Indian art collective WALA wins FICA Public Art Grant 2011 with performance art


Early in February 2012, FICA (Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art) announced that New Delhi-based art collective WALA had been awarded their 2011 Public Art Grant. The group won with their performance-based project titled Kachra Seth’s Observatory.

Image courtesy: Kachra Seth, WALA, 2010.

Image courtesy: Kachra Seth, WALA, 2010.

From the FICA press release, sent out on Saturday 4 February 2012,

FICA is pleased to announce the recipient of the Public Art Grant 2011 – WALA for their project titled Kachra Seth’s Observatory.

‘Kachra Seth’s Observatory’ is a performance based project, exploring the city of Delhi, addressing its relationship with itself, its people, the present structures, what is meant by ‘wastes’, with fiction and realism interspersed in productive ways. The WALA is a Delhi-based collective formed in 2009 by Akansha Rastogi, Sujit Mallick and Paribartana Mohanty.

The Public Art Grant 2011 jury consisted of artists Monica Nirula and Atul Bhalla, and filmmaker Rahul Roy. The project was chosen for its provocative use of performance in the public domain in a manner which is both poetic and political. Seen as a series of performance-based interventions across Delhi it also had the potential to investigate the idea of ‘publics’ in an urban context, histories of locations, and engage with the city from various proximities.

Kachra Seth’s Observatory revolves around the fictional figure of Kachra Seth, and his observatory which is a real-fictive location. It expands upon the idea of an observatory which can range from a laboratory for performance to a site of data collection and its dissemination. WALA proposes five performance-situations during the one-year grant period. These five events will further explore the questions that were raised by Kachra Seth’s first performance (20 September 2010 at Seemapuri New Delhi), and evolve a dissipation and consummation process for the character. With each event/performance the simple act of walking through different sites of the city (Delhi) transforms, heightens and investigates the relationship between the fictional character and the city, simultaneously shaping the political subjectivity of the character (that appears and disappears in many avatars, himself becoming the site of performance of other’s desires/play). The project engages with different registers of public/audience – the invited ‘art-fraternity’, the incidental public, ready-made audience, wherein the performance translates into ‘tamasha’ or ‘a festival/celebration’ or ‘a non-event’.

WALA is a Delhi-based collective formed in 2009. Drawing from people who are known by their professions such as kabadiwala, ice-creamwala or paaniwala, the deliberately missing prefix of WALA allows inhabiting multiple forms of belonging, associations and affinities. WALA sees itself as producer of situations, encounters, devices, formats that allow dialogues to occur with or without artists’ presence. WALA has been engaged with performance art and community art projects. As part of the one-year CALENDAR PROJECT, WALA had made a calendar containing collages of personal photographs of twelve families residing in D-1 block of DLF Dilshad Garden Extension, New Delhi. Dedicating a month to each of the 12 families the twelve exclusive calendars were gifted to them with the intention of playing with past, present and future on one surface, and encourage a different learning of each other in a neighbourhood.

Akansha Rastogi is a researcher working on Indian modern and contemporary art. She is currently an Associate Curator at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art. She was the recipient of IFA-Khoj Curatorial Residency 2011.

Paribartana Mohanty is an artist, working in multiple mediums of video, performance, painting and sculpture. He was the recipient of FICA Emerging Artist Award 2010 and ‘City as Studio-1’ Sarai-CSDS Media Lab Associate Fellowship 2010.

Sujith Mallick is an artist, working between performance and painting. He is the recipient of ‘City as Studio-2’ at Sarai-CSDS Media Lab Associate Fellowship 2011-12 and Inlaks Fine Arts Award 2012.

FICA presents contemporary artists working in India with a number of annual awards, fellowships and grants, including the Emerging Artist Award, the Public Art Grant and the Research Fellowship.


Related Topics: Indian artists, art prizes, performance art

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