A desk in front of a window at Long Eaton Library, Nottingham, with 3 x-ray light boxes sat upright at an angle. They are switched on, lighting up 3 abstract images that are shades of greens, yellows, pinks, reds and lilac purples. Each image appears both botanical, with suggestions of leaves and flowers, as well as medical, with suggestions of bones and joints, including the arch of a pelvis, a pair of knees and an upright torso. There appears to also be some mechanical elements such as screws, however this is hard to decipher. Each image includes the Punjabi script that reads (left print to right): ਅਪਾਹਜ ਸਰੀਰ ਵਿਰੋਧ ਦੇਸਥਾਨ ਹਨ; ਅਪਾਹਜ ਸਰੀਰ ਗਤੀਸੀਲਤਾ ਨ ੂੰ ਪਾਰ ਕਰਦੇਹਨ; ਅਪਾਹਜ ਸਰੀਰ ਭਵਿਿੱਖ ਹਨ.

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Eco-Crip

Eco-Crip is a series of digital images, created by artist Aminder Virdee, that combines botanical drawings, Punjabi scripture and personal x-rays through the use of digital data art and Machine Learning (a branch of Artificial Intelligence and computer science).

By bringing disability and ecology together – two disciplines that have been inherently ignored throughout history and contemporary studies – Aminder has created a new visual art form which she terms; the ‘cybotanical’. This is the fusing of the disabled cyborg body (disabled people who have internal and external implants, devices, technologies, and prostheses) with botanical illustrations. 

Through researching and collecting historical Indian botanical art, Aminder is engaging with its extraction from the hands of colonialism, as well as the violence of its continued preservation in contemporary and white-led institutions and collections. In India, the botanical arts are known as a subgenre of ‘colonial flora’ that emerged in the 16th to 19th centuries under the patronage of the East India Companies (first by the Dutch, then the French and British), and are what art historians call ‘Company School Painting’ – or Kampani in Hindi. However, this colonial term does not speak to the rich, unique, and broad range of South Asian painting styles within the archives. 

These drawings and paintings we’re primarily composed by indigenous Indian draughtsmen and artists from marginalised communities, yet within the archives, these artists have been anonymised and suppressed by colonial rule. Instead, these archives are credited to Company corporate commissioners, institutions and patrons. The erasure is an ongoing reminder of the personal and cultural loss inflicted by the West.

This erasure and fight for ownership are also present in Aminder’s personal medical archives. Through the system of medicine, bodies – particularly disabled bodies – become sites of other people’s work, where data is extracted and boundaries often go unconsidered in the name of ‘care’.

 

 

A slide show that rotates, every 1.5 seconds, and repeats 3 portrait images of 3 x-ray light boxes sat upright at an angle, on a desk in front of a window. Each image is in the same very dark room with the light boxes switched on, glowing brightly. Image 1: In the center, a portrait light box on the desk displays a colourful image in shades of greens and yellows. It appears leafy, with abstract yellow shapes towards the top suggesting flowers. Darker green elements suggest a spine with lighter green shapes resembling both plant stems/leaves and ribs. Within the image in the top left and top right corner is also a line of Punjabi script that reads ਅਪਾਹਜ ਸਰੀਰ ਵਿਰੋਧ ਦੇਸਥਾਨ ਹਨ. To the right of this light box, the top corner of a second lightbox is visible. Image 2: A close up detail showing the white, powder coated metal that frames two light boxes. On the frames there is a screw, the on switch, and some signs of wear/rust on the metal. In the lower third of the image, the corners closest to the table are separated by a narrow gap with a thick black cable behind. On the lightbox on the left, there is a small section of an image that shows two thin, dark, vertical green lines and what looks like a painterly green leaf. The other light box shows a much smaller section of bright white light. Image 3: In the center, a portrait light box on the desk displays a colourful image in shades of greens, yellows, pinks and reds. There seem to be two vertical columns of marks, which allude to flowers and other plant-like structures. There are also bold darker red shapes that suggest leg bones, or screws. The columns bulge slightly in the lower third suggesting a pair of knees, but it isn't exactly clear. Within the image in the bottom right hand corner is also a line of Punjabi script that reads ਅਪਾਹਜ ਸਰੀਰ ਭਵਿਿੱਖ ਹਨ.

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In Eco-Crip, Aminder has translated these two archives into data sets and entered them into an algorithm. This has sorted the images based on visual similarities and connections, creating new forms that are sometimes beautiful, and other times more viscerally fleshy. 

These images are annotated in Punjabi, acting as a signature to reclaim ownership of both images. They also acts as subheadings, from left to right they read: ਅਪਾਹਜ ਸਰੀਰ ਵਿਰੋਧ ਦੇਸਥਾਨ ਹਨ  (Disabled bodies are sites of resistance); ਅਪਾਹਜ ਸਰੀਰ ਗਤੀਸੀਲਤਾ ਨ ੂੰ ਪਾਰ ਕਰਦੇਹਨ (Disabled bodies transcend mobility); and ਅਪਾਹਜ ਸਰੀਰ ਭਵਿਿੱਖ ਹਨ (Disabled bodies are the future). This use of language is a further act to decolonise both the botanical and medical material.   

