Located as it is within the framework of the Indian Language Festival, whose 2016 theme is Language as public action and being situated in the multiple public spaces of the India Habitat Centre (IHC), the exhibition will take as its diving board the idea of language – oral and visual – and public action as motivators for social exchange and movement.
The Raza Foundation is a registered trust created and funded by the Indian master Sayed Haider Raza in 2001. He was still in Paris and used to feel strongly that he should do something substantial to promote visual arts, poetry, music, dance etc., specially to foster the creativity of the younger generation in India. After he shifted to Delhi in 2010, the Foundation got a lot more dynamism through his irrepressible generosity to not only directly undertake many projects but also to support and assist efforts being done by other individuals and institutions.
‘ILF Samanvay’ the Indian Literature Festival, an annual event organized by the India Habitat Centre with its focus on creativity of Indian languages and many other forms of expression is special and naturally attractive to us. It happily aims to do what the Raza Foundation particularly cherishes, in keeping with the grand and noble view Raza had of creative expression and energy of our times rooted as they are in plurality, freedom and beauty. Raza had a view and practice of the modern which sought peace, plenty, grace, silence and consonance and which made it a distinct alternative modernism. He was a painter whose vision was deeply influenced by his firm residence in his mother tongue Hindi which 60 years in France could neither shake nor dilute. All too often he used on his canvases lines from Sanskrit, Hindi and Urdu poetry reinventing a long convention of the miniature paintings of the 17th-19th centuries.
The Raza Foundation carries the rich legacy and is happy to associate with ‘ILF Samanvay’.
Creativity must find new forms and new idioms, new ways of looking at the world and questioning anew the given and the easily acceptable. It must, every now and then, break through and yet carry within its bold experiments memories and resonances of the past. Tradition survived by allowing the modern to break away from it and seek new domains for exploration. The modern, similarly, vindicates itself by finding spaces and opportunities to allow departures from the modern conventions into interrogative spaces and darknesses, into the never exhaustible resources of ‘1ness’ in our ethos.
This unending research as embodied in ‘ILF Samanvay’ richly deserves all support most readily from the Raza Foundation.
As I draw closer to the end of the curatorial journey leading up to the exhibition that is a part of festival, I recognize that I began with a set of ideas and end with two questions:
Do you see with your ears? Do you hear with your heart?
To introduce the second edition of the visual arts feature of ILF Samanvay I would like to tell a tale. It is the tale of an urban woman who grew up on stories of the world wars and Independence struggle, the unspoken narratives of Partition, who came of age in a post-socialist/ neo-liberal India of the 1990s bringing with her the idealism of a modern nation moulded by Gandhi, Nehru, Tagore and Ambedkar (to name a few, with all their ideals and conflicts), looking into a future with the promise of a new global era of economic and social equality. Hers was thus a vision open, hopeful and honest. With the belief that civil society was the backbone and the arts the soul of India. While she stands today, both are being strangled by religious narrow-mindedness and state and military high-handedness. And so very many people still crippled with poverty – homelessness and hunger. There is little that makes her want to launch a cartwheel but there is a quiet and firm belief that if we look, really look and feel, feel with our hearts and minds, that if we find courage – not the courage of rash gestures but of sustained humanness – then we – as a community will survive and build a respectful and equal humanity.
We need to find ways to hear voices and see images – to have experiences of difference. And we need to stage these in spaces frequented by a diversity of publics. The ILF platform with its 2016 theme “Language as Public Action” is perfect for curating a pluraity of art forms speaking variously, simultaneously, conjunctively. Thus we inhabit the wide open spaces of the India Habitat Centre, spaces not conducive for showing art and thus we went, in many cases post-object, locating process, performativity and participation at the heart of the exhibition.
The exhibition took as its diving board the idea of language – oral and visual – and public action as motivators for social exchange and movement.
Thus it enters and investigates the crossovers between language and forms of communication, multiple publics, modes of engagement, historicity and social movement through three broad sections – the play of text and language: the comic language; does art make a people: see, feel and think; experiments in inter-discourse: hear and watch in the video box.
The festival was preceded by two events and a set of workshops. You will read about these further along in this publication but just to say that they explored the main foundations on which the exhibition is built – the foundations of inclusivity, public discourse, socially engaged practice and education.
I would like to thank Ashok Vajpeyi and the Raza Foundation for their support of the exhibition, Rizio Yohannan Raj for asking me to curate the exhibition and giving me free reign to run amok, the team at the India Habitat Centre for giving structure to the sometimes feckleness of the arts and giving me a venue to stage my preoccupations and the amazing team of ILF Samanvay for being enthusiastic about the work and tolerant of missed deadlines. And finally and fully I’d like to thank the wonderful artists who have supported the project and given so generously of their art and time.
ONENESS: Exhibition Layout
Chief Guest: Krishen Khanna (Eminent Artist) @ Yamuna: The Amphitheatre