In Labour Reconciled, an installation for an exhibition that ran earlier this year at Kolkata’s Experimenter Gallery, the artist Sanchayan Ghosh brought together different elements of labour practices around the intellectual project of envisioning a possible utopia.
At the centre of the room was a large mortar slab, the sort made by the roof makers of Birbhum district in West Bengal. It was surrounded by pictures of those roof makers, the first edition of a Bengali literary journal and two editions of the journal Labour Law. By putting on headphones that hung from a wall, one could hear the songs of the mostly Dalit women who used to practise this occupation—which disappeared during the 1980s—songs that have often entered poetic traditions largely curated by male poets. The mortar slab bore a looming tablet, as if out of 2001: A Space Odyssey, on which were displayed lines from “Jokhom”—Wound—a poem by Malay Roychoudhury: