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Art on the Screen

A video art festival, featuring works by veteran artists like Navjot Altaf and Ranbir Kaleka, as well as young, upcoming names, will be held in Mumbai.

Written by Dipti Nagpaul |
October 29, 2019 12:46:19 am
Art on the Screen Navjot Altaf

A multi-pronged art practitioner, Bharati Kapadia had been pondering over certain aspects of video art for a long time. She wondered what made an artist use long shots panning a certain scene, or even, say, use several frames of the same action. In an attempt to seek answers to such questions, Kapadia started to look for video art on the internet but realised that there is very little Indian work available online for those who wish to understand the medium. Realising that there must be many like her out there, the artist considered organising a video art show.

“Of the 39 artists I reached out to, I received a positive response from 34, something I had not expected,” she says, laughing. “That’s when I cannot limit its scope to a mere show; this will have to be a festival.”

Called ‘Video Art’ by Indian Contemporary Artists (VAICA), the festival will feature works by a range of artists, including established names such as Navjot Altaf, Mithu Sen and Tushar Joag as well as young practitioners such as Bengaluru-based Surekha and Mumbai-based Shakuntala Kulkarni. The festival will begin on November 2 and will be held over five consecutive Saturdays all through November in Mumbai across different locations.

Different films will be screened on each day of the festival. Kapadia, along with co-curator Chandita Mukherjee, has brought on board Kiran Nadar Museum of Art and Jehangir Nicholson Foundation as partners. The venues, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai, G5A Foundation for Contemporary Culture, and Godrej India Culture Lab, have lent their space free of cost for the festival. The detailed location-wise schedule is available at After Mumbai, the festival is due to travel to Delhi in December.

Kapadia believes that video art is on the cusp of growth as technological advancements make video more accessible. “The medium per se is rather new in the Indian art scene. The early practitioners like Ranbir Kaleka and Nalini Malani started exploring video art only in the early 2000s. But over the last few years, more younger artists are interested in its vocabulary. It’s a virtual medium and so one does not need space to exhibit it. Also, one can have it without having to pay it. But video art is mostly exhibited as an installation, as a small part of a larger exhibition, or at a biennale. But that, I believe will change with this festival,” Kapadia says.

However, video art’s strengths also make it “unviable” to collectors. Another apprehension is that much like abstract art, people say that they don’t know how to make sense of it. “But you don’t have to. One doesn’t make sense of a sunset, one experiences it. Abstract art or video art are similar — one should take it in the light, beauty and colours,” says Kapadia, who adds that Indian collectors are beginning to see the investment potential of the field. “Corporates, museums, organisations, galleries and private collectors are all closely watching and contributing to its growth,” she points out.

With VAICA, Kapadia is also creating a distinction between art films, artistic documentaries and video art. One of the selection criteria is that the film be under 15 minutes. Also, the featured artists have to be video art practitioners. “The concept of time in video art is not the same as conventional visual content. Nor is there a beginning, middle and end, necessarily,” she explains.

With 65 videos from 35 artists, including one of her own, Kapadia was overwhelmed when she began to curate. While some of the films are new, and will be on view for the first time at VAICA, there are also old works, some by artists such as Kaleka. The curator points out that the audience will be able to tell the difference in the visual quality — while some are grainy, the others are made using recent technology.

After watching and re-watching each work, she came upon “a certain flow”, something she felt that would bind such abstract works by various artists. “Sometimes it is sound, sometimes it’s colours. It’s very subtle and the audience may not always be able to tell what it is, but the idea is that the sequence in which the works are screened should not be jarring,” Kapadia explains. To add to the viewers’ experience, she will also be throwing open the floor to the audience and share her experience of curating the festival.

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