Friday, December 5, 2008

Artist responses to 1Shanthi Road

Illustration by Malavika P.C

a work by Lodypop

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Subtlety from the ordinary - review by Martha Jakimowicz for Deccan Herald

It is primarily from the tactile matter of mundane materials and things that art has to construct evocations of intangible sensations, recognitions and reflections. As a result of art-making, the concrete and singular transforms into the abstracted and generalised "defying gravity", Sofie Haesaerts's exhibition at 1 Shanthi Road Studio/Gallery (November 7 to 14), indeed, was a visual metaphor and lyrical suggestion of this phenomenon along with its processes.

The Belgian artist, who spent a month of residency at the studio, conjured a sculptural environment using ordinary, locally sourced objects of utility as her basis, mostly furniture or its parts, which at the same time retained some of their original character while turning into images-indications-expressions of Haesaesrts's comment.

On entering the space, one faced a photograph of an Indian woman's eyes by the side of three wooden reapers that, leg-like, rose from the ground to rest on the wall. Initially one may have found it difficult to understand without explanation that Haesaerts was contrasting and linking the horizontal foundation of habituated perception to the verticality of art that sublimates and uplifts it. Nevertheless, the art works together added to a varied accent on movement upwards from the ground or suspension above as well as transposition.
Whole and fragmented pieces of tables and such were often brightly painted and placed in ways contrary to their functions, multiplied and fragmented, so becoming something else.

The apparently simple, playfully aesthetic effect acquired certain rudimentary seriousness, as the employment of traditional Channapatna lacquering craft provided a bridge between the industrial and the artistic.

A table placed upside down with large, rectangular volumes of different heights, slender, tall towers piled from little, smooth elements and a miniature arrangement of jutting out pencils created abstract, carefully studied compositions. A chain of red, bangle-like rings in mid air and a vertical sequence of bindis, too, suggested rising and hovering in an abstract manner.

On the other hand, identifiable objects, like clothes stands, were handled so as to hint at a nearly organic, arching transformation of the vertical and horizontal.

The concreteness of this state in the happening was again made general or essential in the piece shaped of glistening steel tubes which, avoiding reference to a utilitarian role, demonstrated a dynamic mediation diagonally between the horizontal and the vertical.

The impact of unassuming lightness that combined minimalist-wise formulated, basic, rough qualities with formal elegance was a desired trait here, sometimes bringing poetic evocations of thought about art processes but sometimes perhaps remaining a little literal.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Deceptive glamour - Review by Martha Jakimowicz for Deccan Herald 22 September, 2008

Deceptive glamour

Akshay Rajpurkar, a young artists from Mumbai, after his residency at the Bangalore Artists Centre, displayed the work done there at 1, Shanthi Road Studio/Gallery (September 15 to 17). Titled Visually Arresting/Harassing, it was an installation around a number of largish canvases. The paintings base on and enhance the form and content of street advertising imagery. The seductiveness of commercial messages has been absorbed with all its brightness, the smooth allure of domestic objects on sale and a host of delighted young people — boys at a games console, a swimmer and pretty girls or a couple with ice-cream. The artist over-stresses the aggressive, electronically generated glamour and the tight crowding of pictures and spaces, while the broad smiles turn artificial. The whole then becomes quite tense and oppressive.

If one could sympathise with Rajpurkar’s stand and his ability to evoke a merger of real grace and aspirations with dreamy fantasy, the fact that he relies a lot on familiar ways with pixellated forms made the idiom fairly predictable within the painter's consummate hold on his technique.

An effective element of the exhibition was the ironic background in the form of an installation on the floor using stencilled commercial slogans whose promise of instant bliss was undermined by their evident, self-inherent hypocrisy.

The two short videos translated a similar material from urban street-life, posters, billboards and TV advertising onto a jerkily dynamic blur of dizzy visual simultaneity that denied the existence of a boundary in how we perceive reality and its glamourised images.

Technology as live vibrance - Martha Jakimowicz for Deccan Herald 5 May, 2008


Marta Jakimowicz

The multi-media event by Kevin Kelly (1 Shanthi Road Studio/Gallery, April 26 to 29) let one can hope again that exotic India is becoming obsolete.This mid-generation artist and assistant professor of art from Canada responded whole-heartedly to the reality of the country dominated by communication technology.

