Art in activism. Activism in art. This course has pushed us to think about concepts that we hadn’t even contemplated before. I enrolled for this course as it sounded interesting, and I wanted to see how art could find its place in activism. Being one who swore off reading newspapers as I claimed it to only have negative news that would inevitably muddle up my thought-process, this course was a bucket of cold water meant as my wake-up call. There would undoubtedly be negative aspects, but there is also a raging, fierce side willing to overthrow it at every step and this, this is awe-inspiring and worth appreciating and inculcating. This has been something that this course taught me. Never assume. Never conclude.
Art to me had always been something that was bound to the individual who created it. But this course opened up a whole new door to the aspect of it being symbolic of a larger agenda, one that undeniably has marks of the creator but also speaks the stories of many others. Also brought to light were the various art forms and practices, the magnitude of which I hadn’t been aware of before. The word ‘art’ resided in a clean, square box filled with canvases, paints, and pencils. But now, it has broken free into overlapping, infinite shapes and mediums waiting to encompass every space and thought we conceive of!
The concept of dialogue was intriguing as I hadn’t heard of it before. The case studies (especially Theater for Living) helped to gain a stronger understanding of this. I was sure I wanted to use this in my final project. They say, If you don’t stand for something, you’ll end up falling for everything. But there is a strength in not standing for something, in not concluding and sealing the issue shut with your opinion. There can always be something beyond what the eye can see and the mind can perceive. This is what I wanted to incorporate.
The various feedback sessions were really helpful in directing me a set path than before, and the comparison between each of these sessions in itself showed the evidence of my learning. The last two weeks involved rigorous brainstorming and many futile attempts at properly implementing my concept. But each try helped me strike out the list of what not to do! I loved sifting through the truckloads of work we had and I hope to take these learnings forward in my other courses and projects. Thank You.
I redrew the illustrations and made it less abstract. I did try to create a sharp contrast while making the new set of illustrations. But the software just didn’t seem to comply with me. This was the main setback and people asked me to increase the size of the individual images, in order to make it more understandable.
The above were my illustrations which I later distorted using the software. I then divided these into the drop(cause and effects) and the hands(solutions) and started the activity with the images constituting the drop(first four in the list above).
I placed the illustration of the sewage pipe as the base(white paper) on the left side and a blank white A4 paper on the right. I then ask them what they see, and then on their answering, ask them to look at the other images on the ohp sheets by keeping those over the blank paper placed on the right. After they check and discern what each of those ohp images are, they then are asked to place it on the paper with the sewage illustration, in the order they deem fit. As the pieces come together, a drop emerges. This is then kept aside and the second part of the activity starts, i.e the solutions(hands).
Again, I give them a base image to start with( the trees and wetland crops) and ask them to place the next layer, the layer after that, and so on. This forms the hands. Then they are asked to put both the sets together and see what emerges. The hands protecting the drop. The desperate call for joining forces to save what is essential to our survival.
While researching I came across how people throw wastes into the lakes even though they have working sewage lines! And also about the majority of apartments having no STPs, even though they are a must. All of this has to be exposed and made known to the general public. It no longer is a matter of we doing our part and the government doing its part. We need to combine forces and support the other. Plant saplings, meet with the BWSSB to understand the plans for STPs, run awareness campaigns, help the farmers increase their yield using the silt excavated during de-silting, create a DPR (Detailed Project Report) request for the BDA, get a map to identify encroachments ,etc.
This project screams out the need for a new perspective when it comes to conservation of lakes–the causes, the effects, the prevailing solutions.
I have mainly addressed the public as it is responsible for contributing to a major part of this predicament. The people often jump at any chance to blame the authorities involved. Can I get them to take a step back and see that the responsibilities of both have to be undertaken concurrently, they often merge together with the ultimate goal being the same– saving the lake. This I’ve tried to show by the juxtaposing layers that eventually lead to a bigger picture which is of two hands protecting a single drop of water.
