The Anatomist of Everyday Life: Sarnath Banerjee

From Sarnath Banerjee’s Gallery of Losers, east London. Photo: Polly Braden.


Download podcast (20 mins)

Sarnath Banerjee is an Indian artist—living in Berlin, but often in Delhi, and at home in many cities. He plies image and text to investigate the rhythm of the ordinary, and draw out the hidden caches of humor and wisdom that dwell in the landscape of everyday life. His graphic novels (Corridor, The Barn Owl’s Wondrous Capers, The Harappa Files) depict worlds that are at once exceptional and archetypal, in a manner that playfully articulates the yearning, absurdity, and ecstasy of our shared existence.

Sarnath’s most recent piece was a site-specific work for the London Olympics, curated by the Frieze Foundation. Titled “The Gallery of Losers,” the project sought to challenge the idolization of multi-medalled Olympic athletes and present the characters in competitive sport who everyone forgets—the non-achievers, the almost winners. His fictional losers (like a punch-fearing boxer and an existential pole-vaulter) were displayed on billboards and in newspapers in east London. He’s now working with the concept of the “unheimlich” to write an alternative history of the city of Bombay.

We found Sarnath on a balmy evening in Delhi, where he spoke of corporeal making, malaise, and the questionable existence of cities.

“…the people who move through the streets are all strangers. At each encounter, they imagine a thousand things about one another; meetings which could take place between them, conversations, surprises, caresses, bites. But no one greets anyone; eyes lock for a second, then dart away, seeking other eyes, never stopping…something runs among them, an exchange of glances like lines that connect one figure with another and draw arrows, stars, triangles, until all combinations are used up in a moment, and other characters come on to the scene…”

Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

one loves only form,
and form only comes
into existence when
the thing is born

born of yourself, born
of hay and cotton struts,
of street-pickings, wharves, weeds
you carry in, my bird

of a bone of a fish
of a straw, or will
of a color, of a bell
of yourself, torn

from I, Maximus of Gloucester, to You by Charles Olson

The willow trees
That name the town are gone.
The freight-trains go.
The loaded trucks move on.
This is the great depot
Where nothing stays.
The hours move towards light.
Sleep: in the tall-skied days
You will forget tonight.

from Across the Treeless Street, by Vikram Seth

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