Technology as live vibrance

The multi-media event by Kevin Kelly (1 Shanthi Road Studio/Gallery, April 26 to 29) let one can hope again that exotic India is becoming obsolete.This mid-generation artist and assistant professor of art from Canada responded whole-heartedly to the reality of the country dominated by communication technology. His ‘Airsell’ exhibition took off from the omnipresence of mobile telephonic towers in and around the city. At first glance, the works seemed to act more in terms of a humorous as well as warm gesture of understanding and empathy rather than offer a profound experience. Still, they left a quite holistic and pervasive after-effect underscored by perceptive links with the wider ethos of the place on the grass-roots plane.

The most entertaining and spectacular component here was the racy, amusing video in which hosts of metallic tower grids with their antennas, receivers and such jutted out and jerkily shuttled between the ground and space to the accompaniment of raunchy film music. Somewhere on the edge of the camera real and animation, from the literal and the loud it drew a rough fantasy and poetry, while traces of popular cinema and TV commercials, like in life, coexisted with a sense of vibrant vitality. A connection with human bodies and sensations came through also from the partial graphic blur and rhythm of the computer-manipulated silhouettes.

The works that spoke about softly observing new technology against the changing modest-level traditional existence were the pieces done in collaboration with crafts people _ the black cloth hanging with motifs of towers boldly block-printed on them and the purple silk one embroidered in a more feminine manner with such designs threaded of small, shiny beads.

The most convincing aesthetically were the large, coarse-tender sketches of transmission machinery elements. As though tentative, they played on unfinished charcoal lines, sometimes replaced by shaped made from transparent cello-tape or torn strips of white paper. Through the residues of the realistic and of the nervous hand, there emerged a raw liveliness with an intuition of a forceful but chaotic, perhaps shabbily handled technology as being permeated by the humble yet spirited human condition.

Perilous urban glamour - Martha Jakimowicz, Deccan Herald dtd 28 July, 2008

The collaboration by two artists at Khoj@1Shanthiroad focussed on the glamour and dangers of our globalising, commercially driven urban landscape. The two works done by Sarath Kumarasiri of Sri Lanka and Bangalore's Shamala Nandesh (July 20 to 24) quite successfully connected and complemented each other using large-scale, plastic forms and referring to popular city visuals as well as to the disrupted, separate layers of its condition. Sarath Kumarasiri's ‘Stratification’ had a three-piece, architectural but also ‘archeological’ human head consisting of an ancient soil-face, a core structured like a high-rise of glass and a back soldered of digital hardware.

Each part standing at a distance from the others, the whole emphasised the incongruous simultaneity of the realities we live in. The sculpture was effective in its message, both grave and warm, if perhaps somewhat literal. The element of street culture dormant in it came to the fore and dazzled in Shamala Nendesh's ‘Celestial Clock’. An enormous fish with an open mouth covered in shiny paper and blinking festive lights, it was suspended from the ceiling, its equally illuminated tail to be found only in the room behind.

The blueness of the creature in the air let one think both of terrestrial water and rain. If the work did create the kind of enchantment associated with extravagant public celebrations, the ominous voracity intended in the metaphor was not exactly self-expressive. In fact, to understand it one had to learn that the inspiration had come from a poem by Nareyanappa and its character — the fish that had drank all the life-sustaining water. Even though not as weighty as they may have been, the sculptures were serious and spectacular enough, while doing justice to the project that was conceived as a joint venture.

Two Lyricism - review by Martha Jakimowicz for Deccan Herald dtd 11 August, 2008


Marta Jakimowicz

Two lyricisms

The exhibition called ‘Open’ at Khoj@1Shanthiroad (August 1 to 3) presented the work done by its two latest residents. Although differing in their approaches, themes and mediums, both artists touched on things personal and poetic. The temporary environment-installation by Nanaiah Chettira had three gallery walls studded with little stars painted in a simple, bright red whose loose rhythm converged towards the centre. The clear design-like motifs developed a slightly organic character, while the whole imbued its domesticity with vastness. The conceptual premise became intimate and emotive, as the artist alluded to the absence of and longing for someone dear. His handling of the obviousness contained in the comic strip reference combined with sparing words of poetry gained then a subdued lyricism and a sense of purity. A somewhat similar sensation arose from the photographs by Sohail Abdullah of Pakistan who has shot disembodied shirts, chairs and dried lotus flowers. Mediating muted darkness and hints at hue, the prints relied on modulated light for the effect of blurred translucence and permeating, shadowy glow in their suggestion of human presence and feelings. Technically consummate and very subtle when restrained, they however remained surface-bound elsewhere.

A meeting of minds under the badaam tree -Published by Deccan Herald - 28 Sep, 2008

A meeting of minds under the badaam tree

Suresh Jayaram talks to Yamini Vijayan about a space for art, and his concerns on Bangalore.

