Lab Pollinator leads discussion and debate on real-time scenarios

The team at the interdisciplinary lab Pollinator critiques the issues engulfing contemporary times to open a path of conversations.

by Dilpreet BhullarPublished on : Feb 20, 2021

The idea of exclusive belonging has been incessantly glorified when its veracity remains to be proved. The motifs of ‘trees’ and ‘waves’ are frequently evoked to talk about the unbroken continuity of tradition in the world of cultures and languages, even if cultural appropriateness was indispensable to enrich the spoken word or the taste of tongue. The thought that our lives are inseparable from the lives of people around us is less likely to be accepted than the far-reaching belief of missing common grounds in the circle of diversity. Bereft of learnings of a syncretic way of life, often, the argument of purity and singularity are traced from the matrix of powers and dominance to reinforce the ubiquitous spread of cultural inequality. Motivated by the political narrative on the disproportionate distribution of the cultural knowledge systems, the part of the self, at times in the face of denial and ignorance, recedes to the road that lacks empathy and sensitivity towards the other. 

It is from the path that avoids leaving the one impaired of a spectrum of self-reflections, the interdisciplinary lab named Pollinator, steered by the team led by the artist-duo Thukral and Tagra, comes into being. The multiple allegiances to the trees of meaning and the waves of influences not just sow the seed of the idea, in the lab Pollinator, but facilitates the condition that germinates it too. Since its inception in 2017, the lab has been attentive to the current-day dynamics of politics and knowledge in order to articulate the otherness of the whole. To illustrate these notions which find their manifestation across the fields – the practice of valuing an art piece in the art world, the experience of dual emotions in the socio-cultural sphere, the dawn of isolation in the times of pandemic, the scope to expand the potential of the interactive mediums – the lab Pollinator harks on the interdisciplinary approach.  

Nafrat/Parvah | Pollinator | STIRworld
Nafrat/Parvah Image: Courtesy: Pollinator

As the name suggests, the art of pollination embraces the coming together of two or more purposes in an effort to recognise the possibilities of obtaining multiple meanings of our beings as opposed to a cocooned awareness of the surrounding. Walking us through the journey of Pollinator until now, in an interview with STIR, the team says, “Pollinator is an agency that seeds fundamental debates through intangible value systems. With the evolving times, we intend to diversify our peer ecosystem through cross-pollination. Conceptualised in 2017, Pollinator has executed four projects in the last four years.” With the first project Collection Bureau, the Pollinator strives to appraise the institutions that determine the value of a piece of art. In a globalised capitalist economy, of which the art world is an intrinsic part, the external players, besides the artist, set the course of value. In such a set-up, the project in collaboration with Prayas Abhinav tried “to critique the process through which the value of a work is formulated and established in the art context". If the art historical context and collectors’ predilection are two factors that set the value, the project aimed to make the process of “adding a value” more inclusive by taking into account the artist’s intent of making an artwork. The project’s assessment of art value, when based on the lines of artist’s inquisitiveness on the creative rationale, opens an opportunity to raise the questions, for instance, “What are the markers of such a value of a work of art? Is there any system that can access the work of art through a distinctive currency? Can work be collected or a collection be built by overlooking the monetary framework?”

Virtual Nursery, Lost in Dreamscape by Ani Dalal | Pollinator | STIRworld
Virtual Nursery, Lost in Dreamscape by Ani Dalal Image: Courtesy: Pollinator

The project Nafrat/Parvah at POND, New Delhi, following The Collection Bureau, “was not a site of protest, rather a safe space to expand our understanding of the verb ‘hate’ through vocabularies, aesthetics, and value systems of the antagonistic force". The last half a decade and more, in India, has witnessed a run of high emotions entangled within the conflicting viewpoints. The team Pollinator states, “Going forward with the idea of looking into the value systems to build it into a coherent collection, the Pollinator team initiated the collection of articulations of an object, service, or sentiment offered in response to the volatile climate and atrocities across the country at the beginning of 2020. The teams addressed the ideas of ‘hate and concern’ by exchanging the ideas of care". It is when things are viewed from the vantage point of the alternate that the large spread of populist notion is debunked. The emotive self, washed by the negative opinions, could only be cured by the gesture of care. In the Barbershop the customer could avail any of the salon services in exchange for not a monetary value, but an object, service, or sentiment that invariably imbued them with hate. The space of the salon turns into a micro-site of letting the two strangers – customer and caregiver – build a human bond for a limited period of time. When the celebration of plurality is pushed to the periphery, the microcosmic world of the salon facilitates a fluid course of action against the promulgation of homogeneity. To cultivate a sense of solidarity, as the lab Pollinator does, is a way to embrace the presence of the plurality of our worlds.

