Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Variety That Is India

Noted artist Orijit Sen's work, at the Kochi Muziris Biennale, focuses on the extraordinary society in Punjab, the charms of the Charminar in Hyderabad, as well as the Mapusa market in Goa

Photos: By Albin Mathew. Orijit Sen in front of 'From Punjab With Love' and the Charminar exhibit

By Shevlin Sebastian

One day, sometime ago, noted artist Orijit Sen's college-going daughter, Pakhi, came home after finishing her part-time job as an assistant at an art gallery in Delhi. When Orijit asked about her experience, she said, “I just have to follow people around and say, 'Don't touch, don't touch'.”

That sparked a thought in Orijit: 'Why can't I create an art work that encourages people to touch it?'” About this time, curator Sudarshan Shetty called Orijit up and invited him to be a participant at this year's Kochi-Muziris Biennale.

So, it was no surprise that Orijit's installation, called 'Going Playces', at Aspinwall House, Fort Kochi, is an interactive exhibit. At the 30 ft. wide exhibit, 'From Punjab with Love', some pieces have been taken out and placed on a table. So you have to try and place it, at the right spot, on the painting. A magnet holds the piece in place.

Incidentally, this work is a smaller version of the 246-feet long mural, which is on display at the Virasat-e-Khalsa Museum in Anandpur Sahib, Punjab. It is like a drone's eye-view of life in Punjab – farmers working in the fields, women washing clothes, children flying kites, and buffaloes wading into a pond.

In the next room, there is an acrylic cum goatskin work of the Charminar of Hyderabad. Orijit had been invited to the city by art collector Prshant Lahoti to set up a piece of public art. His research was a voyage of discovery into the soul of the city.

On the surface, Hyderabad is an aspirational IT centre, and often gets compared to Bangalore,” says Orijit. “It has lots of cars, flyovers and steel buildings. But as I started to dig deeper, I realised that this city has a history, unlike any of the so-called cosmopolitan cities, like Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata, which are all colonial cities set up by the British.”

Hyderabad is much older. Golconda, under the Qutub Shahi kings (1512-1687) was the famous centre for diamonds. It attracted people from Central Asia, Turkey, Iran, and Africa.

All these people carried on living here and speak the Hyderabadi language,” says Orijit. “This is the real multi-culturalism. Most of us cling to our caste background, religion and are hesitant to trust our Muslim neighbour. But, in Hyderabad, there have been centuries of inter-mingling.” So Orijit is planning a public art installation incorporating these ideas.

At the Bienalle, on a table, in front of the Charminar, there is a puzzle that needs to be solved, again by placing pieces into different slots. But if you do solve it, the reward is that the Charminar lights up. The third installation is of the Mapusa market. This is one of Goa's famous old-style markets, set in the town of Mapusa in Northern Goa.

Meanwhile, as Orijit converses, while sitting, on a cement ledge, outside, a ten-year-old boy, Daniel Pinto, accompanied by his parents, comes up. “Uncle, I really enjoyed doing the puzzles,” says Daniel. 

A beatific smile spreads across Orijit's face. 

(Sunday Magazine, The New Indian Express, South India and Delhi)  

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