South Asian artistes bring their work together

September 6th, 2008 - 2:00 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 6 (IANS) Several South Asian artistes have brought their skills and experiences under one roof here to show how the arts draw varying communities, cultures and concerns together. The show, Six Degrees of Separation: Chaos, Congruence & Collaboration in South Asia, saw artistes from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and India collaborate on a variety of community-based projects involving performing arts, installations, photographs and sound.

The exhibition that opened Friday at the Anant Art Gallery in south Delhi’s Saket neighbourhood is part of the 10-year celebrations of the Khoj International Artists’ Association.

Since its inception in 1997, the organisation has been building bridges with artistes’ communities in South Asia through workshops and residencies. The initiative led to the formation of a similar chain of non-profit art trusts in the SAARC nations like the VASL International Artists’ Workshop in Pakistan, Teertha Arts Collective in Sri Lanka, Britto Arts Trust in Bangladesh and Sutra Art Trust in Nepal.

The show, said senior members of Khoj, was a celebration of exchanges between all these forums over the last 10 years.

“The idea of hosting the exhibition came about because these artistes share their experiences and draw strength from each other, holding the network together. They also share common concerns,” said Pooja Sood, director and co-founder of the Khoj International Artists’ Association.

The exhibition will include the release of the South Asian Journal for Culture Monday and a visual presentation - The War We Forgot: A Behind the Scenes Look At Archiving and Curating One Of The Most Significant Conflicts in the Subcontinent.

The high point of the inaugural day’s spread of Six Degrees of Separation was a performance art show, Carpe Diem: A Dreamtime to Quixotic Hinterland, Live Sound and Installation, 2008, presented by Kathmandu-based performing artiste Salil Subedi Kanika.

An acclaimed Nepali actor, filmmaker and didgeridoo (aboriginal pipe) player, Salil described his 15-minute show as “sound painting” through his body.

“I play the didgeridoo, the aboriginal pipe from Australia. I went to Dilli Haat and picked up a wooden Rajasthani percussion instrument and used it as an accompaniment - to drum up the primordial beats reflecting man’s basic instincts for spontaneous sound- for the inaugural show,” Salil told IANS.

The show, as Salil put in a nutshell, was aimed at taking the essence of natural sounds out of machines into the domains of art.

“The scope of my art is different. I invite the audience to engage themselves with sounds by sampling it live and to bridge the gap between technology and natural sound,” he said.

The presentation was a portrayal of Nepali myths, present day realities and the loss of the innocence of humanity. Salil performs regularly in Kathmandu and New Delhi, and also works for EarthBeat, an initiative he founded to bring children, youth and elders together through art and music.

Sound, stories and people strung the show together. Delhi-based Aastha Chauhan, who has been associated with several community-based art initiatives, presented “Vanishing Point”, a set of poignant stories about the lives of tourist guides at the historic Patan Square Durbar in Nepal during a residency in the former Himalayan kingdom two years ago.

Aastha gained the trust of the community and recorded their interviews on tape. At the end of her stay, she condensed her material into a half-hour radio show to which all the 27 tourist guides that she interviewed tuned in. She gave each of them radio handsets.

“I was on a residency at SUTRA, an art exchange forum in Nepal, and I realised that Nepal had a very vibrant community radio and I wanted to use it in a community art project,” she told IANS.

Homemaking is an art, proved an installation by Colombo-based artist Anoli Perera. Her installation, “Dinner for Six: Inside Out” that is part of a series called “Comfort Zones”, fused the traditions of domesticity handed down by her grandmother with the challenges faced by the modern-day working homemaker in her country.

An installation by Riyas Komu, the “Undertakers”, featured a train of wooden tombstones, with engraved hearts and snapshots of football stars and the euphoria that it breeds among the youth. It was like a mirror to communities of fans driving the chaos over football.

A newspaper clipping art titled “Index of Debt” tried to raise questions about circuits of capital and conditions that enable artistic production; while a performance art capsule, “All We Are Saying is to Give Peace a Chance” portrayed the horrors of combat zones.

Art has broadened its spectrum - from traditional to proactive neo-contemporary formats, bringing the ambience around the artist and his art into its fold.

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