The Hindu (Bangalore)

Art that articulate­s the mind

Mindscapes: In the company of others, which opened at the Museum of Art and Photograph­y, uses art to help individual­s connect better with themselves

- Preeti Zachariah

Works by artist Indu Antony (below) provoke thought on one’s state of being. he installati­on, composed of scraps of embroidere­d crimson, marigold, fuchsia, emerald, azure, vermillion and rose cloth all patched together, is massive, nearly scraping the ceiling of the fifth floor of the Museum of Art and Photograph­y (MAP), Bengaluru where it is located. When you shift the fabric puddling around its base, you will find a hollow large enough to crawl inside, housing a little nook into which is crammed a fabric beanbag, a pair of gloves, and an audio setup telling the stories of some of this artwork’s creators, related in their own voice.

Despite its scale and brilliance, this artwork titled Nanna Langa (My skirt) and conceptual­ised by Bengalurub­ased transdisci­plinary artist Indu Antony in collaborat­ion with women from the city’s Lingarajap­uram locality, is intensely intimate, just like the sari petticoat it is modelled on.

Nanna Langa, which is part of MAP’s recently opened exhibition, titled Mindscapes: In the company

Tof others, evolved over a series of workshops conducted by Antony at the anganwadis of Lingarajap­uram. The workshops conducted just before the second wave of the pandemic saw women gathering to learn how to embroider as well as share their life experience­s and ponder questions of identity and wellbeing.

“I told them to stitch their stories, the most intimate ones that you cannot tell anyone,” says Antony, recalling how hard it was, at first, since many women did not want to share their stories. She kept encouragin­g this sharing process, until “suddenly it snowballed into something so huge,” she says, adding that today there are 546 stories, embroidere­d in multiple languages, all of which come together to form Nanna Langa.

Indu Antony is the artistinre­sidence at Mindscapes Bengaluru, part of the larger

Mindscapes cultural programme focussing on mental health, an internatio­nal initiative supported by the Londonbase­d Wellcome Trust. The fourcity programme, held in partnershi­p with the Brooklyn Museum in New York, the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, the Gropius Bau in Berlin, and the Museum of Art & Photograph­y in Bengaluru, focusses on deepening the discourse around mental health through cultural and artistic interventi­ons.

“Mental health is one of the biggest health challenges of contempora­ry times,” points out Arnika Ahldag, chief curator at MAP. Art, she adds, can function as a safe and nonjudgeme­ntal container to process thoughts and emotions, and lends itself malleable to any medium.

“There is growing evidence around the world to show that artbased interventi­ons have a beneficial impact on mental health,” believes Ahldag.

Antony’s other works on display at MAP include a line of glazed ceramic pots titled Thanni illame eppadi raktham kaluvuthu? (Without water how will I wash the blood off ?), 10 roughly hewn busts titled Us, an ode to women murdered in Lingarajap­uram and an untitled salt paper print of some of the women of Lingarajap­uram. Her art is also being displayed at her studio space, Kānike, in Cooke Town and Namma Katte (Our Space), a place for leisure for the women and children of Lingarajap­uram.

“There were restrictio­ns in the anganwadi spaces too,” she says, adding that she wanted to open a space for women to sit, relax and do whatever they wanted to do. Namma Katte, which opened in early 2022, offers the women of Lingarajap­uram that option. “This space has become so integral to the life of the women there,” says Antony.

Besides multiple artworks by Antony, the exhibition also showcases collateral works by artists Christine Wong Yap, Mindscapes artist in residence at large, and Cecilie Waagner

Falkenstrø­m, Mindscapes internatio­nal artist in residence. While Christine Wong Yap’s beautifull­ydesigned zines give you a sense of belonging, helping you identify what sparks joy, Cecilie Falkenstro­m’s exhibit, a stunning tapestry with highlysymb­olic imagery woven into it, addresses “even broader concepts of data labour practices, and the mental health of content moderators, and the idea of “humans behind the machine,” says Ahldag.

She adds. “To me, all these positions the artists have taken are related to Bengaluru, with its tech industry, local communitie­s and young population, and all of them are rooted in language around mental health, in being able to express and be heard.”

Mindscapes: In the company of others will be on view at multiple locations across the city, including MAP Bangalore, Kānike, and Namma Katte till August 2023.

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