Shanchayan Ghosh explores the relationships between art, landscape, economics and cultural politics through architectural interventions at Experimenter.
Indian artist Sanchayan Ghosh’s exhibition “Reversed Perspectives: 3 Conjunctions” at Experimenter (13 December 2013 – 8 February 2014) in Kolkata intervenes with the architecture of the gallery, creating new visual perspectives that explore the relationships between art, architecture, landscape and local communities.
On 13 December 2013, Experimenter gallery in Kolkata launched its second solo exhibition of Sanchayan Ghosh’s work, titled “Reversed Perspective: 3 Conjunctions – An interdisciplinary, architectural intervention on landscape study.” The exhibition comprises performance, public workshops, site-specific works and multimedia installations.
Ghosh works with the architecture of the gallery, “distorting its visual-scape by reversing the perspective of viewing (pdf),” as described in the press release. The exhibition is an extension of his ongoing projects, many of which aim at understanding the development of the landscape of West Birbhum, West Bengal, through the region’s economic and cultural politics.
Blurring boundaries between private and public
Over the last ten years, Sanchayan Ghosh has been interested in sharing the experience of art, taking his practice beyond institutional walls. Talking to The Hindu, the artist explains:
There is a shift in practice and a shift in focus. It [art] is moving away from studios and becoming people-oriented and interactive. The process becomes an important element. It is evolved from research, and it evolves further into a relationship with people.
Ghosh goes on to say he believes that “somewhere artists have to come to that social situation where art does not remain elitist. The way we share art needs to be readdressed.”
In a video interview with the blog webindia123 the artist says: “My practice is not form specific, rather it is more interaction specific.” Ghosh explains that his practice and process stem from the situation, the place and the community; people and their lifestyle influence and inspire how he evolves his interaction and define what form the artwork will take.
The biggest challenge in his art-making, says Ghosh, is to overcome the obstacle of the self, to open up a space in which interaction with the surrounding landscape and community can take place. The artist’s ultimate aim is to create a space where the viewer is as much a participant as the maker, where space is rendered more public and differences are blurred.
Working through workshop-based models, with communities of marginalised land all over the country, Ghosh has based many of his projects on conversations and engagement with the local populations. His works often take the form of collective performance, visual maps, diagrams and observations, which are sometimes ephemeral and at other times recorded in multiple media, including aural, written and photographic, among others. The subjects of his projects have included some of the strife-ridden states in the North Eastern part of India, Jammu and Kashmir, and the Adivasi belts in Birbhum around Santiniketan.
Intervening with the architectural space
In his solo exhibition at Experimenter, Ghosh has built a multidisciplinary architectural intervention in the gallery space, in which he places his study of landscape. The artist calls on disparate disciplines, such as agriculture, economics, history, geography and sociology, to create what the gallery calls “a laboratory that tests soil extracted from different parts of Birbhum, geographically a fringe landscape and juxtaposes its political, social and economic history as semiotic metaphors.”
The architectural space of the gallery, cut into sections and pathways by a defining line drawing in red light, contains studies and screen casts of shadows of people from Birbhum. The shadow casts are made on silk-screen by exposing the silhouettes of local people using soil mixed with photosensitive material.
The predominant red colour of the lights seems to hint at the ranga maati (red soil) typical of the Birbhum landscape. The use of red can also be associated to the multilayered history of the land, with its legacy of religious, communal and cultural conflict.
In the gallery space also lies a modified laboratory table laden with different samples of local soil. The samples are being tested not only scientifically for their bio-chemical properties, but also sociologically by looking at them in their relationship with key moments in the land’s specific history and socio-economics.
More about the artist
Shanchayan Ghosh (b. 1970) is currently an Associate Professor at the Department of Painting at the Faculty of Visual Arts, Visva Bharati University in Kalabhavana, Santiniketan, from where he earned his own MVA in 1997 and has since been initiating public and community-led art projects. Ghosh’s works, which explore methods of participation in multiple public sites have recently appeared at the Kochi-Muziris Biennial (2012-13), Frieze Art Fair Sculpture Park (2010) and Lumiere Durham Festival of Light (2008).
Artists blending art, architecture and social space
Sanchayan Ghosh is only one of many artists who blur the boundaries between art and architecture, intervening with their surroundings and involving communities in the process. Another Indian artist, Gigi Scaria, also works with landscape, particularly the cityscapes of New Dehli and the intertwined architectural and social spaces within them. KHOJ International Artists Association in New Delhi encourages unconventional collaboration between art and various disciplines including architecture through annual workshops, residencies, talks and exhibitions.
Events such as the Shenzhen Biennale look at how rapid urban development is changing the face of cities and their populations, providing a platform for the exploration of new possibilities for a more cohesive social and urban environment. The new West Bund Biennial of Architecture and Contemporary Art in Shanghai creates a synergy between experimental architecture, contemporary art and avant-garde theatre, integrating sound, video, space, installation and performance.
C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia
- A constellation of stories: India’s Amar Kanwar exhibits in Yorkshire – November 2013 – New Dehli-based artist and filmmaker Amar Kanwar portrays the injustice and hardship faced by local communities in Odisha, India
- Water that sustains and destroys: Rina Banerjee’s installation at Freer Sackler – podcast – November 2013 – Indian-American artist Rina Barnerjee explains her practice’s connection with the environment and diaspora, in a podcast by the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries
- Keeping it clean: Indian artist Krishnaraj Chonat on changing histories – video interview – September 2013 – Krishnaraj Chonat talks to Kathryn Myers about his obsession with India’s changing landscape and the effects of rapid urbanisation
- Re-imagining the future with Filipino artist Mark Salvatus – interview – June 2013 – Filipino artist Mark Salvatus, known for his site-specific interventions and ingenious use of materials, talks to Art Radar about his practice
- Art and social change: How environmental art is transforming a Taiwanese village – May 2013 – Huge site-specific sculptures sit among birds, reeds and muddy water in the Taiwan’s 2013 Cheng-Long Wetlands International Environmental Art Project
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