Looking for signs we're moving in the right direction.
Words by Sujata Majumdar & photography by Sujata Majumdar
Lost/Signs is a series about signs, or the ambiguity thereof, and finding the way. These are ‘signs’ so obscure that they do not really help in determining the best way forward, leading to more disorientation rather than clarity. The idea for this series was sparked several years ago by Vague (2010), below. Between us and a message someone has taken the trouble to write informing us of their predicament, is a layer of condensation. The climatic circumstances, beyond this person’s control, render the message completely unintelligible. Our efforts in moving forward are subject to unknown and unpredictable influences. Our attempts are sometimes pathetic.
The ‘Lost’ part is both figurative and literal. It is about feeling lost and not knowing the way, but also getting lost… Lost and wandering is how I create new work. When I escape far away to get lost and take photographs, I rediscover something already close and within me. I sometimes consider my originally Hindu upbringing: Do we ever really need to leave, if it is the greatest achievement to look inside and know yourself? Why then the attraction to keep travelling, to keep seeing new further and further off places, putting ourselves in new situations? Whilst far away, those internal fragments, diminutive moments of reflection… are what I photograph best.
My artistic endeavour emerges from my need to reconcile the different sides of myself, arising from my background in different cultures. I am British, with an Indian background, and have been living in the Netherlands for the past 15 years. I studied both Science and Art, and also work in Technology. I’m constantly asking questions and seeking a balance between different ways of doing things. On my journey through life, I find making choices can be hard. There seem to be so many unrelated pieces to my life, which can make ‘the way forward’ quite an unclear concept. In Lost/Signs I’m looking for signs, facing choices, and seeking answers about the way forward, whilst weighed down by not understanding where I am coming from or where I am going to.
The second photo that inspired this series was of a wooden sign, with absolutely no signage information on it whatsoever (apart from showing us that wood is the substance it is made of). What are these bare signs doing still hanging around? Do they make the viewers think? In my mind they have become question marks, rather than signs, looking blankly at me. How obscure their meaning, and how left to the imagination what they once said, which words or forms had filled this gap. Some look more suggestively, reminding of a time or place in my life, or a balance to be considered.
Of course one must move. But which way? In 2001 I took a leap and left the UK, my homeland, for the Netherlands, and found that could identify myself better from a distance. Despite not moving very far, the move helped me see my own identity and origins more clearly. A hybrid of British, Indian, Dutch cultures, and also a hybrid of Art, Science and Technology work and education, my mixed identity drives my art.