The doors to Suresh Jayaram’s house are almost never shut. After having converted the terrace he had inherited from his parents into an innovatively designed space for art, Suresh decided to use it for purposes beyond his own. That’s how #1, Shanti Road became an interactive space that encouraged conversations between people, providing an accessible platform for people to break out of their rigid identities, shed their inhibitions and experiment freely with art, without the fear of being judged. Bang in the middle of the city stood this house, wrapped around a 50-year-old Badaam tree, where horns blared and there was hardly a moment of silence. But somehow, people managed to find peace here and so did I.

Having taught art history at Chitra Kala Parishat for 12 years and eventually resigning as principal, Suresh decided to quit teaching to find time to do what he really wanted to do. The result was #1, Shanti Road, where he collaborated with Khoj, an international organisation for artists’ interaction. Suresh’s idea of developing a cultural artistic space such as this was mainly for artists to have an interactive space and also for people to come and experience art, hoping to free art from being seen as something ‘museumised’. But his connection with teaching hasn’t quite snapped, he tells me. “Some of my students are doing some very interesting work and that’s definitely a matter of pride for me,” he says, breaking into a sincere smile.

Having seen Suresh participate actively in initiatives and projects around the city, I asked him if he believes that art can change society. “If art could have changed society, then society would changed with Picasso’s Guernica,” he replied. An artist in the contemporary world must ideally be someone who can communicate on different levels and dimensions, he tells me, citing K G Subramaniam as an example. Although Suresh wasn’t his direct student, his admiration for this artist who made toys for children, wrote books for adults, painted murals and did much more, is clearly evident.

‘Nature in an urban context’ is a recurring theme in many of Suresh’s art-forms and also happens to be a subject that he speaks of, with genuine concern. Referring to himself as a complete Bangalore boy, he shares with me his experiences of taking organised heritage walks in Bangalore along with 75 other people, through the old and new parts of the city, observing how the sacred and the secular go together, how the traditional and modern have learnt to co-exist.

“Bangalore is the quintessential urban city. But it is important for us to realise that all this development didn’t happen in a day and we certainly shouldn’t be erasing the history of Bangalore for its future generations. I mean, what are they going to look at, glass facades? Bangalore is like a child that has quickly become an adult, skipping the entire teenage phase. If you want to transform Bangalore into a Singapore, then may god help you,” says this artist, who hopes for heritage restrictions to be imposed on the city. We must ensure that some of the beautiful buildings in this city are preserved,” he adds, leaving me wondering what ‘beautiful’ meant anymore.
Attributing his major strength to his association with the local artists’ community, he lends his studio space to local artists for shows, free of cost, and also helps them in promoting their art by getting them in touch with galleries and curators.

“I’m hoping that the government would use the metro stations also to foster local art and cultural activity, creating a kind of public interactive space where you could buy craft, have street plays and so on,” Suresh says, “although there would be no streets,” he adds, as an after-thought.

Discussing the recent curbs on dancing and singing in restaurants, he tells me that if this kind of cultural dadagiri persists, his hopes of local arts and crafts being promoted by the government are highly unlikely. “I mean, with this city turning into some sort of a Cinderella Raj, I only hope that the spirit of this city doesn’t burn out,” he echoes. While he dreams of a city that continues to live up to its undying spirit, he does not allow it to dampen the mood at #1, Shanti Road.

Artists continue to create, experiment, perform and interact there, often cooking food together, screening films of independent documentary film makers, playing live music and giving more reasons for artists to stick together, for the love of art.

A Space to Alter Alternative Practice

Bangalore’s 1Shanti Road has become a famous adda for artists, art lovers and connoisseurs who would like to see and practice art radically different from what one sees generally in the galleries. Abhiram Poduval sheds lights on the activities of this magnetic art junction.

‘Do not touch the art works’, a sign board on the gallery door says. Sofie Haesaerts, a sculptor from Belgium who has been working as a resident artist here is giving her final touch to her exhibition ‘Defying Gravity’. Her vertical sculptures of fabricated materials and found objects are geared up to attract the visitors. Sadanand Menon, a distinguished cultural critic, writer, journalist and curator is on his way to this place to show a film and talk on the esteemed dancer Chandralekha. The house is getting all set for the party after the opening. Visitors are driving in to get the glance of the exhibition and the film. I am eager for further actions and dialogue. It all happens in a fine dusk of November at 1shanthiroad studio/gallery, an informal /alternative space for the visual arts, creative collaborations, and new-media experimentation which is administered by an organization named Visual Art Collective.

