by Rahul KumarJun 17, 2020
The higher purpose of art does not necessarily entail a walk into a plush gallery to decipher a layered meaning of an art piece after spending a considerable stretch of time. To partake the serotonin pleasures of art, the process of making an artwork weighs equally to the final framed work hanging on a wall of a gallery or installed during a biennale. Laying emphasis to the same, the art-in-making while having a close interaction with the audience, is the year-long project Five Million Incidents, from April 2019 to April 2020. The project, conceptualised by the teams of Goethe-Instituts and Raqs Media Collective along with external jury members, has Max Mueller Bhavan, New Delhi and Kolkata as its venue. The project also marks the centenary of the Declaration of the Independence of the Mind signed by international artists, intellectuals and philosophers in 1919.
Keeping the spotlight on the processes and practices of the art, Five Million Incidents takes the art to the everyday experiences of life. The artists’ list includes Anish Cherian, Deepa Jayaraman, Hagwati Prasad, Joshua Muyiwa, Nirali Lal, Atufa Rais, Tayyab Hussain, and Srinivas Kuruganti among many other actors, dancers, educationists, visual artists, filmmakers, photographers, writers, social and cultural activists. The artwork in making at a public space opens an opportunity to interact with a variety of mediums and questions the notions of time in an effort to bring fore the novelty of thought. The everyday incidents at the Goethe-Institut premises – be it under a tree, in a room, on a billboard, or in a bedroom – involve intervention, intrusion and participation in the presence of both the artist and the audience.
Experimenting with the limits of the spatial-temporal axis, the scale of incident could be measured in an hour, at times, several weeks or a couple of months. Speaking with STIR, Raqs Media Collective further explains the interactive format of the project. “The Five Million Incidents experience is unique both for visitors and for artists and creators - for visitors, it gives them an opportunity to engage with an unfolding process where many different practices emerge and converse with each other, some of the forms that artists are trying out are refreshingly new and have never been seen in a gallery context in India. For creators and artists, it provides them with a unique opportunity to fold time into their practice, in a setting that is convivial and hospitable to new ideas.”
The photographer and archivist Srinivas Kuruganti with his project, This Archive Has No Legs, prompts the viewers to walk through the journey of making a photograph and process of archiving it with the display of his photographs of 30 years of travels in India, America, and Europe. Looking at the making of the photographs with a transnational lens, Srinivas Kuruganti says, “The trunks of negatives, prints and contact sheets have travelled from New York to London to Delhi and finally to Bombay. Photographing over the last 32 years, this accumulation of images has become unwieldy and the only way to transport it has been in trunks, moving it from city to city. To understand this archive, the viewer has to see the physical object and how it has transformed into a digital one with prefixes, letters, alpha-numeric codes and location data. The process of seeing how each image is scanned, digitised, archived and catalogued connects the viewer to not just to the physical but the digital one”.
Playing with the intricacies of the language, the process-based installation Silverfish by Atufa Rais and Tayyab Hussain aims to transform the physical space to the place of accessibility with the ten thousand books or even more of any subject. Rais and Hussain explain the installation, “The work aims to induce a curiosity in the audience and seduce them to see what is hidden within these layers. This unreadable, inert wall of books makes us realise that we are just like silverfish feeding upon the physicality of books, and not learning from them. This is similar to how, though we are part of a cosmos of intellect and knowledge, as we witness today's conflicts, it is as if our minds have been closed. When standing in front of, or passing by this wall of books, it is possible to feel as if one is trapped; however, by looking deeper, one sees that the wall stands in support of humanity, and it is we who are not utilising the knowledge to serve mankind”.
Since there is a limited scope of a quick fix, Five Million Incidents has paved the way for an alternative format when it comes to the question of how the viewers perceive art and how it could be realised over an unregulated time period.