India’s first video art festival aims to bring experimental moving images to the country’s contemporary art scene.
The Translucent Video Art Festival, which focuses on experimental video and cinema, is the first event of its kind in India. Organised and conceptualised by artist and curator Kanchi Mehta of Chameleon Art Projects, the festival will be held in the Sunaparanta Goa Centre for Arts from 15 December 2013 to 15 February 2014, and will screen nearly 50 films by 29 artists.
The advent of video art
Korean-American artist Nam June Paik, widely considered to be a pioneer of video art, popularised the medium throughout the 1960s. The rise of the art form was complemented by technological inventions such as Sony’s Portapak camera, which could record video and audio. Many video artists, including Vito Acconci and John Baldessari, were involved with concurrent conceptual art movements in film, photography and performance.
Video art in India
Video art came to India nearly three decades later, in the 1990s. Artists and practitioners such as Nalini Malani, Ranbir Kaleka, Tyeb Mehta, Ayisha Abraham, Ashish Avikunthak and Sonia Khurana, as well as a number of emerging artists, continue to experiment with the medium in diverse ways.
In India, several galleries and spaces dedicated solely to the moving image and video art have emerged in recent years. Gallery Espace (New Delhi), Khoj International Artists Association (New Delhi), Apeejay Media Gallery (New Delhi), Devi Art Foundation (Gurgaon) and What About Art? (Mumbai) are all either dedicated solely to this medium or hold a collection of video art in their archives.
How is video art defined?
In an interview with India’s Tehelka magazine, Pakistani video artist Bani Abidi said that strictly defining or delimiting video art is a difficult, perhaps ill-advised endeavour.
The conventional idea of a plot, with a beginning, middle and end is only one way of storytelling. So if one wants to engage fully with the history and potential of the moving image, whether it is a feature film, a documentary, experimental cinema or an art work, the attachment to plot needs to loosen.
While India has a thriving cinema and entertainment industry, video art is still considered niche. Translucent curator Kanchi Mehta explained to ARTINFO that video art is not given the importance it deserves at Indian art schools, and “many young artists are misled by this medium and its vast ability to create.” According to the Translucent Festival’s press release,
An important distinction between video art and theatrical cinema is that video art does not depend on most conventional norms and boundaries that define theatrical cinema. Video art may not employ the use of actors, may contain no dialogue, and may have no discernible narrative or plot. The intentions of video and experimental filmmaking explore the boundaries of the medium itself as well as those of artistic expression.
Artists participating in the Translucent Video Art Festival include:
- Ashish Avikunthak
- Pushpamala N.
- Tejal Shah
- Aaditi Joshi
- Kiran Subbaiah
- Shilpa Gupta
- Tyeb Mehta
- Desire Machine
- Nikhil Chopra and Munir Kabani
Indian video artists and trends
Experimental filmmaker Ashish Avikunthak, who has been making films since the mid-1990s, has exhibited his work at international venues such as the Tate Modern in London, Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, and film festivals in Rotterdam and Berlin. Talking to newspaper Indian Express, Avikunthak described his genre of filmmaking as the “cinema of religiosity”, a style exemplified by his films Etcetera, Kalighat Fetish and Vakratunda Swaha, all of which explore the nuances of religious rituals. Avikunthak’s work is typically driven not by narrative but imagery and symbolism, a technique which he describes as “thinking through ideas cinematically.”
Indian video artists have carved their own space with their distinct vision and methodologies. Jehangir Jani’s Make Ups is a nine-minute silent film glancing into the lives of three people in Mumbai (one of whom is the famous Indian actress Parveen Babi, portrayed by Zeenat Aman) as they struggle with the mundanity of their lives and look towards a utopian existence.
Watch Jehangir Jani’s Make Ups on YouTube.com here
Aaditi Joshi’s films explore the quotidian yet contradictory nature of plastic, celebrated for its convenience and disliked for its negative effects on the environment and health.
Sahej Rahal’s work is influenced by science fiction and uses elements of performance art as well as storytelling.
Watch Niyati Upadhya’s Notes on Remembering Elsewhere on Vimeo here
Niyati Upadhya’s Notes on Remembering Elsewhere explores urban street culture at Delhi’s Shadipur Depot, which is home to an assortment of street artists and performers.
- 5 films every arts practitioner should watch – Ellen Pau, Director of Videotage, Hong Kong – August 2013 – Ellen Pau recommends some works of video art across time and place
- Video art: newfangled or here to stay? 6 must-read Art Radar posts – June 2012 – Art Radar gives a round-up from its archive of articles on video art
- Artists turn to video art: Will collectors follow suit? The Art Newspaper examines – April 2011 – the newspaper explores collectors’ responses to video art and whether it is a worthy investment
- Shahzia Sikander questions authority with new video art medium at Para/Site in Hong Kong – September 2009 – the artist discusses her first solo show in China
- Bani Abidi on Indian video art, a medium on the rise – interview Tehelka Magazine – August 2009 – Abidi speaks about the rise of video art and its practitioners
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