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Taking art out of galleries

Baishali Adak, Feb 5, 2013, DHNS: 22:24 IST
Mangesh Rajguru with his artwork.
Don’t be surprised if you spot a large public art installation at your nearby mall soon. An art promotion organization Floodlight Foundation has collected at least 12 most interesting public art pieces and is displaying them at venues like the Indira Gandhi International Airport, Central Secretariat Metro Station, Garden of Five Senses, DLF Promenade, India Habitat Centre, Dilli Haat etc..

These works, ranging from stationary pieces to video installations and even performance arts, have been lent by three foreign-based artists Jeremy Hutchison, Saad Qureshi and the Lake Twins, and nine Indian artists Nandan Ghiya, Shweta Bhattad, Sukanya Ghosh, Sandip Pisalkar, Sheeba Dhanjal, Mangesh Rajguru, S. Thiru, Vikrant Sharma and Israeli born Achia Anzi.

Launching Publica – The Public Art Festival, founder-director of Floodlight Foundation, Surbhi Modi explained, “When I was studying art history at Sotheby’s, London, I noticed that the city had so many public art installations. They were quirky, engaged the public and gave out relevant messages. On the other hand, in India, art is strictly relegated to museums, galleries and biennales for the study of an elite few only.”

“Any art exhibition, however, needs to be seen and appreciated by a larger society to be called a success. I therefore decided to hold a public art festival where the masses can engage with art in their comfort zones – streets, parks, shopping and cinema malls etc.. It is important to make art affordable and accessible to keep it alive.”

All the art pieces in Publica are socially relevant. For example, a scooter designed by artist Mangesh Rajguru has heads on both sides, two human hands supporting it from below and not one, but several exhaust pipes. It indicates that automobiles are polluting the environment and instead of them holding us, we are having to bear the cost.

Similarly, Sheeba Dhanjal has put together photographs of 36 car crash victims in India. It has an equal number of unknown faces as well as ‘celebrities’ underlining the fact that the consequences of careless or drunken driving are the same for everyone.

A stunning performance art installation which grabbed the maximum attention at the launch was that of Shweta Bhattad. Shweta lay still on the ground with a belt fitted around her waist. The belt had a device screening videos of rape scenes from old Hindi movies. It questioned, “Does this inspire you to rape?”

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