Pho­tog­ra­phy is reimag­ined and the frames shift to newer vis­tas at the re­cently con­cluded Serendip­ity Arts Fes­ti­val in Goa


The Serendip­ity Arts Fes­ti­val in Goa took a bold look at pri­vate spa­ces through a cam­era lens

At first there are the kites. White kites next to a win­dow. It seems they are yearn­ing to fly away. A blue sky out­side is a metaphor too. The kites are part of Indu Antony’s ex­plo­ration of mem­o­ries and dreams. Ex­plor­ing Carl Jung’s the­ory of the Per­sonal Un­con­scious, she traces the way mem­o­ries get ‘boxed’ and their even­tual resur­fac­ing in un­ex­pected ways. The idea was to ex­plore these ‘boxes’ us­ing oral his­tory, vi­su­als, ob­jects and per­for­mances. In this project she tells the story of a spe­cific per­sonal mem­ory that resur­faced after 14 years.

At Adil Shah Palace in Goa, one of the venues for the third edi­tion of the Serendip­ity Arts Fes­ti­val, there was a bold at­tempt to look at cur­rent pho­tog­ra­phy prac­tices and find out what holds them to­gether and how the cam­era has turned to pri­vate spa­ces.

“It com­bines strong el­e­ments of sweat smells, images, kites wo­ven with the artist's hair with her words. Indu has a prac­tice of ex­press­ing deep per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences through her mul­ti­me­dia works,” says Ravi Agar­wal, a Delhi-based pho­tog­ra­pher and the cu­ra­tor for In­ti­mate Doc­u­ments for Serendip­ity. For him, the Arts Fes­ti­val is help­ing bridge gaps be­tween high art, folk, craft, tra­di­tion and con­tem­po­rary works.

There is a mourn­ful quest for clo­sure at the Adil Shah Palace in Goa. A child’s draw­ings of the moun­tains along­side repli­cas of those shot by Delhi-based Chan­dan Gomes.

Gomes’ work is al­most re­portage. It was while in a hos­pi­tal in Jaipur where he had been com­mis­sioned to do a project that he stum­bled upon a book of draw­ings in a hos­pice known as Avedna Ashram, where he would of­ten go to take pho­tos. The book car­ried no name. Some­times all you need is a trig­ger of ab­sence, of in­trigue and Gomes held on to the book and tried to find the child but couldn’t and then he left for the moun­tains and spent the

next eight months tak­ing pho­tos that were in­spired by the child’s draw­ings. On the walls at Serendip­ity were in­ti­mate por­traits of a stranger’s search for a girl; a jour­ney that com­bined text, draw­ings and pho­tos in an at­tempt to reimag­ine pho­tog­ra­phy. “Gomes has a process-based prac­tice of track­ing ob­jects and traces of peo­ple,” says Agar­wal. Like Gomes, Antony’s work “Un­cle Vin­cent” ex­plores a per­sonal nar­ra­tive and space of sex­ual ex­ploita­tion of a child by her un­cle.

The eight-day long fes­ti­val served as a plat­form for multi-dis­ci­plinary col­lab­o­ra­tion and cul­tural in­no­va­tion. “Our ap­proach was to cel­e­brate the di­ver­sity of arts,” says Sm­ri­tiRa­j­garhia-Bhatt, the di­rec­tor of Serendip­ity Arts Fes­ti­val. “We al­ways have a bunch of cu­ra­tors un­like Kochi-Muziris Bi­en­nale which has only one cu­ra­tor and is more in­sti­tu­tion­alised.”

De­vised by Su­nil Kant Mun­jal, chair­man of Hero En­ter­prises, in 2016, the fes­ti­val this year also re­sponded to the pol­i­tics of oth­er­ness and turns its gaze to­wards the marginalised with Queen Size, a theatre project cu­rated by Atul Ku­mar in re­sponse to Sec­tion 377 of the In­dian Pe­nal Code. Queen Size is a chore­o­graphic ex­plo­ration of the in­ti­macy be­tween two men played out on a charpai. In ad­di­tion, La­vani Queens...

Sangte Aika, cu­rated by Ran­jana Dave was a per­for­mance that looked at gen­der with La­vani, ex­plor­ing ques­tions such as: Who is a La­vani dancer? Can La­vani be per­formed by men and women? What ef­fect will it have on the 'male gaze?’

For a week, Goa be­came a desti­na­tion for art lovers try­ing to en­gage with dif­fer­ent prac­tices. Now, the kites are gone but the mem­o­ries re­main. And so does the hope for an­other edi­tion next year and what it will show­case.

BOLD STROKES This year, the fes­ti­val took a look at pho­tog­ra­phy in the pri­vate space

SHIFT­ING FO­CUS The In­ti­mate Doc­u­ments se­ries ex­am­ines con­tem­po­rary pho­tog­ra­phy prac­tices in In­dia

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