For Beyond Breaking Point, Aminder is presenting documentation of a physical exhibition of Eco-Crip in the form of two gifs. These prints were displayed on x-ray lightboxes in the group exhibition Mob-Shop, Derbyshire Libraries, 2021.

Aminder has begun to retrieve the Indigenous Indian Artists names left out of Kampani (Company School Painting) during the 16th-19th century, a gradual act to decolonising the National and Historical Botanical Art and Science Archives. These artist include: Bhawani Das, Rungiah, Govindoo, Manu Lall, Ram Das, Haludar (Bengali Artist), Vishnupersaud, Mansur, Vishnu Prasad, Lakshman Singh, Cheluviah Raju, Gorachand.

These names have been found through archives, recent journal articles by Indian academics and global collectors currently reinserting these lost art masters of India.

This work is guided through Aminder’s ancestral lens, as a mixed Punjabi-Hindi child of the Indian diaspora.

All Images and Rights Reserved ​​© 2022 Aminder Virdee. The use of any image is prohibited unless prior written permission from the artist is obtained. The taking of any photographic images from this exhibition is prohibited unless prior written permission from the artist is obtained. This due to the extremely personal nature of the work (containing the artist’s body).

We will be sharing elements from this exhibition, and the rest of our programme across our digital platforms, so follow us on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter to make sure you don’t miss out.

 

 

A textured reflective surface with an irregular grid of small elongated ovals that appear scratched. In the lower third Aminder’s face is abstractly reflected. You can make out some features such as dark long hair, nose and eyebrows, but features such as eyes and mouth are obscured and blurry.

Aminder Virdee

 

 

Aminder Virdee is a South Asian transdisciplinary and multi-artform artist, STEM creative, writer and creator based in London. Her work has been exhibited across the UK and internationally, including at the National Gallery with Art in Flux, National Theatre of Scotland, Lyric Theatre, TATE Exchange at TATE Modern, European Film Festival 2021. More recently the audio-visual work, ‘KaleidoSkeleton Ti: The Desi Cyborg (2020-21)’, was exhibited, screened, and discussed as part of the European Film Festival in 2021, as well as being published in the BFI’s Official Sound and Sight ‘Winter Special’ Magazine for the Films of the Year 2021-22 (Vol 32, Issue 1), and the BFI website.

Additionally, Aminder is a Trustee at UK’s leading disability-led live music accessibility organisation Attitude is Everything, and is regularly involved with community justice organising, and artivism. She is the founder and president of Disabled Intersectional Voices in the Arts (DIVA Society at UAL), and is co-founder of Cripjoy. See full bio here.

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A slide show that rotates, every 1.5 seconds, and repeats 3 landscape images of 3 x-ray light boxes sat upright at an angle, on a desk in front of a window. Each image is in the same very dark room with the light boxes switched on, glowing brightly. The images progressively zoom in, from clearly seeing all 3 light boxes, to only a corner of one. Image 1: All 3 x-ray light boxes are clearly visible and sat upright at an angle. They are switched on, lighting up 3 abstract images that are shades of greens, yellows, pinks, reds and lilac purples. Each image appears both botanical, with suggestions of leaves and flowers, as well as medical, with suggestions of bones and joints, including the arch of a pelvis, a pair of knees and an upright torso. There appears to also be some mechanical elements such as screws, however this is hard to decipher. Each image includes the Punjabi script that reads (left print to right): ਅਪਾਹਜ ਸਰੀਰ ਵਿਰੋਧ ਦੇਸਥਾਨ ਹਨ; ਅਪਾਹਜ ਸਰੀਰ ਗਤੀਸੀਲਤਾ ਨ ੂੰ ਪਾਰ ਕਰਦੇਹਨ; ਅਪਾਹਜ ਸਰੀਰ ਭਵਿਿੱਖ ਹਨ. Silhouettes of trees and a grey sky are visible out the window. Image 2: A close up shot with the central landscape lightbox all in view, showing a colourful image in shades of greens, yellows and lilac purples, with shapes suggesting the arch of a pelvis. To the left the majority of a portrait light box displaying a colourful image in shades of greens and yellows. It appears leafy, with abstract yellow shapes towards the top suggesting flowers. Darker green elements suggest a spine with lighter green shapes resembling both plant stems/leaves and ribs. To the right a corner of the remaining portrait light box and image in shades of greens, yellows, pinks and reds can be made out but is out of focus. On the left image is a single line of Punjabi script, but only a small part is visible: ਸਥਾਨ ਹਨ. In the centre image is a Punjabi script that reads; ਅਪਾਹਜ ਸਰੀਰ ਗਤੀਸੀਲਤਾ ਨ ੂੰ ਪਾਰ ਕਰਦੇਹਨ. Image 3: A close up detail of the top right corner of the central lightbox shows a section of a colourful image in shades of greens and lilac purples, some of the shapes look like flowers and leaves. A darker shape to the right suggests a joint or bone. The white, powder-coated metal frame of the lightbox can be seen in more detail, including the fixtures used to hang images on the screens. Above the light box there is a close up of a window with square, white pains of glass.