Nagaland-based Akup Buchem’s electric hand-sewing machine sits in a corner of a bathroom, by the washbasin, incessantly tapping away at a piece of paper. There’s no particular design mapped out. Delhi-based Ritika Mittal has two knitting needles performing the action of knitting, without threads. Debasis Beura from Bhubaneshwar absorbs all his thoughts into the dark frame of window, allowing only a sliver of red light to sieve through a crack in the wall. These explorations in art are meant to question the formality of practice and space.
They are part of “The Moving Image: A Course Exploring Light, Movement and Narrative”, organised by Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art (FICA) and Serendipity Arts Trust (SAT). For a month, 14 young artists experimented with kinetic art, photography and video, and mentoring them were senior artists such as Susanta Mandal, Chandan Gomes, Babu Eshwar Prasad and Lokesh Khodke.
While Mandal’s module on “Movement and Pause” took participants behind the science of kinetic art, Gomes encouraged them to build personal archives through photography. Mittal used this idea as a spring board for her work of the knitting needles and the semblance of a home she built with woollen threads.
“As part of the course, I began observing my mother and the way she moves about doing her work in the house. I found different objects that I could associate with my mother, from the chakki to her sewing kit. This installation is as much about rhythm and movement as it is about the pause,” says the 24-year-old.
Prasad’s module on experimental videos translated into Beura’s short video on the Kutia Kondh tribals of Orissa, and their tokel balis (temples for sacrifice). A concrete pavilion turns from yellow to red in video, showing how these places had been venues for girl child sacrifice. “The course was an exercise in the materiality of the ideas of movement and light. We wanted to take them outside the formality of art education and help them understand that the environment around them is full of possibilities. The city itself could be their studio,” says Vidya Shivadas, Director, FICA.
Ajit Kumar’s work shows a study table, which has a kettle, a Hindi-English dictionary and books on casteism and a calender that has the numerals 1327 stencilled out, among others. It’s the number of lives lost to manual scavenging. His video on caste violence tackles these issues.
Away from the heft of high art and conscious statement making, this show presents ways to negotiate the city and use its potential for the purpose of storytelling. Cities need not be about plans and cartography, and these explorations are a telling example of what they can become.
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