobody Cries. She is the member of the Shunya Art Collective. She lives and works in Mumbai and Pune.

photographs by Studio FilmLOVE