Visual Dialogues in the Orient - A Report on Recent International Artist Residency at SSVAD Santiniketan
by Soujit Das
Santiniketan. Mutual Sympathy in the Orient - the exhibition witnessed 8 contemporary Japanese artists restructuring the futuristic model of the Orient which Tagore and Okakura envisaged a century ago. The three week long residency opened up on 12th November at SSVAD(Santiniketan Society of Visual Art and Design) where they came up with several installations mainly site specific in nature. The residency jointly organized by Japan foundation and SSVAD engaged the artists with the local Santhal community in a small village called Shiyala. The encounter of two diametrically opposite cultures produced interesting visual dialogues. The artists had personal exotic visions of India which merged with the real during their process of work. Sohei Iwata, one of the main organizers cum artist of the project, was working with the villagers for quite a long time. He has been providing ecological solutions to the basic problems of the villagers such as modification of traditional huts in order to equip them for modern comfort, purification of water through biotechnological processes etc. During the recent residency he attempted to build a self supplied water tower for the local community. Local residents such as the Kisku, Tudu & Hansda families were working hand in hand with the invited artists, greeting them with an overwhelming hospitality. Ayumi Matsuzaka on the other hand started living with local Kisku family exploring their habits of sanitation and waste management in daily life. She was experimenting with the procedure of making the local manure/fertilizer more effective by using charcoal ash and microbic fermentation process. She made some makeshift eco-friendly toilets where the solid waste gets transformed into organic fertilizers over the period of three months through varied stages. It solves the problem of basic sanitation as till date the villagers used specific fields as an open air toilet. This process is called “Terra Petra”, on which she has been working for a long time in Germany where presently she resides. Fumiko Kobayashi's work“New Configurations” seemed to be fascinated with the objects which lie around her; every space gets animated with her imagination. Fumiko started with grapphitis on the mud walls and finally ended up by painting a whole hut and putting steel saucers all over the surface. Objects of daily life gain the prime importance in her works. Here also she uses the steel utensils for their sheer shimmering quality, beyond any metaphor or symbol. The grapphitis are hastily done and are much child like in character. The influence of the local trend is much visible in approach. Yutaka Nozawa organized a soccer match in a nearby playground where two teams collided with each other, with Yutaka's big red curtain fluttering in the backdrop. The huge red curtains against the lush green meadows addressed a new inception thus titled as Opening of the Curtain. It simultaneously brings back the image of an international tournament with people cheering in great spirit at the opening whistle. In another work called Round and Round showcased at SSVAD, artist Shoko Toda was concerned with the documentation of the Santhali villagers and their geographical feature. The video was interestingly projected on the wall through a separate round screen placed in front. The different motions thus created changes the rhythm and multiply the motions already imbedded in the video. Again Hideyuki Tanaka in his work Reaching the Source used cow dung and charcoal mixture on his canvases creating a void image of his new environment. Masahiro Wada in his installation Moon Walking tried to translate his experience of this foreign land. His virtually formed notions regarding India and the experience of the real image is bridged through this work. The brick formation allows one to partially view objects inside, when viewed from distance but unveils a colorful vision when in proximity. The idea is to express his own physical interaction with the culture. The clock on the structure has Gandhi images cut from the currency which symbolized the economical spirit and the time of the nation. The most impressing of all was probably Takashi Kawanishi's exploration of the popular. In his model of My Home in Santiniketan, he used all probable images which caught his fancy in this part of the world. Thus from Amar Chitra Katha pages, Wills Cigarette Boxes, Pepsi Bottles to popular posters of Bengali actors - everything found its way to his structure. The vibrant imageries were indeed a visual delight. Takashi did not stop here and arranged for a live sound performance using popular tracks electronically manipulated through self - made sound device, changing its identity, while a video was simultaneously being projected on to the wall behind. The expressions of such interactions indeed gifted Santiniketan with another cultural soiree.