The project brings together the various stakeholders and how the actions of one causes a ripple in the lives of the rest. This I’ve posed to the participant by asking him to choose the next step (effect) in the chain. Also, as few of these events run simultaneously (like, the marine ecosystem suffering and the foam catching fire), the order is left to the participant, thereby bringing out various combinations, maybe even new ones, once I add more layers to this initial draft.
How can I take this forward?
I will start with buying the right object to reflect the whole piece on.
Add colour and more layers.
Do it on a larger scale, either a painting on the ground, or a dynamic medium, like a video.
Make it more interactive by constructing a game around it, either a board game, or one that involves role playing or something along those lines.
Creating another series of layers around how we can bring about an unprecedented, sustainable solution to the already existing layers of a) the causes, effects(drop) and, b) the prevalent solutions(hands).
Spreading awareness by conflict resolution and thereby drawing our attention to the need to work together.
Provoking a reaction by the use of an unconventional viewing medium , stressing on the need for a different perspective that doesn’t target one party.
Active public participation and accountability.
How far was it successful?
The research that backed this project brought out points that weren’t known to many (like, the farmers benefitting from the desilting process, the household oils causing the foam to catch fire, etc). Also, a part of it centers around the duplication of efforts, may it be between the public and the government, or among the various organisations within the government. This helped in putting up a clearer picture about the issue.
When it comes to provoking the viewer, my implementation wasn’t as strong as the process. This, even after countless attempts, was due to the technical aspects involved while creating anamorphic art, (the reflective surface and the software used). However, as I asked people for their feedback, they pointed out that the visual aspect could be worked on more to fulfill its purpose, but the whole act of moving the various layers and finally clumping them together, was thought-provoking.
The fact that I gave them a free rein after the initial bit, had them playing around with the layers to try different combinations. But in the end, no matter the order, the many images overlap one another to form a larger, set image, that puts across a particular message . So, I’d say, it has attributes of both, open-ended dialogue and a persuasive, pre-determined message.
This sketch revolves around the concept of visualizing a future for the lakes, both an ideal one as well as one which would be ‘doomed’, and the factors that would lead to each scenario. I plan on having people interact with a set of factors/resources provided by the public and the government, and have them play around with them according to a few set questions I throw their way–what are the important factors? If you take them out, would it lead to an inevitable block in the various systems? how can you mould the remaining ones to salvage the situation? I plan on getting them to realise, through the process, that both sides need to collaborate to make a lasting change, and this can only be done by having an understanding of what each side has to offer to sustain the other.
This one also focuses on the idea of collaboration between the government and the public. I plan to pose a few simple questions at the start, and tally the opinions. As the picture shows, I then plan on making people choose what they perceive as distant, largely unrelated factors from the public and government sectors and make them form a situation where they both are correlated. This would go on to how many ever factors they can manage to relate, thereby conveying the message of all-inclusive, inter-connectivity. I then want to take a second opinion poll and see if the result changes.
This was a simple task of having people sketch what they think of an ideal lake and a doomed one, and have them compare the two and come up with the resources and factors themselves.
This sketch shows the various forms of anamorphic art there is, and therefore the ways of capturing their attention about the change in perspective required.
When it came to how the group discussion pushed my idea forward, the most important point was that of a common feedback. Almost everyone valued and questioned similar aspects of my concept. They valued the questions I came up with after brain-storming, and they questioned the aim and who I’d wish to address through this project. This helped in concentrating my efforts in the required direction.
Other aspects that were questioned and exposed were that of my concept purely having an anthropocenic portrayal of the truth about stakeholders, hence not inclusive of the flora and fauna, and the ecosystems surrounding the lakes. If I do choose a theme around the stakeholders for my final assignment, I would surely add these too.
Also, one of the points that resonated with the class was that of visualizing the timeline of the lake, the past, the present and the future one would like to aspire for. The other point being that of an open-ended argument (dialogue) , where no conclusion has to be drawn.
The resources and suggestions given to me were also helpful. There were suggestions about the form, the basic idea and also the sites and groups to look up, for significant information regarding my topic. Also, the 4 sketches I made gave an added clarity to what my end project could be targeting. In conclusion, I definitely believe that this session was really productive and helped me get a step closer to my final concept implementation.