Artist Nobina Gupta talks about her collaborative research residency project at Art Ichol, Maihar, Madhya Pradesh
Disappearing Dialogues is a series of interactions with nature, people and objects that are knocking on the doors of extinction. As an artist, I initiated this public art project, ‘Disappearing Dialogues’, in the past 4-5 years, motivating people to take a proactive stance. I conceptualised it as a voice that would stimulates a cultural response, engage public, blend experiences and knowledge and inspire people to embraces life with all its intricacies. It’s a plea that would inspire us to treasure and preserve whatever lies within our reach in a world that’s hastily getting depleted. It’s a symbol of hope.
I was born and brought up in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh and have been working around the place for quite long. Since childhood I have experienced its vast enrichment and simultaneously its crisis, intensely feeling the need to
address it deeply. During my visits, working and installing my Stainless Steel Tree ‘Kalapataru’, at Art Ichol, I travelled around different places and was surprised to see the abundant resources of lost histories, cultures and traditions hidden in bits and pieces, dug within corners around Maihar and Satna in M.P. The ruins of sculptures, architectures and inscriptions reflect styles even before Khajurahoo which made me realise the importance of unveiling these treasures, creating a collective to preserve and archive them, researching and documenting properly each and every aspect, before they go further, beneath the surface never to be heard or seen again.
Besides this, even the deep dense forests with their rich bio-diversity in M.P, (Bhadhavgarh, Panna, Kanha, Panch) are not what they were few years ago. As a child I have travelled to these places several times and enjoyed its beauty and wild life. But Climate Change is taking a toll and we see the changes drastically in the environment as well as in the forests and vegetation. Last year, Satna had very little rainfall leaving the beautiful Tamas River completely dry and today the flooding around the area terrifies me.
The indigenous communities around the whole region are farmers and forest dwellers. It’s sad that the ones who suffer most due to these extremities are these indigenous communities who share a symbiotic relationship with nature and having much to do with global warming. It is their dying traditional ways of farming; brick making that I feel could be examples alternate techniques for modern man to learn about organic farming and sustainable living. These communities are also homes of diverse cultures and traditions, which are under threat due to migration of youth to cities in hope of employment and economical growth.
Classical Music and performance being at the core of MaiharGharana with Baba Allaudin Khan, Annupurna Devi, Ali Akbar Khan, disciples Ravi Shankar, Nikhil Banerjee, PannaLalGhosh etc. is a big inspiration to many. But the question is whether his philosophy is properly understood or his classical tradition of music being carried forward efficiently or is it all gradually fading away? The varieties of instruments at his residence need proper attention before they beyond the point of restoration.
As an artist experimenting with various mediums, visual, performance, digital, textual, I realise the versatility of each medium with its unique languages capable creating a unique interaction and expression. I felt a team of experts was required so I decided to form a collective of collaborators from different fields and expertise to develop a comprehensive research and dialogue around the area.
An open call for a 10-days research residency focusing on Environment, Culture, Heritage & the Indigenous community around Ichol, Maihar, Satna, M.P was thus visualised to be held in October 2016, at the creative art center and residency space Art Ichol. Art Ichol hosting the research residency is located between the temples of Khajuraho and forests of Panna and Bandhavgarh in the heart of Madhya Pradesh besides Ichol village, near Maihar. The Art centre has a wonderful sense of creativity and space, specialized infrastructure, writer’s retreat, studios and uniquely designed rooms to stay comfortably in the lap of nature and explore.
It is interesting to see the various places from where enthusiastic applications are flowing in and various issues and areas they are addressing. Proposals from visual artists, textile designers, architects, performers, writers, photographers, community activists, social reformers, have been sent from Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Santineketan, Orissa, Pune, Panna, along with international submissions from Brisbane and South Fremantle, Australia; New Columbia in Canada, Germany; Paris, France. The diverse areas of proposals feature on transformations in the Maihar music Gharana, local musicians and their social structure, local textiles and stitching as a meditative practice among women, dying local brick making factories and techniques, sustainable living and farming, vanishing folk lore, oral histories, migration of the youth from villages to cities, religious and social differences, dying forests and availability of resources, archeological ruins and their historical relevance, local dialect — Bagheli losing its relevance etc…
A selection committee of experts will meet in end of July to review the projects received. Meanwhile, as the research progresses, after six to eight months in 2017 a meet will be organised at Art Ichol to have a collective vision of all the developing research and share data and resources. A proper documentation and archiving of collaborators work in process and progress will be recorded which shall be developed into a short docu-film to inspire people which will thus provide insight into the region with multifaceted presentations. Social media platforms will be actively used to generate participation and interaction.
In the end of 2017, an interactive interdisciplinary unconventional exhibition and performance on the substantial research work, selected from the collaboration will be put together at India Habitat centre, New Delhi followed up by publication of a brief compilation of the project engaging and inspiring the public in a longer dialogue about lost memories and histories, environment, changing life, raising questions on development and sustainability.
Footnote: As the deadline approaches, if anyone likes to explore the disappearing dialogues around Maihar, beyond these points they should immediately draft a proposal and mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The proposals could have vast varied intentions:
ENVIRONMENT: loss of forests& bio-diversity, dying rivers, water crisis, agriculture, vegetation, loss of species and natural habitats etc.
CULTURE & HERITAGE: Disappearing dialogues within MaiharGharana of music, the ruins and temples, inscriptions, architectural heritage, small artifacts
INDEGENOUS COMMUNITY: Oral histories, intangible and tangible knowledge, rituals and customs, costumes and textiles, use of metals within their lives