North East Opsis
April – May 2011
by Moushumi Kandali
“Residue” by Desire Machine Collective in Venice Biennale
The Venice Biennale 2011 has a Indian Pavilion this time, with one of the art-works produced by an art collective hailing from the north east which indeed is an inspiring and positive news for the artist community of the region, who at times seems to be afflicted by a sense of marginalisation due to its geographical location away from the art centres, the metros or the so called “mainstream” of the nation's cultural paradigm. Announced by its curator, Ranjit Hoskote, the list of participating artists in the Biennale are: Zarina Hashmi, a printmaker and sculptor, Gigi Scaria, a painter and video artist, Praneet Soi, a mixed-media artist, and The Desire Machine Collective, made up of the husband-and-wife team Mriganka Madhukaillya and Sonal Jain. (The pavilion is titled "Everyone Agrees: It's About to Explode." Although a collateral event at the 2005 Biennale, "iCon: India Contemporary," was devoted to six Indian artists, India has never had an official pavilion in Venice until this year. India's inaugural pavilion has been organized with the support of the culture ministry and the organizational participation of the Lalit Kala Akademi). Desire machine collective about whom I had written extensively in the April Issue (2011) of the Art news & views magazine, is based at Guwahati and known for their curated project called Peri-pherry, a multi media inter disciplinary work space on an abandoned barge on the river Brahmaputra. For the Biennale the collective has decided to exhibit a video art called “Residue” a modified version of their existing work of the same title. Perhaps, one of the most poignant rendering of their recent oeuvre is this 39 minute video has been shot in a redundant Thermal power plant in the outskirts of Guwahati.
The Touch: An exhibition of paintings and prints
A group of seven artists from Assam had an exhibition of painting and prints in the premise of Academy of Fine Arts (New South Gallery- A) in Kolkata from 7th April to 13th April 2011 titled “The Touch”. The participating artists were the veteran artist Neelpawan Baruah accompanied by six young artists namely Prabin Kumar Nath, Khil Bahadur Chhetri, Subhakar Laskar, Abanta Bora and Promud Baruah. Most of the artists participating in the show manifested abstractionist mode of expression while some other like Khil Bahadur Chhetri had a politically reflexive gesture in his works like “Its not music, the voice of people” where heads of people and the sacks of grains superimposed by the microphones for media bytes by T V channels had definitely a story to tell about the present price hike and economic gloom. Over the past four decades Neelpawan Baruah has been engaged in conceptualizing, experimenting and executing ways for blending the traditional/ folk/ indigenous elements with those of the modern western. With simplification and distortion derived both from the local folk culture and the stylistics of the international formalism of the Modern Western Art, he has been experimenting on various indigenous material papier mache objects, masks made of wicker, pith and clay (he has made an exhaustive study of the traditional Assamese art of mask making.) - to create an extensive array of art works. The work exhibited in the show, is yet another reflection of such engagement. Prabin Kumar Nath, Shubhakar Laskar, Aditi Chakravarty and Abanta Bora's works were four different approaches in the abstractionist expressionism in their definite style of execution. If Aditi Chakravarty tried to explore the mindscapes through an inward move, Prabin Nath captured the dimensions of pain at various level say the psychical or the social. Abanta Bora and Shobhakar Laskar's spatial expansion unfolded tactile undulations in surface and colour as if in keeping with the title of the Show. Promud Boruah's rendering had however a different take-on life with meditative stance on the metaphysical and the transcendental signified by various symbols taken from Indian school of thoughts such as the charka, kundalini, makara, brichhika etc.
The Call of Brahmaputra: An exhibition of painting, graphics and sculpture
Another group of young artists some of whom have recently graduated from the Govt. Art & Craft College, Guwahati held an exhibition of painting, graphics and sculpture from 18th April to 24th April at the premise of All India Fine Arts & Crafts Society, New Delhi. The title of the exhibition was “Call of Brahmaputra” where seven artists namely Kareem Khan, Manoj Priyam, Ranjit Rabha, Navakash, Harekrishna Talukdar, Bijoy Deory and Rajib Kalita took part to showcase their art works. All these young artists seem to experiment in medium and language of the contemporary art domain imbibing the postmodernist ethos and expressions with their definite take on life. Minimalism in lingual expression is the keynote feature of some of the artists who have tried to play up with various imageries around the mundane surrounding to speak about something meaningful in the various spheres of life, the social, cultural, political and psychological. If Navakash delved in the psychical realm at times, Kareem and Rajib tried to explore the dynamics of the socio-political in a subtle manner. Harekrishna's sculptural rendering speak about his fine technical handling while exploring the conceptual and compositional possibilities.
Conserving the traditional art form: Biennial of Putul Yatra
In a highly laudable attempt to promote, preserve and revive the slowly dwindling traditional art forms like puppetry Sangeet Natak Akademi organised its biennial of putul yatra, the festival and exhibition of Indian Puppetry from 22nd April to 30th April at Guwahati in collaboration with Srimanta Sankardeva Kalakhetra and Cultural Affairs Department, Government of Assam. With unprecedented public enthusiasm and hullabaloo the festival created a truly festive like ambiance as many reputed puppet theatre groups (both traditional and contemporary) from all over India comprising almost twenty vibrant traditions enthralled the spectators. The other important component of the event was an exhibition which offered a glimpse into the fascinating world of Indian Puppetry. The exhibits were from the collection of Sangeet Natak Academy built over a period of fifty years through the academy's program in support of India's traditional arts. It was perhaps the largest collection of puppets representing a selection of around 215 puppets and associated musical instruments of traditional varieties from the existing museum collection of about 850 puppets. The exhibition also showcased a few modern puppets of recipients of Academy Award. The exhibition had been put together with a view to facilitate a basic understanding of the range and forms of puppetry in India such as String Puppets, Rod Puppets, Shadow Puppets, Glove Puppets etc. To enable the visitors to gather an understanding of Indian puppetry there were demonstrations of making and manipulation of traditional and contemporary puppets at the exhibition venue itself. Other components of the event were workshop and interaction where young puppet enthusiasts were given initial training in the art form. The interaction sessions provided an opportunity to the puppeteers from all over the country to exchange ideas, issues and techniques.