What is an informal space? I am sure it isn’t an obscure space where anybody enters and swiftly changes him or herself into some casual cloths or behaviors. It is neither a space where you go with a grounding to pretend as relaxed as possible. What does it take for a place to be named as informal? 1shanthiroad is a paradigm for this. It is run by Suresh Jayaram, and a host of other young artists and curators working in the visual fields. Suresh has studied and headed an art institution-Chitra Kala Parishad, Bangalore (CKP).

“1SHANTHIROAD resulted from the frustration of the current model of how much of art and culture is presented by galleries, institutions, and other organizations in the city,” says Suresh Jayaram. For the first time, I came across an architecture which completely deconstructs the concept of private and public spaces. A senior student from CKP once sat here and made a call to her friend to meet her in some cafĂ©. But the friend said she would come to 1shanthiroad only so that she can smoke a cigarette here. Union Health Minister’s act of ban on smoking in public spaces provoked smokers to ponder differently about the notion of private and public spaces. So the girl from CKP conceptualized 1shanthiroad as a private space. Ask Suresh Jayaram, he might say it is not his private property anymore. Anyway, this is how ‘hypothetically’ 1shanthiroad wrestles between the notion of private and public spaces. This may mislead the argument about informal space. But it very much supplies to the debate by providing the reader with a small introduction to 1shanthiroad.

The informality of this space begins from Suresh himself. “It would have been difficult for me to carry along such a space if I had a nagging wife and screaming children in my house,” says Suresh. He had built this space on an existing terrace of his mother’s house and keeps talking about the struggling period when he had to convince his family about his intention of building such a space. It turned out to be like this, where there is every time something or the other keep happening at this place. Everything becomes discursive here. For young students and art practitioners, this space becomes an abode which critiques and analyzes their practices in terms of fundamental and conceptual levels. Accessibility becomes the prime element of this space thanks to this. In Indian contemporary art practice such discursive palettes have to develop parallel to art schools because almost all art schools still fumble around the authoritarian politics and personnel discrepancy of teachers.’1shanthiroad’ has been actively supporting alternative programs and art residencies collaboratively with Khoj International Artists Association and many other international art agencies. It has successfully contributed to make the visual art scene in Bangalore what it is today. But the current crisis is the need to sustain this space, provide basic infrastructure and salaries to working staff etc.

1shanthiroad is located in the almost at the centre of the city, near the historic Lalbagh garden off Double road. The yellow name board for Shanthi Road is almost attached to the gates of house No.1. The spiral stair leads to the space where the Bangalore art finds its repose. This is not a white cube but is almost a maze. The street has a very close attachment with the building since it stands touched to the road. When you are walking down on Shanthi Road, be alert, you might just step inside ‘1shanthiroad’. This space is a discovery of open and built spaces.

The renowned architect Meeta Jain, who had apparently won wide acclaims for this construction, constructed this multidimensional scheme of architectural formation. The building is a maze which moves through interconnected courtyards leading to different quarters of the house and you end up reaching where you actually started. Luminous use of natural light, the presence of a Badam tree which is the prominent element in the whole architecture and the found doors and windows from demolished old buildings; all these are major elements of innovative architectural construction. It interlaces various ingredients without a monitor and manipulates its utility into varied prospects in order to make the space more than just ‘a space’. It doesn’t have to alter its utility every now and then according to our interventions. It remains as it is. We change when we happen to be there. Simultaneity is the prime factor with which diverse activities can happen in different niches and planes. It provides a sense of discovery when you voyage through the alternating closed and open spaces. It has got its conscious reference of multiple spaces from the Mughal miniature paintings.

The mission of 1 shanthiroad is to engage people to collaborate and work in the space, and to develop and various other gatherings to build momentum as a group of people. It is already a well known space among artists who think of alternative ways of practicing with their body of works and also among those who do not think like that. The concept of an adda or sarai works here as many artists, writers, performers and many others make it a point to visit 1shanthiroad when they are in Bangalore. Dasharat Patel, B V Doshi, Sadanand Menon, Abhay Sardesai are some of those names who had visited this space the previous months. Others who have passed by are Vivan Sundaram, JohnyML and local prominent artists like N S Harsha, M. S. Umesh, Babu Eshwar Prasad, Surekha, Sheela Gowda,Pushpamala Shanthamani, Shyamala, Nandesh etc. Local artists and connoisseurs, friends and pals of Suresh, the neighbors to see the architecture; all find some instance to twitter in. They just wish to pop in so that they can get a glimpse of what is happening here as there is something or the other keeps happening here, not because they heard from somebody that there is always a ‘meals ready’ board hanging in the kitchen.

