by Shilpa DasNov 02, 2021
As the wave of high-end technology ushered in, the world was bound to have a somersault. Even the world of fine art practices could not escape the immersive experience anchored by technology. Video art is one such practice that witnesses the celebrated interconnectedness between arts and technology. For the art practitioners and art aficionados, the amalgamation of the two is seen as an opportunity to achieve heightened aesthetic experience, awareness value, and virtual experiment.
Not far from their contemporaries globally, Indian contemporary artists have carved a niche in the field of video art. Somewhere, this art is limited to the art aficionados and art biennales and festivals. Taking this factor into account, the curators Bharati Kapadia and Chandita Mukherjee of the festival Video Art by Indian Contemporary Artists (VAICA) aim to bring the works of leading video artists to the larger audience, including art and media students, cultural critics and cultural enthusiasts. Following the first chapter in Mumbai with the support of the Jehangir Nicholson Arts Foundation and Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Delhi chapter opened at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art with 67 video works by 35 Indian artists.
The festival has evolved out of three essential points of, accessibility to the video art by practitioners, rich diversity in terms of artists and their works, and open platform for discussions in an effort to understand the art better. Chandita Mukherjee, in an interview, said, “Bharati Kapadia wanted to create opportunities for anyone interested to explore and discuss work in the video by contemporary visual artists in India, and so the gestation of VAICA. She asked me to get involved as a co-curator and we spent a good part of 2019 working on this.”
The list of participating artists included Atul Bhalla, Baptist Coelho, Mithu Sen, Navtoj Altaf, Ranbir Kaleka, Saba Husan, Sharmila Samant, Tushar Joag, Veer Munshi, Vibha Galhotra, and others. When you have a long list of artists, the viewers are given an opportunity to experience a series of possibilities to deal with subjects and themes available with the format of video art. To further elucidate on the driving force of VAICA, Mukherjee explained, “We contacted the artists whose work Bharati knew personally, about 39 artists, 35 of them responded with over 70 works made from 2000 to 2018. There was no theme binding the contributions together, as the main intention behind VAICA is to focus on the richness and range of diversity one comes across in the video works of the artists, which give us a sense of the immense possibilities that the medium has to offer to the artist's imagination. Our selection was determined by the potential of each work to draw and sustain the interest of the viewer. The order in each of the five-part groups of videos in VAICA has been designed so that the works speak to one another and seem to flow into each other.”
One of the artists at VAICA, Ranbir Kaleka, is indispensable to any discerning discussion on video art. Not derailing from this fact, the festival showcased one of his multi-layered video arts, named Forest. Given the format of video art, it allowed the artists to play with not a particular metaphor with a singular meaning but brought together sets of images to let the viewer decipher the significance. Having said that, not many artists would take this format into their stride. Kaleka’s work, specifically Forest, falls into the former category. His artistic journey is a reflection of his expertise in mixed media, combined with incisive mindfulness. Echoing the same thought, his video art Forest unfolds the world of unrest. Rooted in an array of metaphors - field of flowers, act of flagellation, library, water, hole, lion, city, Forest hints at despotism. However, as the viewer approach towards the end of the video, the darkness of the world does not overshadow the light of ‘rejuvenation’. Kaleka’s ingenuity lies in his hope for survival within the deep wilderness, in this case, the underground city of the Forest.
Another important work at the festival that evoked the emotion of anger and pity at the human acts was the enthralling piece Manthan by Vibha Galhotra. The title took us back to the Indian philosophy of churning of oceans, where the battle between divine and evil leads to the extraction of the nectar of immortality, amrit. If at the end of the samundra manthan, the gods were rewarded with treasures, then in the video Manthan, Galhotra emphasised the environmental degradation in the hands of the humans.
Having dedicated her art practice to the ecological and environmental concerns, Galhotra shot this video at the Yamuna ghats to take the viewers onto the journey across the world’s one of the most polluted rivers. In the age of Anthropocene, the water bodies are not anymore resourceful but a dumping place. Under the garb of urban development and progress, the black sludge has replaced the purity of immortal 'amrit'. The white piece of cloth that turns tarred black at the end of the video suggested the disturbance of environmental harmony that was gifted to us with dirt and filth collected over many centuries.
After the Delhi chapter, the VAICA festival will be held in Panjim (Museum of Goa), Ahmedabad (National Institute of Design), and Baroda (Fine Arts Department of the MS University). The curators of the festival aim to travel to other Indian cities and beyond the shores, but it is not an easy ride without the institutional and logistical support. Mukherjee reinforced the same saying, “We are trying for more venues and would be happy to go to other countries too. To do a VAICA we need an institution of some local standing, which can attract the culturally interested people in that area, to play the role of the host, a screening venue with good quality video projection (which need not be at the premises of the institution, it could be in some other hall), and sponsorship to cover travel, stay and an honorarium to help us work towards the next VAICA festival.”
The second chapter of the festival took place in Delhi at Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, in early January 2020.