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'The Show Windows' invites viewers to rediscover the idea of a home

Works by artists such as Avantika Bawa, Emma Critchley, Mario D’Souza and Ranjit Kandalgaonkar at The Show Windows in Mumbai encourage dialogue on home and belonging.

by Dilpreet BhullarPublished on : Jan 29, 2022

The significance of domestic space over the last two years has spiralled in the view of the current pandemic crisis. The cosmopolitan city Mumbai, as the face of the binaries punctuating the domestic place - be it sparse or spawning - with the six in-situ installations serves as the ideal platform to showcase The Show Windows, a series hosted by SqW:Lab and TARQ in collaboration with the Coventry UK City of Culture 2021 and Coventry Business Improvement District. The programme is an international extension of the ongoing year-long project in Coventry, England. When the art community has leveraged on the online platform to reach a global audience, the co-director of SqW:Lab (Square Works Laboratory), Vishwa Shroff, was determined to have the works experienced in its materiality and not just digitally. 

Curated by Charlie Levine, The Show Windows has artists, architects, designers, makers and creatives participating. On view till January 2022, the windows in Colaba, Mumbai, conceptualised by Avantika Bawa, Emma Critchley, Mario D’Souza, Ranjit Kandalgaonkar, Samanta Batra Mehta, and Tarla Patel aspire to engage in conversation with the audience by encouraging the range of people to look at what resides inside the window. Thereby, the architectural window turns into a concept metaphor - as the sash opens to the fresh breeze of dialogue. 

Avantika Bawa, Scaffolds in Red | The Show Windows | STIRworld
Avantika Bawa, Scaffolds in Red Image: Courtesy of Avantika Bawa

In conversation with STIR, Shroff talks about the genesis of the project, “When Charlie was invited to curate Coventry BID, Coventry City of Culture Trust and RIBA West Midlands' The Show Windows project, it made sense to bring this project to Mumbai. Extending her play project, The Show Windows is inspired by The Wizard of Oz author, L. Frank Baum’s book about shop window design. Baum’s term, ‘show windows’ is the starting point to create immersive pieces that invite audiences to journey to other places, and to celebrate the locations and people that would help us display the artworks. And as they say, when you really want something, it happens. TARQ agreed to jump on board, perhaps knowing us well enough to know that we could not have done it without them, Coventry BID and RIBA West Midlands too got excited, all our fellows received the brief with enthusiasm and so here it is!” 

Mario D’Souza, home away from home | The Show Windows | STIRworld
Mario D’Souza, home away from home Image: Courtesy of Mario D’Souza

The core agenda of SqW:Lab has been to study domesticity, drawing and process. This is defined by the variety of manners in which domesticity shifts: shifting the traditional, intimate and private ideas of family, which are relied upon for the development of space, subject or individual. Shroff acutely explains this research has posed the questions: “How we explore new places? How do we re-discover these familiar places? How can we manipulate the way people navigate space? And how can we create neighbourhoods and communities with pre-existing models? How can such an exploration positively impact pre-existing communities and change perceptions of everyday creativity? How can we explore the interconnectivity between space and action?” She continues to illustrate this with the works of the SqW:Lab fellows, “who are invited to examine and work utilising all of these components – drawing, the domestic, place and routine. The show brings to its audience a multitude of ways in which we experience place and space, by bringing together individual perceptions of the artist’s living interests within their own homes.” 

Mario D’Souza, home away from home | The Show Windows | STIRworld
Mario D’Souza, home away from home Image: Courtesy of Mario D’Souza

The Indian-French artist Mario D’Souza with his work home away from home at Essajee’s Atelier, Colaba, strives to find a thread of relations between home and belonging despite the cultural differences. Souza activates the architectural space with his installation to articulate its historicity and let the viewers locate their marker of affiliations and connections. 

Talking about the city of Mumbai, and how it shaped his idea of home, D’Souza says, “It is a living space, not just the past or the present, it is the process of discovering how this home is connected to my mother’s family.” The artist frequented Mumbai during his childhood since, “Most of my relatives living in Bombay, this helped me travel for holidays as a young boy and then during my teens, so the city made me dream, I would wait to come there, I loved the food, the Marathi culture and learned to understand the language. As I speak Konkani, it helped me speak a bit of Marathi.” Consequently, the memories of the travel stayed with D’Souza only to be trans-mediated years later in his art practice. 

Samanta Batra Mehta, The Evocative Object | The Show Windows | STIRworld
Samanta Batra Mehta, The Evocative Object Image: Courtesy of Samanta Batra Mehta

The textile and colour as part of the installation allows D’Souza to see how the variegated forms of a textile can alter its shape - determined by the interaction of the people. Cognizant of the hybrid identity D’Souza exemplifies, the artist creates work to instil an experience of finding the comfort of home despite being away from the home of origin. 

Samanta Batra Mehta’s project The Evocative Object at Raw Mango, Colaba is a journey down the memory line to her childhood. Having lived at multiple places across the globe including Mumbai, before making New York her home, Mehta’s body of work is rooted in the notion of identity and space. Mehta gives an explicit account of her relationship with Bombay, as Mumbai has been known for several centuries, when she calls it “my mother-city", “Every aspect of Bombay, its rich and cosmopolitan history is steeped into my DNA, and by extension into my artwork. The sound of the ocean waves, the salty air, the smell of the first rains, the intensity of the monsoon, the majestic Indo-Saracenic architecture in Fort, the curve of Marine Drive, the culture of openness, energy and drive, have all had an impact. I may live in New York now, but the city is in me and will never leave." The assemblage of collected antiquarian and vintage objects is a peek into the formative years of the artist. The collection which on one hand may appear whimsical, on other hand testify the importance of remembrance against forgetting. 

Samanta Batra Mehta, The Evocative Object | The Show Windows | STIRworld
Samanta Batra Mehta, The Evocative Object Image: Courtesy of Samanta Batra Mehta

In January 2022, Coventry to Mumbai by Tarla Patel along with the installations The Bird & The Elephant by Emma Critchley, Rick by Ranjit Kandalgaonkar will be displayed. Drawing parallel between Coventry and Mumbai, Patel with her installation does not show her artwork, but rather brings her father, Masterji’s archives to The Show Windows. Shroff mentions, “Masterji was a first-generation studio photographer within the South Asian community in Coventry and held his studio in the front room of the house that Tarla grew up in. It is then a juxtaposition of her home and her father’s place of work, while it is also a document of shifts with the South Asian diaspora in Coventry between the 1960s and 2000 imbedded in photographs of families and portraits, that speak of the new cultural practices encountered and of holding on to those they carried with them.” 

The Coventry windows include Cosmic Futures by Evans Mbugua, Dream Hawaii by Hyunjeong Lim, Emergence by Sameer Kulavoor, In Friendly Chat with Birds or Beasts by Vishwa Shorff and We Come in Peace by Yermine Richardson. The Show Windows, in partnership with Smartify and Reverent, has developed five new augmented reality (AR) / virtual reality (VR) experiences. This includes work by Yermine Richardson and Tarla Patel. The other experience will feature digital artworks from the two Indian artists Sameer Kulavoor and Vishwa Shroff, as well as Coventry artist Emma Critchley. 

The spectrum of artworks, framed behind the window glazing of venues, runs the creative imagination high as the artists revisit the notion of home from their personal memories. The installations envelop the experience of belonging — no more a universal, but a pluriversal determined.

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