'Every individual carries a bit of Mahatma in him'

An alumnus of National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, Vibhor Sogani is the man behind ‘Sprouts’, the 40 feet high stainless steel installation spread over six acres of greens surrounding the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) flyover. Known for his works in the areas of art and light-based installations, the artist is now all geared up to exhibit his work ‘Mahatma in Me’ as part of Confluence Festival of India in Australia.


Presented by Borderless Gandhi Projects (Australia), the exhibition will be on display for a month beginning October 2 at Elizabeth Quay, Perth. Ahead of this, he tells Shweta Sharma about the idea behind the work, the concept of public art, and the relevance of Mahatma
Gandhi’s teachings today.

Excerpts:

What led to the conceptualisation of ‘Mahatma in Me’?
Last year was the 100th year of Mahatma Gandhi’s return to India from South Africa, and was being celebrated at the Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas, a government of India initiative. I was invited by the government to create a series of installations which were to be displayed at the Mahatma Mandir in Gujarat. This is what led to the initiation of this series.I am basically an abstract artist and haven’t done much work of this kind, but this was a very interesting and challenging project because this was about Mahatma Gandhi, a subject close to my heart.

Can you elaborate on the works? What message are you giving out through them?
When I started my research and read about Mahatma Gandhi, one quote by him triggered the thought for the series – ‘Be the change that you wish to see in the world’. We all want to see big changes in the world.
Every great journey, though, has to begin with a single step. That step, we believe, needs to come from within us – the Gandhi in us. Every individual carries a bit of Mahatma in him, waiting to be discovered. ‘Mahatma in Me’ is my humble attempt towards that realisation.

Why did you decide to work with stainless steel for this work?
Mirror finish stainless is a very interactive and reflective material. The idea here was for the audience to see their own reflection in the image of Mahatma, pause and possibly introspect – a moment of self-realisation and the responsibility we all carry to bring about the change.

Mahatma Gandhi has been a muse for many artists. So was it challenging to present him in a different way?
It was never a challenge as far as other works and artists were concerned. But yes, it was a challenge as far as my medium is concerned, and took me a while to absorb the intricacies and the translation thereof.

How relevant are Gandhi's teachings today?
In my opinion, more relevant than before. His message of peace, harmony, non-violence, and cleanliness – all happen to be serious concerns world over.

Your works will be exhibited at a public space in Australia, whereas in India, public art is often disregarded. What do you have to say about the public art scene in India?
Public art is a common site in Australia. Borderless Gandhi Projects, Australia, took the initiate to have this exhibition in a prominent public space in collaboration with Confluence Festival of India. The Indian public would be more than happy and are ready to see much more of public art. Our public art scenario is rather wanting in a big way. Why we have not seen more of them is a question we all need to ask and address.

What do you have to say about this festival?
Teamworks Arts, led by Sanjoy Roy, are seasoned professionals when it comes to doing Indian festivals internationally. It was a pleasure to be associated with them. The kind, and quality, of events from various streams of art, music, drama, dance, folk art that have been put together for the festival has been extremely well choreographed and thought through. Also, the support that we received from ICCR, ministry of culture and Indian High Commissioner in Australia is commendable.

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