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THE MODERN FOREST

NOIDA

CURATORIAL NOTE

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Long-term residents of Noida often reminisce of a time – a habit shared by individuals in cities across various cities in the country – of ‘a simpler time’. It is worth inquiry what exists within the historical composition of this notion of simplicity, and as a corollary, the precise upheavals in the ensuing years that have induced, according to these chroniclers, the vast set of complications that permeate through the life of the city as it is now. It is beyond doubt that Noida seems to teeter precariously on various, narrow ledges: historical, but geographical, too. Its very conception serves as an occasion for irony: a ‘new’ suburb that could serve as a model for urban living of the future, conceived however by a feudalistic, primitive regime. This, but also its location: between the alleged modernity and organization of the national capital and the entirely Dionysian chaos of Western Uttar Pradesh. In the context of this knowledge, it is perhaps not too outrageous to deduce in Noida a curious paradox – a city that employs an immense matrix of surfaces, of exteriors, of facades, to conceal (or make acceptable) the barbarism that lays at its very heart. ‘Only twenty years ago’, say the same residents, ‘this whole city was barren, a forest’. Even if all of this mythical forest has now been razed to the ground to install, in its place, a regime of strict geometry, two decades is not enough time to exorcise all the ghosts that lurked within it. 

The present series of films therefore explores Noida as a place in perpetual limbo; a site of manufactured, artificial order, which subsides on occasion to reveal the residues of a feral past. The included titles will contemplate various universes that think of the seeming opposites of order and chaos, sophistication and crudity, decent and vulgar as essentially, being inseparable. It is useful to learn that the residents of Bisrakh, a village that exists a few kilometers away from the grandest construction project in Noida, believe that it is the birthplace of Ravan, the mythological supervillain. The films in the series posit that the grand project of civilization in Noida (or in all the suburbs across the third-world) may infact, only be a simulation.

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