Neha Choksi

Archival and Museum Fellowships

Grant Period: Over one year

This fellowship will support visual artist, Neha Choksi, to undertake research in two kinds of archives - astronomic and scientific, and religious. Her research will be the basis of a multi-part art project titled The Weather Inside Me. The project will trace the history of science, weather and solar observations in India from pre-colonial to post-colonial times, simultaneously investigating the centrality of the sun in Jainism and its resulting impact on time and memory in our lives. Out of the ten science and astronomy-related archives listed in her proposal, she will work primarily on the archive located at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIAP), Bangalore. Along with Astrophysicist Dipankar Banerjee, she will also examine the sun through optical devices and other research techniques used in Astrophysics.

In addition to empirical experimentation at IIAP, Neha will research manuscripts, scientific records, literary descriptions, and diaristic references to the sun and solar eclipses, and studied old instruments and objects used in astronomy. Neha will also examine material at the Kodaikanal Observatory archive, which houses important plates of solar cycles, photographs, observational data and instruments; and the Tamil Nadu State archives that has the Juggarow Observatory papers, an observatory that was a pioneer in the use of telescopic technology. The next archive that Neha will explore is the Jain religious archive - the ones housed in Jain temples like the Shree Hemachandra Jain Gnan Mandir, Patan, Gujarat, and Jain Sahitya Mandir, Palitana, Gujarat, and so on. She will also explore the Jain illuminated manuscripts at the Oriental Research Institute, Arrah in Bihar. Neha’s research hopes to shed light on “the Jain sense of eternal matter and cosmology to the perceived recurrence of the sun in our daily lives”.

One of the immediate outcomes of The Weather Inside Me will be a performance art piece that will explore the “psycho geographic link between the sun and humans—the effect the presence or lack of the sun has not only on climate but also on the psychological environment of humans”.  In addition, Neha will create an artist book based on the research material gathered to be published as an e-version. Neha’s long-term goal is to create a new ‘earth centered observatory’ that will expand and distort the experience of time.