With their signature style of "Punjabi baroque," Indian artistic duo Thukral & Tagra transform UCCA's Middle Room into a playing field on which marriage, tradition and global ambitions collide.
The concept is playful – the ancient Indian sport of Kabbadi being played in a middleclass living room – but the subject matter is intensely serious. Match Fixed is a biting satire of arranged marriages in India's northern state of Punjab, where many young men emigrate abroad to establish successful careers and return home briefly to enter into arranged matches with "suitable" local girls. All too often, these unions result in the groom running off with the dowry and the wife left at home, to the chagrin of her family, awaiting a visa and plane ticket that never arrive.
Featuring life-sized "human trophies," gilt-wrapped television sets playing interviews with abandoned wives, ceiling fans hung with paternal pagri (turbans) and "runaway husbands" glimpsed through airplane windows, Match Fixed is a rococo rendering of real-life sorrow.
- Jérôme Sans, UCCA Director
Indian artist team Thukral and Tagra present a magnetic feast for the eyes, surrounding viewers with the fabulously consumerist-based space of Match Fixed . Although firmly anchored in the transitional and complex society of their birth, their product-driven voice flows through the circuits of our international consciousness. They eloquently mix high art with low art, design with formal art standards, and ornate objects with everyday products in this "dream-come-true" of commercial culture.
In Thukral and Tagra's installation we see artistic aloofness dissipate into a frenzy of inclusive, iconic cues. Jumbled together with the tragic plight of young brides, the artists paint a fascinating portrait of the new exploding middleclass of India. Their exhibition serves as a heartbreaking case study of how international dreams have deteriorated the fabric of hometown culture. Playful, fascinatingly colorful, attractive by all aesthetic standards, yet biting in the story it has to tell, this exhibition is not a passive discourse, but an argument, a proposition, a conversation and an environment that transforms the viewer into an interlocutor of globalized India.
- Zheng Yan, UCCA Art Department Director
Most of our works address the issues, cultural shifts, problems and beliefs of people living in India today. We grew up with the general acknowledgement that most Indians dream of leaving India and moving abroad. We are both of Punjabi descent: that is, our families come from the northern Indian state of Punjab, where the desire to immigrate to the United States, Canada or Germany has always been especially strong. After travelling to one of these countries, either for schooling or employment, Punjabi men often find themselves rather isolated, and stick close to their own community. At a certain point, the time comes to get married and they return to India where a marriage is usually arranged by their family. A "suitable girl" is found who meets all the necessary criteria. For her, the added bonus in this match is the expectation that she will join her husband when he returns to his new home outside of India. The wedding proceeds, the dowry is paid and the couple promises to live "happily ever after." However, a common scenario is that the husband then finds some excuse to return home without his bride, promising to take her there at a later date, when all the necessary paperwork has been completed. Dreaming of life in a foreign land with her new husband, the new bride waits for him patiently in India. These "Runaway Grooms" may on occasion return to visit their wives, but the promise to take them abroad is never fulfilled. The groom enjoys the best of both worlds (married in India but single abroad), while the deserted wives are humiliated within their own communities and left with little to look forward to in life.
- Thukral and Tagra