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Streets as Studios

A public art festival features a mix of international and Indian artists who will showcase installations and performance art pieces around the theme, ‘Is there love in the air?’

February 22, 2014 5:25:33 am

A transparent adhesive sheet, intended to appear invisible, comes out of nowhere as dust collects across its surface. What materialises are stenciled interviews of Indian migrants living in Hong Kong, stories of the life they lived in their homeland. The project, called Dusted, is a public art intervention and is the brainchild of artist Lo Chi Kit, who developed the idea in 2006. “Reincarnation and karma are concepts shared by Hinduism and Buddhism. For me, migration to another country somehow is like reincarnation with memories that remain.

I am convinced that all beings come from dust (basic elements), and will turn into dust/ashes again, so everyone is actually connected all along,” says Kit, who has stenciled these quotes across buildings and pavements and will do the same at Carter Road in Bandra and Juhu beach.

Kit is among a motley group of artists, who have been handpicked by ArtO2, an independent art project with its partners for the annual public art festival, “[en]counters”. The festival in its fifth edition has a great mix of Indian and international artists. It will have events until March 2 at various venues, with Juhu Beach and Carter Road as the main centres. The theme of this year’s festival is ‘Is there love in the air?’, which has been left open for interpretation.

“We are trying to promote public art not in the traditional sense, where a sculpture would be placed to promote a certain idea, or remember a historical figure. At the festival,
the works become more fluid, because it’s not just about creating a work in a studio and then plonking it in a public space. This becomes more exciting,” says Leandre Dsouza, who heads the festival. Besides the various permissions required, they looked at the
works closely and at the history and geography of the site. They had to study if it interferes with the daily functioning of the space,
and also preempt the experience of the spectator.

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Kit is part of the festival thanks to a collaboration between ArtO2 and C&G ArtPartment. Clara Cheung, who is a curator for the
Hong Kong-based project, has been working with Dsouza over the last two years and has brought down six artists and one art project from her homeland. Art exchanges between Hong Kong and Indian artists are quite rare, and it was at last year’s encounters that they realised that the cities have a deeper connection.

Cheung says, “In many ways, Hong Kong and Mumbai are quite similar: both are densely populated, with many aspects of pollution, have been British colonies, have a booming commercial contemporary art market, but lack art infrastructure.” She believes that through these exchanges, artists will be better equipped to tackle similar
problems creatively. Among the Indian artists, Reena Saini Kallat’s work is quite interesting.

The artist, who has worked with the festival in multiple editions, will write using salt which will wash away as the tides come in. “I will continue my work with salt, since I believe we are all made up of it. The sea has it, our bodies have it, it sort of goes back to the primordial soup where all of life comes from,” says Kallat.

The words are about deep emotions, from sorrow to love, Kallat has asked her close friends to pen the words where she sees herself as a transcriber, and not the author. Hema Upadhyay, Pradeep L Mishra and Vibha Galhotra are among the other Indian artists who will present works during the festival. 

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