Tree-ick or Tree-ting

It was the first day of the tree-ick or tree-t project and what we did was crucial for all of us to stay connected to the project over the given period of time for which we had been attached to the project.

The idea of starting the course by forming stories around the trees which had their roots in our memories was a trigger to our minds to realize how trees actually are an integral part of life. 

Talking about my story, I was initially thinking of a memory which came instantly to my mind about a huge and very old Banyan tree at my school. Its canopy and form were the key features which made it the center for playing, snack serving during recess, correction place for teachers and also leisure time. But as soon as we were asked to map the trees of our memories in our surroundings, my banyan tree memory was replaced by an enjoyable memory of stopping by a tamarind tree to pluck its fruits while traveling between two towns.

While we were all roaming around the area, listening to the stories of the others, I realized that it is not just one, there are countless memories that are linked to the trees which otherwise I never realized and looked at it that way – those precious moments which made my childhood so playful.

Thus, this activity of storytelling served as a trigger for many memories surrounding the trees and making me realize the role of trees in my life.

The second session of the day, where I encountered the historical narratives of Bangalore’s landscape and the city’s existence, lead me to the state of awe. The stories of the discovery of the city and the development of its landscape by Kempegowda, Tipu Sultan and the Britishers were enchanting.

It made me wonder that every tree has some story attached to it, and it will be phenomenal to trace back these stories and attach a history to the botanical and biological aspect of the trees of Bangalore. In other words, watching the trick behind the tree in addition to the way it treats us.

The day was perfect to start with and build interest in what we were to do in the month to come!

 

 

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A Tamarind Trail

Long time ago, when I was a kid, 8 years old, I used to love visiting my maternal grandparents’ house. My mother, my younger brother and all my maternal aunts and uncles with their children used to gather at their house in a town called Dhule near Mumbai during summer vacations. We were fifteen cousins altogether and my second cousins joined the gang from my neighboring grandparents’ houses. 

We all used to have great fun playing various outdoor games, going swimming, having pillow fights and running all around the house screaming and shouting and fighting and crying. We never felt like going back home and departing from others. Getting over with the vacation was a nightmare for us all. 

My grandfather had a sugar factory in a village called Taloda which was 90 kilometers from Dhule. Once it so happened that my uncles planned to visit Taloda to stay there and have fun over the weekend. It was not long since they announced this at home and all of us were filled with excitement and vigor to visit the sugar factory – play in the sugarcane farms, go for bullock cart rides, walk on the streets, collect some conical cap shaped sheds of a tree and what not. 

Soon enough, five cars started from home accommodating thirty people belonging to my house and my three neighboring grandparents’ houses. We all followed each other, sang and ate while on the journey. To our surprise, my uncle stopped the car in between, much before the destination. All the cars behind us stopped after us. And uncle said, “Look there, there are so many tamarind fruits hanging on that tree, let’s get on the tree, pluck some fruits and have fun”. It seemed as if we were only waiting for him to say something like that – adventurous yet fun. In no time, all of us were out of the cars and on that tree. A few of us picked stones from the ground and started aiming at the fruits hanging on the tamarind tree. Within half an hour, we gathered a bag full of tamarind fruits and all of us went along the journey slurping the sour-tasting fruit of the tamarind tree.

 It was a great journey and equally happening was our stay at the sugar factory. It was exactly what we had thought of  – visiting sugarcane farms, riding on bullock carts, walking the streets, looking at how the factory worked, sucking sugarcane and having bonfire party in summer with ‘hurda’ a grain which we roasted in bonfire and had with salt and jaggery. Everything was enormously enjoyable and memorable. 

Ever after, it became a trend to visit the sugar factory at Taloda, stop by somewhere in the middle, pluck and munch on the tamarind fruits, reach the factory, have fun and come back in two days. 

Memories…A collaborative work on childhood memories!

Finally, we headed towards the final movement of the memory lab.

This final movement gave us a platform to choose and present any memory that somewhere pricked us. The only challenge that was incorporated within this movement unlike the others was – a collaborative work. Yes, we had this opportunity to know, explore and work with the art students of the University of Rhode Island where we had to collaborate our ideas and memory and produce work.

Well, for me the most exciting part of the collaboration was the introductory session where all the students from Srishti spoke to all the students from URI individually. The session was chaotic yet boastful at the same time. This was because we had to speak to each student individually for 5-10 minutes and decide the partner with whom we will be working with. The enthralling part of this meet was to connect with one person from the opposite end in just a few minutes.

After talking to them and knowing a bit about them, I decided to work with one of the students there. Both of us then teamed up with my peer and friend here at Srishti and commenced working on the collaboration.

Me and my friend were initially thinking of working with memories and technology. While we chatted and gained a little more knowledge about the type of work that the URI students were doing, we discovered that this memory collaboration was a part of their photography assignment.

Both of us here started brainstorming to come up with a concept that could engulf the memories of all three of us. After having discussions and exchanging a couple of e-mails, we three froze the topic for working on for this movement – childhood memories. The aspect that we chose to work on within childhood memories was ‘fun, sports and games’.

Both of us here at Srishti, had made it a point that if the work was a collaboration, it should look like one. For the same reason, we went about clubbing the memories of the three of us and producing an artwork. Philomena – our URI partner, had decided to work with the memory associated with her childhood toys. Likewise, my peer here derived her inspiration from the winning and participation in sports events at school and state level and my memory was inspired from a small game that me and my cousins had set up as a part of a ‘fun fair’ when I was a kid. My memory inspired me to think of the overall concept of our work – to peep through the memories. Peeping for the reason that whenever we trace back a memory or think about an event of the past, we never have a clear and complete picture about that event instantly. We always think about specific aspects of that memory. I intended to use the form of my memory as peepholes for viewing the memories of the past of my peer’s and Philomena’s.

