Max Erbacher’s Art On Church Street
By Anagha Maareesha
Max Erbacher is confused. The huge real estate hoardings all over Bangalore caught his eye. While they promised orchards, woods and harmony, he found the apartment complexes are set amidst squalor, pollution and traffic.
His project is in reaction to this confusion. Titled “Promises”, the project is a display of hoardings across the city. The stark black text on white background artworks make proclamations like the real estate hoardings do, but with sarcasm. “Open your windows to the great wide outside” reads a huge installation on Church Street. Just across the road, tons of developers advertise apartments with pools, while the rag pickers dig out their lunch from bags of trash below them.
His art installation stand tall in a face-off with what he considers to be ostentatious hoardings in Shivajinagar and Ashok Nagar.
Erbacher is visiting Bangalore on an artist residency programme at Goethe Institut and with the Mod Institute. Speaking to Explocity, Erbacher said that these gated communities are security for the rising middle class and are expected to deliver on their promise of luxury; but the contradiction is that they get isolated from what happens outside the walls.
“I was shocked by the garbage situation on the roads and the potholes,” Erbacher said, “but instead of fixing it, people just drive around it. All this driving around (he described air quotes) just ignores the problem. And in a way this divide between the gated community and the people on the streets is changing the social structure. It creates an isolated island for the people inside.”
In an attempt to understand the societal dynamic Erbacher took to the streets in a second project titled “Beggar”.
With a yellow begging bowl, he sits immobile on the street for an hour with a sign saying “Today I am your friend”. Sometimes people drop some change in the bowl, sometimes they don’t. “Its is very interesting to see the world at what he calls, “High Heel” level”.
“I started this many years ago and have been doing in every country I visit.” he explained.
People reacted variously ways to “Beggar”. Some were awe-inspired and waited for an hour to speak to him. Many gave him money. And he was touched by the fact that most of the money came from people who were clearly not from high income groups. For example, the first person to make a donation was a security guard who dropped Rs 10 into the begging bowl. At the end of the appointed hour of his project, he collected about Rs 350. Much of it came from the cleaning ladies who fished it out from their saree knots and humble tiffin boxes, he said.
“Beggar” sought to illustrate the tenuous nexus between money and friendship.
But it also raised the question: “Does luxury make us comfortably numb?”
What is the great outdoors that our windows open up to?
(Watch the video on “Beggars” on the YouTube Explocity Videos channel: “Bangalore Minute: Max Erbacher’s Art On Church Street”.)