Playing in the Gallery

Playing in the Gallery

Art is not about viewing but gaming at this exhibition at Khoj Studios

khoj studio, exhibition at khoj studio, jiten thukral, sumir tagra, ganjifa, indian express talk
The Travelling Hand A Ludic Dream Across the Sea by Gayatri; The Parable of Timruk and Other Stories by Studio Oleomingus

In the coming week, Khoj Studios will shed its studio space to covert it into a site-specific gaming ring, where players move from one play to another, comprehending instructions often scribbled on cards and deducing clues that could make them winners.

Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra travel back in time to bring Ganjifa, a traditional card game in the Mughal court, to Kalyug. The mythological motifs are replaced by the Gurgaon-based artist duo’s trademark motifs. Working on the principles of good and bad karma, traversing the 10 avatars of Vishnu, the players trade in and protect the currency of the game, a tumbler of water, communicating the gravity of water scarcity and the need to conserve natural resources. The avatars can also be considered as the evolution of mankind — from fish to reptile, mammal, human and deities. “The game is mirrored around today’s society and imparts knowledge about our limited resources of water, and bringing about effective steps to save the world. It involves individual and collective decision-making replicating the way a community works,” states the duo.

Gayatri Kodikal delves into the past, back to the 17th century, when Queen Ketevan of Georgia was imprisoned and tortured to death in Shiraz, Iran, by Shah Abbas I. The digital narrative draws on a series of investigations from an archaeological excavation in Old Goa, where the mortal remains of a Georgian queen were found. Clues are planted about a hidden fresco in a church in Lisbon that depicts the torture, and gamers have to hunt through obscure histories.

“The objective of the exhibition, ‘Level 01’ is not only to showcase the high quality of work in the field of art games happening within India, but also highlight the ways in which games are playing an important part in creating critical conversations on difficult socio-political topics, in a light and playful manner,” says curator Promona Sengupta. Each of the nine artists borrows from a diverse background — from visual arts to literature, filmmaking and game development. If Studio Oleomingus brings us Timruk — a digital game in the form of a graphic novel — where players travel through the fictional colonial town of Kayamgadh, Mario D’Souza and Sanket Jadia share interesting facts about Kashmir, presenting the Valley as a homeland.

For a more intimate interaction with the surrounding, take a walk around Khirkee Village, as Vinit Nikumbh visualises it to be in 2027. The neighbourhood has changed but not the concerns.