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We froze our idea of installation with the memories in the form of photo frames and digital flip book being peeped through the peep holes.

Well, it was fun to work as a group and create the installation. We managed to get the photographs from Philomena in time which were to be complied as a flip book to set up for the exhibition.

The day of the exhibition arrived. We installed our works exactly the way we had ideated. Well, after the work was installed in the gallery space, I encountered and concluded certain things about our work.

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First of all, I liked my idea of peeping through the memories but felt that the structure that we had created could not justify the action of peeping. If at all the holes would have been smaller and lesser (opened), the action of peeping could have been achieved. It would have made the viewer more curious and inquisitive to peep into the memories.

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Video of the photographs clicked by Philomena…

https://vimeo.com/home/myvideos

 

Secondly, I was not quite happy with the presentation. I felt that if at all the set up behind the holes could have been rendered a little more old visually, the whole setup could have worked out well. Certain elements like the trophies and the laptop didn’t add the touch and feeling of being old.

Lastly, I felt that if at all we would have got some quality time to discuss our collaboration with the URI students, things must have been better.

As this is the last segment of the memory lab, I discovered quite a few things about working with memories.

I discovered that memory is just a trigger or an inspiration of work. It is never possible to recreate the same memory the way it was. 

I genuinely felt the lack and need of research in my works. I now am determined to work further with a prior research towards any kind of work.

 

 

 

 

Gallery 2 – Identity with the sense of historicty!

In the memory lab gallery of the second movement, we shared stories of collective history, with a personal twist. These stories highlighted the influences that have been drawn from the ancestral reigns and recorded by the voices of the families. The underlying forces of history flew within these stories in a timeless way.

I worked on this project with my memory of my grandfather telling us the stories of his past experiences while we used to sit leisurely in the verandah and how I used to paint while listening to him and slowly joined the rest who were listening, leaving my canvas.

I was able to recall one of his experiences which was related to the 1984 riots between the Sikhs and the Hindus. He told us that after the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984, the prime minister of India then, there was a retaliatory violence all over the country. Everywhere the Sikhs and the Hindus murdered each other. That time, he gave shelter to four/five of his Sikh friends in our house and for a week looked after their food and clothing before transferring them to a safer place.

Remembering his memory, I developed my artwork where I intended to portray how at the times of these conflicts, there must be chaos and violence outside the house to the contradictory calmness and fear inside the house. I incorporated my images of my grandfather’s story onto my canvas. Thus, I used the canvas as my archival object.

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After knowing what I had to portray and make the people feel, it was a little difficult for me to figure out how should I execute what I was thinking. A couple of days went by. And suddenly, while discussing my concept with someone, it popped in my head, why shouldn’t I create a house? A human-scale space which can be thought of a house. That would be the best way to make the viewer feel what my grandfather must have felt then. Bingo! 

I immediately started to think over the constructional elements and the materials that I would use for creating the house-like space. Initially I had thought of using mount-board sheets but as soon as I went to the market for purchasing them, my eyes rolled over the thermocol sheets. I don’t remember what went wrong in my head when I purchased a huge bundle of thermocol. Maybe the size carried me away. I never thought initially how trouble-some it would be to work with thermocol. Apart from that, I didn’t even think how the structure will be made to stand thermocol….the lightest material. 

After discussing the structure with a couple of my friends, I decided to create a wooden-frame skeleton and then covering the frame with thermocol sheets.

On the day of the exhibition, I started working on the wooden framing on site. within a span of 3 hours, I was able to complete the structure.

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 Then I started placing the thermocol sheets on the frame with the two-way tape.

 

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I soon finished the structure. Placed the table and chairs inside the space and the canvas and the related things outside.

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My idea was to project the video of the events that took place back in 1984 on the backside of the house and on the opposite side, that is on the entrance side, I placed the canvas outside and let people enter inside after gazing at the image. 

Although the idea sounds complete, it did not work out. When the visitors came in to visit the exhibition, they could not relate to the outside and the inside. Apart from that, they were unable to point that the video was a part of my artwork. The first day of the exhibition turned out to be pathetic for me. As my idea was not being conveyed to the viewers, the thermocol pieces were repeatedly falling off their places and I didn’t even work on the element of light inside the house. It never occurred to me that as the exhibition was to be held in the evening, light would be important. I gave up for the day and had made it a point that the next day  I will definitely fix everything and make my presentation better.

On the next day, I went a couple of hours earlier to the gallery as I was prepared to see my structure naked. I was ready to make the changes that I had thought of initially.

First of all, I turned my piece at an angle of 180 degrees, so that the entrance of the house was at the same side as that of the projection. I then put all the thermocol sheets in place by binding them together with the packing tape so that they stay intact and do not fall off. I placed the canvas inside the house and added certain other elements to give it a homely feel, like the eatables and the tea pots. I lit the house by adding candles to the place. And last, but not the least, I had already changed the sound of the video which was now different and in contrast to the sound inside the house unlike the day before. Everything fell in place the second day.

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The viewers could now clearly see what I wanted them to see. They could connect the inside and the outside. They could feel the coziness of the house an the happenings outside the house.

One of the visitors added a different meaning to my concept. As the structure of Jaaga was made up of waste materials and mild steel framing, the floor trembled while anyone walked on it. So, the viewer felt that the shaking of the  floor was the violence outside and one could feel the tremors inside which added to the fear.

While working in the memory lab for this project, I went through and experienced all the steps of execution of any idea very deeply. The project was interesting and stressful at the same time which made it more challenging. I dealt with a comparatively new material this time – thermocol, and now I very well know where to use it and how to use it. 

I was able to notice advancement within myself in terms of new ideas. Finally, the exhibition ended well because I was able to achieve what I wanted to