Eric Winer’s well known book named ‘Geography of Bliss’ talks about 1shanthiroad, “Shanti, it turns out, is a Sanskrit word that means ‘inner peace’. Maybe One Shanti isn’t the anti-ashram after all. Maybe it’s just another kind of ashram.” When art and artists face thier decisive existential crisis in terms of market, 1shanthiroad still says “MEALS READY”. Within lot of logistic and financial constraints, 1shanthi road attempt to promote dialogues within alternative art practices. This becomes an informal space where we can experiment and most importantly there is a liberty to be failed which the ‘formal spaces for art’ doesn’t promote. When everybody want the totality and its profit, 1shanthiroad promotes the process of art making and the aspect of participation rather than contemplation.

Originally published for

All About Copyright Cloning

Dan and Domnique, Sydney based sisters and artists-duo recently presented their remix film ‘Pixel Pirate II- The Attach of the Astro Elvis Video Clone’ at 1Shanti Road, Bangalore. Abhiram Poduval writes about the strategies that this artists sisters use in their work to debate the issue of copyright and cloning.

Our cinema experiences are practically very much related to not only our persistence of vision, but also persistence of mind. When we watch a film we cart with us the history behind it. The viewing experience of cinema becomes inclusive only when we are able to trace the past which made way for such a creation. The process of identifying certain characters, music, sound, dialogues everything depends upon our knowledge related to these which are occupied in our world of perception throughout our own history of perceiving. Cinema is time traveling machines which breaks all the notions of time and space and create a world of illusions and merchandise the dreams.

Soda_Jerk seems to be taking this concept a little further by complicating the idea of time in our viewing experience. The ground-breaking idea of piracy and the dominating ‘copy right commandants’ run into in war zone in a remix film titled ‘PIXEL PIRATE II The Attack of the Astro Elvis Video Clone’ done by SODA_JERK and SAM SMITH. The remix contains no original audio or video footage. Think of it as a sci-fi / biblical epic/ action movie with a subplot of troubled romance. It stars Elvis Presley, Moses, The Hulk, Monkey, Batman & Robin, Michael Jackson and The Ghostbusters. It is an hour long narrative remix video constructed from samples pirated from over 300 film and music sources.

“Our video remix practice is a technique of time travel that involves the creation of new video works by recombining samples from existing films, TV shows, music tracks and video games”, says Dan and Domenique the two Sydney based sisters working collaboratively as artists in the areas of video, photo-collages and installations. They work exclusively with found materials, recombining fragments of film footages, audio samples and image to create a new visual culture which deals with the intricate issues of copy rights. They think of video as a technology of traveling through the time which carries accounts of imageries which had individual existences in their own time and bring them all in a single frame in order to recreate a new time which has several other timely existences. “More than any other medium, video conveys the sense of a fragment of time teleported into the now”. The synopsis of their ‘PIXEL PIRATE II The Attack of the Astro Elvis Video Clone’ goes like this;

‘The year is 3001 and the ancient art of remix is being oppressed by the evil tyrant Moses and his Copyright Commandments. Meanwhile, in a secret base-camp on the moon a team of Pixel Pirates plot to overthrow Moses by their latest scientific discovery: video cloning. Their plan: travel back to 1955, abduct Elvis and bring him back to the future. They then clone Elvis and send the video clone back to 2015 to assassinate Moses, altering the course of VHS history. But first the Elvis Clone must face-off against the Copyright Cops and every action hero that MGM can throw his way’.

It gives you all the fun of a popular Hollywood flick where there is an evil who dreams of spreading the power and pedals the world and a protector who saves the subjects form the evil. Here the evils are copy right commandants lead by Moses and the Xavier is cloned version of Elvis Persly who eventually after his death resurrect again into the world and asks his followers to fight the copy right giants. The thematic come form the biblical, and the characters form popular flicks. Soda_jerk, throughout their practices in video art addresses many aspects including the copy right law, the revolutionary VHS tapes, the history of hip hop music in the America, the African music and so on. Sode_jerk has been extensively exhibited in Australia and abroad including the 16th video Brazil Festival, The Hart Centre for Art Beijing, and The Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney. They also work together as curators and art writers.

Soda_ jerk are currently working as resident artists at 1shanthiroad and initiating their next project around Indian Cinema which they find incredible as far as the thematic and the imageries are concerned.

Originally published for