Connecting environment, people, animals through public art fest

December 13th, 2008 - 1:13 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 13 (IANS) A huge stainless steel bucket, caricatures, movies and street plays - for the next 10 days the capital will connect to issues related to environment, water and a better quality of life at public places, thanks to one of the biggest public arts festival being held in several places across the city.In an enclosure at the bustling Kashmere Gate in the capital stands a huge stainless steel bucket as part of the fest called 48 degrees C Public Art Ecology that opened Friday. The bucket connects to people in a strange way - they stop to look at it and ask why it has been placed in the crowded area.

“The bucket is a symbolic object. When you see a bucket, you always think about water. ‘Fill your bucket, there will be no water for three hours on your tap’ - the warning is almost a part of the Indian way of life,” leading contemporary artist Subodh Gupta, who created the bucket, told IANS at the inauguration of the fest.

“I think water is a very good subject and many artists talk about it in different ways in their work,” Gupta said. Why a bucket? “Because I work with utensils,” Gupta said.

The festival was inaugurated at the Max Mueller Bhavan by Delhi Lieutenant Governor Tejender Khanna. It is a joint initiative of the Goethe Institute, Max Mueller Bhavan, the GTZ, Delhi-based Urban Resource Group, Radio Mirchi, Time Out and NDTV.

The festival combines exhibition of public artworks at eight locations by 22 artists on the Metro Railway route, along with eco-tours, cycle rallies, seminars, street plays and film screenings.

“It gives the citizens of Delhi a platform to come together and discuss issues of ecological imbalance and global warming. Delhi is fast becoming a global city - this progress requires a corresponding understanding of its environmental challenges by the society,” said Stephan Dreyer, director, South Asia, at Max Mueller Bhavan.

Public art, a relatively new concept in India, developed in the West in the 1960s when communities or governments commissioned art works for a variety of intentions like community development, sprucing up geography or for social intervention.

Graphic artist-turned-author Sarnath Banerjee and journalist-writer Samit Basu have installed their “Delhi Monster” series - comic book art that talks of “society of fear and dark fantasies with a misleadingly cartoonish look”.

“We have fundamentally tried to communicate to the society of anxiety. The 30X12 feet frames and the 8X8 feet frames pun on auto-wallahs, landladies, smog, road-ragers, bureaucrats, vampires and kobold - the monster who will come and seal buildings. The frames use both illustration and texts,” Banerjee said, explaining the concept.

The installations are already eliciting responses from passers-by.

Asma Begum, 55, and her daughter, a young professional, from Chandni Chowk had come to shop at Palika Bazaar, where the duo’s installations are put up. And they could associate with the art.

“They have all come to suck our blood, the monsters,” the mother exclaimed in Hindi, reacting to the billboard art.

Delhi-based installation artist Atul Bhalla has created a ‘Chabeel’ - a traditional water kiosk - at the Kashmere Gate to highlight the scarcity of drinking water in the city.

“The Chabeel is common across Punjab. But Delhi does not have any free water kiosks. The traditional “piaus (water vends)” have vanished elsewhere, barring old Delhi,” Bhalla told IANS.

His contraption is 15 feet in height and is made of white square tiles, which according to Bhalla, one associates with public toilets in Delhi.

It has a mammoth jerry can that pours out river water and has two slogans - “Have you ever seen water from the Yamuna? Have you ever touched water from Yamuna?” Bhalla, a green activist, often conducts Yamuna eco-walks.

Artist Andrej Zdravic from Slovenia, who has been associated with public art for 30 years, has converted the rooftop at Palika arcade into a mini theatre with three huge screens that beaming three movies - “Origin”, “Heartbeat” and “Riverglass” about having an eco-centric view of the world.

“My movies are very meditative and it makes a fantastic contrast with the bustle of Connaught Place,” said the artist, with a flowing white mane.

Artist Ravi Agarwal has recreated the image of a flying vulture with accompanying installations to highlight the disappearance of Asian vultures.

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