Winner From Towns End

Navin Thomas takes home the Skoda art prize.

Written by Pallavi Pundir | Published: January 1, 2012 1:15 am

What happens to telephones,transistors and other electronic items that have been discarded as garbage? Ask Bangalore-based artist Navin Thomas,who has explored the afterlife of electronic items in his work titled From Towns End…. On Saturday,he won the second Skoda Prize for Indian Contemporary Art during the India Art Fair in Delhi.

“My approach is not that of an activist,but simply of someone curious about the private life of your discarded electronic appliances. I am mostly interested in discarded transistors and smaller objects that have an audio capacity,” said the artist after receiving the award,which included a Rs 10-lakh cheque from celebrated British artist Marc Quinn at The Taj Palace hotel in the Capital. Apart from salvaging electronic junk,Thomas also tests the effect of the audios on animals and birds.

Last year,Delhi-based artist Mithu Sen had won the prize for Black Candy,a bold audio-visual work that commented on male sexuality. Thomas bested fellow artists LN Thallur and Jitish Kallat,who have been awarded Residencies by Pro Helvetia,the Swiss Arts Council. The jury for the awards this year included Kiran Nader,chairperson of Kiran Nader Museum of Art,artist Vivan Sundaram,Pooja Sood,director of Khoj International Artists’ Association,and Martin Clark,artistic director of UK-based gallery Tate St Ives.

An added feature this year was a prize for “Breakthrough Artist”,shared by Kolkata-based Madhuban Mitra and Manas Bhattacharya. The duo has extensively photographed National Instruments Ltd in Jadavpur in south Kolkata,the country’s first and “perhaps the only” still camera factory.

“The work explores the factory and its history as a visual narrative. The factory opened in the late 1970s and became popular in the ’80s,it went into a decline in the early ’90s. In early 2009,it was turned over to Jadavpur University and they invited photographers. That’s how we got involved with the project,” said Bhattacharya,about the work,titled Through a Lens,Darkly,(a phrase the duo picked up from the Bible) that was first shown at the Delhi-based gallery,PhotoInk,in 2010.

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