Capturing the Cityscapehttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/capturing-the-cityscape/

Capturing the Cityscape

A book and an exhibition trace the historical and contemporary aspects of Ahmedabad

A YEAR-AND-A-HALF ago,German professor and artist Heidi Specker was invited to visit India on a residency. Max Mueller Bhavan brought her to Ahmedabad in December 2011,where she stayed for four weeks,as part of the “Year of Germany in India” — held from September 2011 to February 2013,with the theme “City Spaces”. “I explored the tradition of ancient arts and crafts in the contemporary city,” says Specker. Every day,she walked along MG Road,one of the main streets in the city,her efforts finally resulting in a book of 27 images titled MG Road.

In August last year,she returned to the city to conduct a workshop for 13 students from the Academy of Visual Arts,Leipzig,Germany,where she teaches photography. These students,in turn,worked with students of the Photography Design department of the National Institute of Design (NID),Ahmedabad. This resulted in “Parikrama”,an exhibition of photographs by the students,where they captured the city with an artistic interest towards development of urban environment.

Both,the exhibition and the book,are currently on display at Galerie Max Mueller,Max Mueller Bhavan,Kala Ghoda,until April 27.

One of Specker’s main points of interest in MG Road was the fact that it’s named after Mahatma Gandhi and,as she points out,“There’s no place in India,from small villages to big cities,without a road named after Mahatma Gandhi”.

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As far as the Father of the Nation was concerned,Specker’s interest lay in Gandhi’s encouragement to people to weave their own clothes as a means to independence. She connected Ahmedabad’s historical relationship with its textiles mills with a contemporary view of MG Road. The book contains images of buildings on the road today alongside those of men and women working in a field,seemingly ancient earthenware and brass pots,and rugs from Ahmedabad’s famous textile industry.

On the other hand,the workshop and the exhibition titled “Parikrama” focussed on Ahmedabad’s city-spaces and had the students travel around the city,photographing and filming what they thought captured its essence. “Both groups of students were focussed on photography or film with an artistic interest in city dimensions,” says Specker.

They captured images of the city’s musical subculture,birdcages in the old city,roundabouts and transportation as well as explored the meaning of nature in the architectural environment. For the German students,Specker says,the entire process was a lesson in the city and culture. “The German students enjoyed the direct inputs while working with the Indian students. It helped to reflect their foreign views on Indian culture. It’s nice to see that some of the students are still in contact with each other,” says Specker.