The Desert of the Anthropocene

Ravi Agarwal

(2013 – ongoing)


Installation with photographic works, text, videos and objects 


The ongoing project traverses and contrasts a personal memory of a desert homeland in a now abandoned ancestral home with new exploitation of the ‘barren’ landscape. Pointing towards the loss of the local leading to the breakdown of ecological constructs of identity, food systems, water, and land, the terrain is now increasingly thought of as infertile, leading to it being  a ground for nuclear testing, new industrial mining and capital intensive irrigation canals. Meanwhile, the dried up wells, ponds, loss of livelihoods, and the slow disappearance of a rich culture is leading to another kind of human evacuation.  Yet, what is considered bare or barren is in fact deeply inhabited and fertile in multiple ways.

The work is a part of an ongoing investigation into the current state of  the nature, both as a crisis which traverses a political realm, but also a cultural contestation of how  ‘nature’ is thought of in the era of the Anthropocene. Nature has been impersonalised into an abstract idea to be exploited, even as on the ground  everyday inhabitations of lived ecologies weave in and out of the human life,  and contest the idea of an homogeneous nature. In many ways the reductionist binary man–nature has taken over other cultural ways in which nature is or can be inhabited, and brings into question the current approach towards sustainability.

Ravi Agarwal