CONTEMPORARY ART INDIA RESIDENCY
As an artist residency and exhibition programme, “Sowing Seeds” is unique, an event that promotes mutually beneficial skill and cultural exchanges between international contemporary artists and those living in rural areas of India’s largest state, Rajasthan.
Inaugurated in 2009 and held again in December 2010, “Sowing Seeds” is an International Artist Village Residency programme that places a group of artists from around the world in a different rural community in India every year. Art Radar talks to “Sowing Seeds” chief organiser, Vagaram Choudhary, for a second time to explore the workshop’s latest rendition.
Andore Village in rural Rajasthan, India, was the home of the 2010 iteration of “Sowing Seeds“. A variety of craftsmen, including potters, carpenters and goldsmiths, live in the village, a place with 200 to 250 households, so it was seen by organisers as the perfect location for the Kamanart Foundation’s art residency programme. Artists from Japan, Iran, the USA, France, Germany as well as Indian artists were involved, all of whom were used to working within the realms of contemporary art but had little prior experience of rural life.
As Choudhary explains, “Sowing Seeds” invites contemporary artists to create art beyond the confines of their studios while allowing them to have a hand in raising awareness of issues that relate to social development in the region. In turn, rural artists have the opportunity to learn from visiting artists.
Village artists have learnt new techniques to reduce labour and enhance their work through “Sowing Seeds”. They have started to gain recognition in art and craft fairs.
Rural art has to undergo a metamorphosis to become contemporary art. Thoughts, positive energy and attitude can bring about changes. This will also lead to a process of social development in the villages.
– Vagaram Choudhary
Held in 2009, the first workshop, says Choudhary, provided a great learning platform for the organisation. Artists attempted to include the rural population in the making of their artworks. Organisers invited folk dancers to this workshop simply to attract attention and create a buzz around the event and this was so successful that the practice was expanded in 2010; local performers were given a larger part in the event. This inclusion of performance art and dance made it easier for the visiting and local artists to interact with each other as the medium is both practiced and understood in Rajasthan.
Work by Indian sculptor Bhupat Dudi explored the status of women and girls in rural communities. His project, which was designed to challenge stigmas surrounding the value of a female child, projected a slideshow of images of educated and empowered famous women. As part of this site specific installation, the artist posted portraits of women and girls living in Andore on the walls of a village home in an effort to create parallels between the images and those projected during his slideshow.
Artists were required to work on collaborative projects as well as their own site-specific pieces. Artist Sweety Joshi embraced this opportunity to combine aspects of contemporary art with rural tradition and traditional materials. Her independent work sought to combine beauty with the environment near the village by twisting brightly coloured thread around acacia thorns, and her collaborative pieces combined cow-dung cakes, often used in the village for wall decoration, with mirrors.
Linh Phuong, an artist from Vietnam, was also part of the 2010 edition of “Sowing Seeds”. Her work embraced the theme of the programme, ‘rural + contemporary’, as well as the environmental and ecological issues related to rural living that organisers have chosen to focus on in 2011. Creating a variety of work, the first piece involved making a small lake of milk near the village, an idea that came about after the artist learnt how women in Rajasthan need to walk long distances to access water.
The villagers quickly became an integral part of the work Phuong created. Her documentary and photography project involved her asking community members to show her the objects they used in their daily lives. She took portrait photographs of each person and of the objects they gave her, then asked her subjects to narrate the stories that related to their chosen object.
The 2010 residency period ended with an exhibition that was held first in the village itself and then travelled to Jodhpur, where the works were shown for seven days at the Khaas Bagh Jodhpur Art Gallery. “Sowing Seeds” would, says Choudhary, like to show in more galleries but with so many site-specific pieces they are struggling to find exhibition locations willing to put together a show that relies heavily on documentation, in the form of videos and photographs, rather than original artworks.
The “Sowing Seeds” workshops, part of a five-year programme designed to promote rural art and allow rural artists access to contemporary art methods, will continue under the same theme of ‘rural + contemporary’ but will travel to different villages in Rajasthan, India, each year.
The 2011 edition, to be held 20 December 2011 to 2 January 2012, will rely on the same basic components as earlier workshops and will place artists in Barmer – a district in the state of Rajasthan, India. The village they will be residing in is known for its local crafts and embroidery. The themes for “Sowing Seeds” 2011 will be child education and ecology and the project will specifically seek to raise awareness of issues related to these themes in the Barmar community.
Application details for the 2011 “Sowing Seeds” artist residency workshop will be available on the Kamanart Foundation website from 20 August 2011.
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