“Flotage: River Jamuna features the river, Delhi waste pickers, and an enormous raft made of 8,000 discarded water bottles. The bottles’ bright pink caps create a floating flamingo platform. Silence punctuates a soundtrack composed of fragments of Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, and Japanese music. The scene alternates between idyllic as the raft glides along the tranquil river to repugnant when garbage-laden waters come into full view. The equanimity of the pink-turbaned passenger falters when it’s time to put his foot into the murky water and riverbank muck.
Evocative of lively processions to the river for immersing the murti during Durga Puja, a crowd of young men haul the raft ashore. It’s rowdy jouissance as they bust it up and carry away the pieces—to be once again recycled. Gorgeous and ingenious, Sundaram’s raft is also emblematic of the flood of plastic, trash, and pollution unleashed by consumer-mania and the business-asusual of global capitalism. “Sundaram is no newcomer to projects with garbage, recycled objects, water-bottle rafts, or collaborations with Delhi waste pickers. For background on his earlier projects using these materials and his work with the organization Chintan, see Trash (Mumbai: Chemould Prescott Road, 2008) and an interview with him about the iteration of Flotage created for 48 Degrees.”
Excerpted from Lise McKean, “Water Ways,” Art India Magazine, Vol. XV, Issue IV, 2011.