20 May - 23 July 2016
A project by Hamdasti
With Manas Acharya, Nilanjan Das, Sumona Chakravarty and Varshita Khaitan
How does one pack up a practice that has been rooted in a place? In moving from the historic neighbourhood of Chitpur, Kolkata to an art space in Colaba, Mumbai, the artists of Hamdasti have been digging through bags and boxes collected over three years of work, contemplating what they have to leave behind. Without the people and the places that made the project possible, without a local audience and its familiarity with local history, what remains could appear as if it were merely a self-referential archive of redundant objects. As they pack and repack the 15kg suitcase, they are confronted with an inevitable question: do social art projects have any agency or relevance beyond the context to which they are committed?
The exhibition acknowledges this loss, and a practice, now shifted from its site, undergoes a transformative process of reflection, abstraction, and re-appropriation. A series of seven discrete objects brought into the gallery relinquish and regain specificity. Some were found and carry deep history; some are propositions that were designed with the community as catalysts for conversations; the works invite the viewer to interact and this is how they accrue significance. As traces of these lived experiences and collaborative experiments take form, Chitpur Local brings distanced realities into a shared narrative through its own displacement in Bombay. If the display of art is a call for engagement, then this exhibition gestures to the gallery as a space for intersubjective negotiations. And, through a programme of events, activates a forum for the production of new meanings.
Upcoming programme of events
From 16 to 23 June 2016, Hamdasti will host a series of events themed around questions of social art practice. Conceived in collaboration with Surfatial, CONA Foundation, BIND Collective, Bombay Underground, and others, the programme will take place in and around the neighbourhood of Mumbai Art Room, as well as in different parts of the city. More information coming soon.
About Chitpur Local
Chitpur Local is an ongoing project by Hamdasti, a Kolkata based collective of artists, which has been developed collaboratively with the people living in Battola (or Jatrapara) on Chitpur Road, one of Kolkata’s oldest roads and the main artery of the colonial “Black Town”. Initiated in November 2013, it explores the role of art in re-activating histories of cultural production. The neighbourhood was a hub of popular traditions such as Jatra (or travelling theatre), printmaking, publishing, jewellery-making and bamboo crafts. The locality also has a legacy of shared spaces – private courtyards, bookshops and rowaks (or public street corner platforms).
The project brought together artists, students, teachers, residents and shop-owners. The participants developed a pop-up museum in a courtyard, a public card game that triggered memories of forgotten narratives, and story boxes for a publishing house. These experiments culminated in a public art festival in in March 2015, deepening community networks and forging new possibilities for the future of the locale. The project was supported by the India Foundation for the Arts between January and June 2015.
Hamdasti continues to explore social art practices as they prepare for the next phase of Chitpur Local. Prior to the show at Mumbai Art Room, they curated an exhibition at Studio 21 Gallery in Kolkata.
Hamdasti, which means partnership in Persian, is a Kolkata-based collective that develops collaborations between artists, designers, communities and government. Driven by the belief that art and design play a critical role in creating public platforms for local dialogue, civic participation, and social engagement, they aim to strengthen relationships between people and their cities through innovative practices.
This exhibition is supported by Inlaks Shivdasani Foundation.