In the 17th century, Anglican Bishop and philosopher Dr George Berkeley questioned whether a tree falling in a forest will make a sound when no one is around to hear it. Four hundred years later, 40-something Delhi-based artists Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra raise a similar question:

“If a tree falls in the Metaverse, and no one is logged on, do we hear it? Does it echo and shake the earth? Do the birds cry in mourning?” This poignant query is raised amidst concerns of technological overreach with the launch of pioneering AI software ChatGPT and its copycats. It plays out in visual form through their recent solo show, Arboretum, at Delhi’s Nature Morte gallery.

The pandemic may be receding in memory, but it was during the lockdown when Thukral and Tagra connected with each other digitally, sharing photos of nature, in an attempt to stay positive. They saved their digital library in a folder called ‘Arbor’. “Though we were connecting with nature, we were relying on digital means to engage with it. Some sort of algorithm was created in the digitisation of the picture, and similarly, our data was collected in the act of taking the photograph, saving and sharing it on our phones, and we too became digitised,” says Thukral. At the same time, they noticed the apparent divide between individuals who could retreat to the safety of the digital world and people who were on the Covid frontlines.


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