Jeremy Hutchison

Ou-Boum, 2011

A British tourist pays an Indian labourer 500 rupees to walk through the streets of Kolkata, carrying a mirror on his back. The tourist follows him, filming his own reflection.

In this work, the problem of the colonial gaze is performed to the camera. The attempt for a British tourist to see Kolkata is complicated by a history of imperialist domination. He can only depict the landscape through an Orientalist prism which reproduces histories of oppression. Ultimately, he can only see himself.

The title references the axis of E. M. Forster's novel 'A Passage to India'. In this work, a British woman visits a cave where her sense of rationality is dissolved by an echo. This reduces everything to the same sound: ou-boum. 'The echo began in some indescribable way to undermine her hold on life.' This reductive echo reveals the limitations of imperial logic to the novel's protagonist. Suddenly the British rule of India seems futile. It simply echoes back the oppressor's illusions, fears and smallness.

Calcutta was the capital of the British Raj. The city is characterised by its history of independence struggles, revolutionary movements and radical politics. These produced a revolt that shook the foundations of the British Empire and finally established the basis of Indian self-rule.