Friday, February 20, 2009

Partapur- A Contemporary Art Site

“Before coming to Partapur I didn’t know anything about this place. For the last five days I have been traveling around this village and now I have found a site to do my public art project,” Anke Mellin tells me. Anke is an artist and curator from Germany. She is in Partapur to participate in the Sandarbh International Artists Workshop. “I like the people here. They are very intelligent and they know how to negotiate with foreigners,” she adds.

Perhaps, the people in this village did not know how to deal with the foreigners a few years back. They used to look at the visitors with awe and suspicion. But with the Sandarbh Workshop quite active here, the villagers have become used to the presence of foreigners.

Sandarbh Workshop for Site Specific and Environmental Art, established in 2003 by the artist Chintan Upadhyay is now well-known all over the world. It has already conducted two workshops in the US and in May 2009, it will have its chapter opened in London under the leadership of the UK based artist Ivan Smith. In Hungary, artist Eross Istavan is working towards starting a Sandarbh Chapter. In Baroda, Chintan had already done a Sandarbh Workshop. In Delhi and South Gujarat too there will be annual Sandarbh Workshops soon.

Years back, when Chintan started Sandarbh Workshop in Partapur, a small village that aspires to become a town, in Banswada district, Rajasthan, he had this idea of bringing art to the people. He believes that art could happen anywhere. It is not necessary to have galleries and urban museums to showcase work of art. “Sandarbh means context. I can make art anywhere. If I am sitting in a restaurant and if I am making a drawing on a piece of napkin, I am converting that space into an art space. Partapur is a village and at the same time it is a context for the art to happen,” says Chintan.

Sandarbh has three annual features: there is a ten days long Indian artists’ workshop. The month long workshop is for the visiting artists from different parts of the world. The third feature is a six months residency program in Partapur. Artists could stay here for six months and do any kind of art they would like to do. The basic idea is to do public art projects with available materials and with local participation.

When we are here, the month long international artists’ residency program is about to start. Yatin Upadhyay, who leads the Baneswar Lok Vikas Sanstha (BLVS), an NGO in Partapur, gives able leadership to the ongoing workshops. To help him out and also to do the organizational works artist Shreyas Karle is here. Another young artist Lochan Upadhyay also works full time with Sandarbh. Interestingly, none here works for remuneration. “It is a voluntary act and you are welcome,” says Chintan.

Many young artists have already been a part of this workshop ever since it started. Many have gained fame and fortune in the art scene. And all of them, whether successful or not, take a lot of pride in being a part of Sandarbh. Two years back I also participated in Sandarbh Workshop as an observer.

I have very special memories about this place. All of them come back to my mind once we reached here yesterday night.

The drive from Baroda was smooth. Palak Raval, a Mumbai based artist, who participated in Sandarbh last year, also joined us from Baroda. She was going to Partapur to work as a volunteer in the ongoing workshop. Her job would be to facilitate artists.

I like this idea of Sandarbh. It gives you a feeling that the whole program is yours. Nobody owns Sandarbh. You can be part of it and if you want you can start a Sandarbh in your place. There are no hierarchies and bureaucracy in it.

The moment we struck the main road that leads to Rajasthan I fell asleep in the backseat. The Gujarat Thali treat by Kishu was pretty heavy with all its sweet dishes. My body and mind relaxed as the music system in the car played out the old numbers by the legendary singer, Kishor Kumar.

I woke up after an hour and found that we had already crossed around seventy kilometers. Then I expressed my wish to drive the car. We changed seats and I drove the car for half an hour. While I was at wheels, the ambience inside the car changed dramatically. Palak, who was humming tunes and cracking jokes also became silent. Feroze was giving me directions.

“Wives never like to drive when the husbands are with them,” Feroze says. “They give a lot of directions and they never believe that their wives can drive properly.”

“Mrinal stopped driving because of me,” I tell Feroze. He smiled.

Somu was like a tensed husband. Feroze was like a considerate one. I was the hapless wife. After half an hour, Somu tricked me out of the driving seat.

Later Feroze took the charge. He is an excellent driver. After watching Feroze driving, Somu made peace with himself. Then he slept. I became the navigator and ‘spiritual guide’ for these ‘excellent’ drivers.

Do I feel bad for being a bad driver? I don’t. I can drive people crazy. And I do it well. Nothing to worry.

We reached Partpaur around 8 O’clock at night. The place looked so familiar to me.

After having a quick shower, we all reached one of the rooms in Sandabh office where a party was going to start.

In the party we meet three Korean artists, Ko Hyun Hie, Ri Eung- Yoro and Ryu Seung –gu. All of them belong to a famous environmental artist group in Korea called Yatoo. Anke Mellin is from Germany. Egami Heoshi and Nagashima are from Japan. Umesh Kumar from Karnataka is the Indian participant this time.

Egami Heoshi is a great entertainer. He dances well. Nagashima is a drummer. He has brought his drum kit along. But in the party he prefers to play a bucket. He covers the bottom of the bucket with a towel and uses the sticks to create drum like muffled sound. He does it quite well.

There is a dholak (percussion instrument) also. Yatin plays it well. I take it from him and start playing it, following the rhythm created by Nagashima. We all sing songs from our respective languages.

Later Palak told me that I sang well and complimented me for my ‘good’ voice. I felt good. I forgot that I was a bad driver. I should say that Yatin and Shreyas are wonderful singers. Yatin sings Rajasthani folk songs and Shreyas sings classical songs and he plays harmonium too.

I speak to the visiting artists. They are all excited about the works that they are going to do in Partapur.

Today our plan is to spend time around Partapur. Our next destination is Ujjain.

1 comment:

chintanupadhyay said...

you buggers are haveing fun. I am struggling between one work to another. reaching sandarbh on the 23rd. hope Lochan and Shrayesh are doing well. Shrayesh is very good now. we miss Sakshi Gupta but think she might also come in some time. take care of yourself. dont go any where just be in ur car. drive slow. dont kill anyone on the road. make somu run while u guys are driving. eat good food. dont eat at diry place. dont drink while driving.