Birender Yadav lives and works in New Delhi, IN


Birender Yadav, Erased Faces (detail), 2015 , thumbprints of workers on archival prints, 6 each 29,7 × 35,9 cm © Birender Yadav

In India, a country where 287 million people are illiterate and form a marginalized demography, a thumbprint is a proof of identity that acts as the signature of those incapable of reading the binding documents they are signing. For Erased Faces (2015), the conceptual sculptor Birender Yadav asked brick kiln workers in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, subjected to the lethal working conditions of India’s insatiable construction industry, to stamp their thumbprints onto their portraits. The promise of modernity in India has often been linked to industry as an engine to lift the country out of poverty. Sadly, the very industry that this political utopia is based on is entrenched in exploitative practices. Typically, brick workers are landless bonded laborers from Indigenous groups who were displaced by the British colonizers and live nomadically as seasonal workers in the farming and construction industries. Due to their lack of permanent addresses, they are ineligible for basic identity documents to prove their existence.


Birender Yadav, Donkey Worker, 2015, thumbprints of workers on Canson paper, 101,6 × 152,4 cm © Birender Yadav

Walking on the Roof of Hell (2016) consists of thirty pairs of wooden khadau sandals that these workers use when treading the brick kilns to endure their extreme heat. After years of exposure, their feet become numb and hard like the bricks themselves. Donkey Worker (2015) depicts a donkey made with the thumbprints of migrant workers in Delhi from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The son of migrant workers himself, Yadav connects to their popular culture and living stories; his works are a form of personal history writing that documents the subaltern lives often forgotten when we talk about present-day India.



Birender Yadav, Walking on the Roof of Hell (detail), 2016, Khadau sandals, 10 archival prints, diameter 152,4 cm; prints each 21 × 29,7 cm © Birender Yadav


Constitutions, 2022, Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Concordia University, Montreal (CA)

No Match For Politics, 2020, Anant Art Gallery, New Delhi (IN) (online)

Collection of Undoings, 2019, 1X1 Art Gallery, Dubai (AE)

Allow Me A Letter, 2019, Mumbai Art Room, Mumbai (IN)

Here – There, 2017, Clark House Initiative, Mumbai (IN) (solo)

What you see when you see: The labour, local and urban inspiration, 2017, Bangalore Mirror Bureau, Bangalore (IN) (solo)