Date With Destiny – Shiffali Wadhawan

Fate and Destiny are perceived as twin sisters, that guide humankind through the perils of life. Destiny may be read as both redemption and nemesis of human existence. According to Modern philosophers, destiny ultimately revolves around death, rather than the events of one’s life while fate has been connected to the concept of life. This has however been challenged. Destiny and Fate have been relevant in every civilization whether Hellenic or Vedic, since the dawn of time.

This exhibition features a tightly curated selection of paintings by Shiffali Wadhawan and sculptures by Tapasya Gupta. It explores the notion of destiny and the various myths, traditions, allegories and perceptions created around it.

Leap of Faith – Tapasya Gupta

Destiny has been formally defined as the power or agency that predetermines and orders the course of events. Shiffali and Tapasya examine in detail and depth the human condition and its relation to the idea of destiny. Often in situations of complete despair when there is no answer in sight we humans are faced with the big question ‘why is this happening to me?’

During this existential crisis, filled with chaos and unforeseen twists of chance, Destiny appears as the only friend or adviser to which human beings attribute their misfortune to. Trapped in the miasma of luck and chance, Destiny is the only thing visible in the darkness. According to Greek and Vedic Philosophy, the Stoics believed that human decisions and actions ultimately went according to a divine plan devised by a god. The Epicureans, however, challenged the Stoic beliefs by denying the existence of this divine fate. They believed that a human’s actions were voluntary so long as they were rational.

For Arthur Schopenhauer, “Destiny is a manifestation of the Will to Live, which can be at the same time living fate and choice of overrunning fate, by means of the Art, of the Morality and of the Ascesis.”

To adapt and persist, human beings need a beacon of hope to cling to. Society and our beliefs have instilled fears in our subconscious, so deeply that we try to change and woo destiny through a process of ritualization. In a shamanistic or votive belief, objects gain the power to change our destiny and often become a crutch to cling onto.

This may appear at odds with the very definition of Destiny which suggests a predetermination of what will happen and cannot be changed. If it’s already imprinted upon Divine Will, why then must we try to alter its path? The question to ask perhaps is are the Stoics those who are broken, desperate and less fortunate and are the Epicureans the successful and the monied? There is no easy answer to this.

And If You Hear It Echoing – Acrylic on Convex Mirror

Perhaps it is all relative, depending on what one believes during that moment of weakness. When there is no other reason for a person’s condition, or when they have done their best but still the darkness remains, do they succumb at that moment and resort to blaming Destiny ‘Kismet’ or does one resist its allure?

The artworks by Wadhawan and Gupta, embark upon metaphorical suggestions. “We want to take you on a journey, where we examine beliefs and explore subconscious thoughts,” say the artists. The exhibition probes and problematizes this blind belief in destiny. It poses the question of whether destiny can be categorized as good or bad, right or wrong of whether it is right or wrong if it brings about resignation and acceptance in society, designating women to fixed and often stifling roles in society. As women both Shiffali and Tapasya are in a unique position to examine the concept of Destiny from a feminine perspective. Their works which is both playful and allegorical throw-up questions like, can this concept of destiny be right if it makes us give up? Or will it be better to persist without it, despite whatever is imprinted in the darkness? There is no human algorithm to solve this, but the concept of destiny must be examined and challenged in a Post-Modern society. As Socrates said, ‘The unexamined life is not worth living’.

The exhibition opens at Visual Art Gallery, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, on August 14th and will be on view till August 18th, 2018.

All images used with permission.