Freedom has taken many shapes and forms throughout history. It has been the very breath of the greatest revolutions that have brought liberation to society, from the French revolution, to the Civil Rights Movement, and from the Women’s Suffrage Movement to the independence of all nations colonized by the imperial powers. These movements made incredible strides in their time, but there are many structures in a social life which impose just as many constraints on the individual which are far more insidious than the obvious political oppression. True freedom must always come from within, but we are often unable to come to terms with a sense of confinement, despite being free in every way conceivable.
Confinement and oppression have always occurred in the minds of people and so freedom of the mind is at the core of my sculpture titled Freedom. The personal freedom we all need cannot be independent of our circumstances. It is always already refracted through social and ideological normativity.
“We feel free because we lack the very language to articulate our unfreedom.”– Slavoj Žižek
Historically, India was known as the golden bird, a symbol of great prosperity, which is at the centre of the sculpture. After being in the waiting room of modernity for a couple of centuries, the people could call themselves free, but national independence does not guarantee personal freedom. That is something for which all of us must fight individually. The next frontier of the freedom struggle is in our minds.
We all yearn to take flights of freedom but our freedom is constantly bracketed by the narratives around us like the boxes in the sculpture in which the birds are trapped. We’re chained in ways we don’t even notice, perhaps most often by our own preconceived notions. We strive to break free from structures that bind us by latching onto different structures in an unending desire for inner freedom but we don’t realise that freedom is never absolute. There can only be freedom of something, or from something and thus, even after attaining freedom from almost everything external, what meaning does it have if we’re not free from ourselves? From the thoughts that reign unchecked in the dark corners of our minds? We live in a society, where our every action is intertwined with the lives of countless others. What becomes of our freedom when it is at odds with that of others? These are questions that we must contend with through vigorous introspection.
Freedom is not just a static state of tranquillity. It is a constant battle with our predicaments, facing all the things that unjustly bind us, and accepting things that are beyond our control. Freedom is reflection and contemplation, and we must realize that the boxes that confine us, while sometimes symptoms of societal norms, are often of our own creation.
The Sculpture Freedom can be experienced at Sonal Ambani’s Solo Sculpture Show “Transcendental Time” at the Kolkata Centre for Creativity in Kolkata, India. Website: www.sonalambani.com | Instagram: @sonalambani.art
Photographs by Amar Ambani.