On the morning of December 4, Mumbaikers traversing across various locations in South Mumbai had a surprise in store for them – a clowder of black cats.
What seemed real at first glance was, in fact, the work of Mumbai’s much-acclaimed street artist Tyler.
Black cats have long been associated with bad luck making it an ‘unlucky’ animal for many. Through his art installation called ‘The Black Reputation’, Tyler, as the artist calls himself, has tried to bust the superstitions associated with black cats.
The cats made of polystyrene foam were installed by the artist first on the steps of The Asiatic Society and later, along the Marine Drive Promenade.
One can find Tyler’s works across Mumbai. For almost a decade, he has kept his identity under wraps to create art on several social issues, and most recently, politics. With over 20,000 followers, the artist is quite popular on Instagram.
“Art is meant to challenge the way you think. My works revolve around several societal issues. While I have usually stuck to the medium of paint, I also seek opportunities of experimenting with other mediums, say – secretly installing realistic cats for this instance,” says Tyler, while speaking to The Logical Indian.
Black Cats: The So-Called Bad Omen
“I think superstitions are there to control us, where logic and reasoning fails you,” says Tyler. The installations are also a reflection of Tyler’s personal experiences with the long-standing superstition associated with black cats.
“It all started in my early childhood when I spotted a black cat in the middle of a playground. I hurled a small stone to shoo it away, partly out of fear. The cat fled, and as I reached the spot where the feline was seated, I found a two Rupee coin. Extremely thrilled and happy with my new found treasure, I bought myself chocolate,” says Tyler.
“I, however, got fixated to the idea that if you spot a black cat, it will definitely bring you some good luck,” he adds.
Several years later, when he was running late for a flight, a black cat crossed his path as he rode on the pillion. Although seeing the cat had got his hopes high, he, however, missed the flight. Later on, an acquaintance pointed out that he shouldn’t have let the cat cross his path.
“It struck me then. How could a creature hold a bad reputation for crossing the road?” says Tyler.
Through his art installation, Tyler raises two important questions. Firstly, why is skin colour attached to such misguided notions of superstitions? Secondly, why have people followed these blindly, leading to mistreatment of the unfortunate felines?
“With this installation, I have tried to recapture a moment of my childhood and present this clowder of black cats in front of you to stun you, confuse you and convince you that there is no such thing as good or bad luck,” says Tyler.
“The first immediate reaction was mostly shock & awe with borderline curiosity where the latter takes over and forces one to touch, feel, capture their encounter. This was also about seeing a clowder of black cats (which in itself is a first for most people) sprawled across a city spot. The cats are 3D figurines sculpted in several poses which make them look realistic at first glance,” says Tyler.
The sudden vision of the cats also led to several people pausing their vehicles along the way, leading to traffic jams.
“People dodged the cats, posed with them and touched them. Several reversed their vehicles, paused mid- junctions (leading to an unfortunate situation of a traffic halt), amazed at the alarming visual that stood in front of their eyes,” adds Tyler.
However, as the crowd went out of control and caused traffic halts, the artist had to pull down the installations two hours after installing them.
“Today, you can either choose to walk past your fears by walking through this path or continue to live with them. Because if you’ve given a black cat the power to ruin your day, the joke is on you,” says Tyler.