Virtual Nursery, The Missing Link by Sneha Joshi | Pollinator | STIRworld
Virtual Nursery, The Missing Link by Sneha Joshi Image: Courtesy: Pollinator

With the onset of the pandemic last year, which persists to reshape our approach to everyday chores, physical distancing in the public spaces was a standard operating procedure to keep the spread of COVID-19 virus at bay. The shelter-in-place order during the period of lockdown ushered in the wave of isolation. The idea of the third project named Solitude was conceived “to make people think of ways to create new dimensions during these tough times". The Solitude is Social Distancing Handbook which allows single-player to develop a proposal by performing an activity, not outside, but under the roof of a home. For instance, the count #5 asks players to remove clothes from the wardrobe and give them a name as if they are in camaraderie, or the exercise listed #12 makes the players find their lost object, either living or non-living, from a piece of long-standing furniture. To keep the imminent dismay of having a monotonous routine far off, “the exercises are meditative with a pinch of darkness which is so evident in today’s social paradigm". 

If the state of solitude at the time of the pandemic could be observed as an uncontested reality, the virtual space was a viable option to keep the exchange of conversation, in the absence of physical proximity, uninterrupted. In a similar fashion, “The fourth project Virtual Nursery, in collaboration with Shaleen Wadhwana, an arts educator and a curator, was an initiative to understand what a residency can do virtually in the context of present times, how it can impact creators and makers in their thinking process, how we can let go of certain mandated structures and requirements of traditional artist residencies". The virtual platform gives the liberty to play with the medium and interact with it at the convenience of day and time. The plethora of opportunities it offers for experimentation led the Pollinator team and Wadhwana “to emphasise on rethinking the arts and creative practices in the virtual context by concentrating more on what one can create going forward, rather than rest on accolades of what one has already created. The residents realised their project by the names, (a) Resident 1 - Deepikah RB - Saarv Saatvik Rashtra "Atmanirbhar 2Q48, (b) Resident 2- Ani Dalal - Lost in Dreamscape, (c) Resident 3- Sneha Joshi- The Missing Link". 

Virtual Nursery, The Missing Link by Sneha Joshi | Pollinator | STIRworld
Virtual Nursery, The Missing Link by Sneha Joshi Image: Courtesy: Pollinator

The artists engaged with the projects’ work on the multifaceted duality, very much prevalent in the current times rife with social and political tensions, to anchor conversation on negotiation and reconciliation vis-à-vis interdisciplinary framework. “The team of Pollinator and Thukral & Tagra Studio aim to build dialogue and debate around the real-time scenarios faced by the contemporary society of today by using a multi/ an interdisciplinary approach, through strategic and system thinking. By exploring new innovative avenues through the use of communication design and produced commodities, we seek to cater to multiple strata of society in which discussions about socio-cultural issues of public health, mental and emotional health. Through such an intervention, we attempt to interact and reach a new audience of our current ecosystem.” When the macro narrative stifles the conversations about the fragile state of society, it is the creative imagination spearheaded by the platforms like Pollinator and participating artists that identify and indicate the points of contentions. To make this feasible, it is of importance to have an interactive approach to initiate a direct audience engagement. “The aim is to build a peer-to-peer ecosystem that strongly encourages community-driven initiatives that have a socially driven impact. The team believes in creating brief moments of care, where care doesn’t synonymise the feeling of concern but transcends deeper to empathy and optimism.” 

Virtual Nursery, Virtual Nursery, Saarv Saatvik Rashtra ‘Atmanirbhar 2Q48’ by Deepikah R Bharadwaj | Pollinator | STIRworld
Virtual Nursery, Saarv Saatvik Rashtra "Atmanirbhar 2Q48” by Deepikah R Bharadwaj Image: Courtesy: Pollinator

When the rush to imbricate the other with biases and prejudices is made achievable, at the ease of scrolling up and down, on the digital platform, the lab Pollinator, on the flip side, envisions computing language as a way to pause, think and act in the world which we live in. Antithetical to the exercise of a wilful blind who values the monolithic understanding of the world, the projects under the umbrella of the lab Pollinator ascertain the myriad of human experiences that punctuate the socio-cultural fabric. The shared humanity, where the concerns of equality and emancipation are not subservient to the imperious narrative, insists upon the necessity of imagining the lives of others. The lab Pollinator demands a departure from the logics of binaries, and its entailing crisis to pave the way for collectively shared horizons. 

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