WALK ON THE LINE
A multi-disciplinary event and a community space
Kolkata, of late, is coming up with art-initiatives with different motivations and in various scales. Primarily these initiatives are committed to creating alternative spaces (both physical and cerebral) for artists/art-activists who are dedicatedly attempting the redefinition of expectations from what we call 'art' and exploring avenues to radicalize the very justification of art by making it site-specific, multi-media, participatory, performative and community-based. In other words, exploring and exploding the contours of the definition of art-practice in relation to its communicative viability appear to be the main drive behind these initiatives. Besides, these kinds of initiatives have helped the artists to salvage art from the white-cube, limiting individualism and opening up interactive and discursive spaces in the broader context of contemporary visual culture.
Walk on ohe Line: A Multidisciplinary Art Project is such an attempt driven by a sense of purposefulness and Chander Haat is such a fitting community space tucked away from the upmarket urban center of Kolkata and located on the fringes of the city, at Khudiram Palli – a quasi-rural neighborhood where the boom of mainstream art has never reached. Curated by a leading young art-activist and curator Manas Acharya, the project turned Chander Haat into a major site for staging the contemporary in Kolkata from 22-24 May, 2015.
Back in the nineties, Tarun Dey (one of the founder members of Chander Haat), a visionary, visual artist, performer (ardent disciple of Badal Sarkar) and singer, opened up his house for young enthusiasts of the surrounding community to find a mentoring environment that was open-ended in creative spirit, instilling fresh ideas in the minds of the young and willing enthusiasts. A major emphasis at the outset: environmental and public art must not only ensure a flow of funding but also encourage community living. This, in turn, stirred their dream project of acquiring land and setting up an art space. When Bhabotosh Sutar, a very well-known name in the art circuit, pitched in, this dream of creating a community space became a reality finally in 2012 and opened with a seminar and an exhibition by the members. Henceforth, Chander Haat has been regularly active through a number of activities, projects and several interactive workshops and discussions where collaboration and community interaction have always been a priority. Besides the urban art community Chander Haat has also been inviting rural craft communities into the interaction. The space accommodates both conventional and contemporary art practices – a rare phenomenon in recent times in Bengal. Every year the place is enlivened with different activities and Chander Haat is a vital and resilient platform which encourages inter-disciplinary activities to generate a broad spectrum for the new generation artists who tend to perceive both art and life in a largely post-mediatised environment. WALK ON THE LINE: A Multidisciplinary Art Project also happens to be a part of their annual event.
This three-day event not only showcased outdoor and indoor installations, video and light works, performance art along with print and multimedia imagery, but also made a serious attempt at creating a range of new visual vocabulary that simultaneously challenged, subverted and extended the conventional notion of line. In the words of Manas Acharya, curator of the project, 'the project seeks to explore the journey from summation of marks on a paper to an alternative method of communication through generating meaning, participation and experience.' In the curatorial note Manas further elaborates, 'Through this project artists would explore Drawing as a tool for creative and critical thinking and as a means to introduce technology on a basic (low-cost) level. It expects the artists to come up with, implement and explain their own "concept" in the artwork they were going to produce in the Space and focus on the discussion of the concept, metaphors and symbols to engage drawing in a conceptual way, and also encourage to explore the available technology as a creative tool.'
Keeping it absolutely open-ended the project encouraged the participant artists to engage themselves with various technical and new-media possibilities. Participating Artists and Artists Collectives included Anjan Das, Bhabotosh Sutar, Bhaskar Hazarika, Debashish Barui, Iman Chakravorty, Ipsita Chakravarty, Manas Acharya, Mallika Das Sutar, Niramal Malik, Pradip Das, Pintu Sikdar, Prashun Ghosh, PI(Performers Independent), RabinRoy, Raju Sarkar, Sukanta Majumder, Syed Taufik Riaz, Sumantra Mukherji, Sambaran Das, Sayak Mitra, Tarun Dey, Taxi 3(Suman & Sourav), Unbound Studio( Aditi Kulkarni & Uma Ray), Utsav Chatterjee, 4Artists Collective.
To underscore the diversity of works developed in this site we can briefly describe the works of a few artists. For example, the huge digitally printed banners by Sayak Mitra straightaway refer to the popular visual culture by trying to catch the attention of the viewers by engaging them with popular portraits or large-scale display of publicity hoardings. On the other hand, in Manas Acharya's delicately edited video of craftsmen preparing the mattress as they run their fingers on the lines with the fibers, one can feel how Manas is replacing pencil with the camera as a drawing tool. In Dozokher Khero–a collective performance by PI, a pre-recorded text of approximately one and a half hours was played along with a physical performance with bodies and installations in different corners and heights of the given site. The text was constructed with excerpts from books in Bengali and English ranging from poetry to historical notes and comments. The issue revolved around the genocides and mass-killings that happened in the area that is now called Bangladesh and West-Bengal. The artists interpreted the notion of line from different perspectives and brought in socially and politically relevant issues. Often artists have made it very explicit in their works. For example as Robin Roy claims, through a process of drawing he tried to open up unforeseen horizons of lines. By walking with the dots and lines at his disposal he went on to unmask the process of deterioration, subversion and pranks of power that debase the life around. Suman Kabiraj's work too reflected on the political and cultural transformations that have taken place within various places of the city of Kolkata physically as well as conceptually.
The aim of his project was to engage with the past, present and, indeed, future of Kolkata. The intention was not to create a sense of nostalgia for what once was but to see the space as an organic, multi-layered entity which has absorbed myriad influences and yet possesses certain unique features which it has not shed through its triumphs and toils. In the 6ActionsInBetweenPointA&B a performance conceived and performed by Bhaskar Hazarika and his team, a subversion takes place when the ideas of discipline, system and choice were enacted in a most impromptu manner.
The interactive sessions held in the evenings created a space for everybody to verbalize, discuss, argue and exchange. On 23rd May, the second day of the event, Amitava Bhattacharya, director of Banglanatakdotcom encouraged the event with his informal discussion and his suggestions to make the space more meaningfully active and participatory. On the last day a group called Hamdasti presented their multi-disciplinary work on Chitpur and finally the event came to end with the wonderful discussion by renowned artist Jogen Chowdhury, in which he shared his critical responses with the participants and the viewers.