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Art with a green conscience

THE ASIAN AGE. | GEETHA JAYARAMAN
Published : Dec 6, 2016, 12:15 am IST
Updated : Dec 6, 2016, 6:01 am IST

Capturing the five elements of the universe, ‘Panchtattvas’ focuses on the narrative of sustainable development.

A man dives into Ganga at Manikarnika Ghat to retrieve coins. Photo by Harikrishna Katragadda.
 A man dives into Ganga at Manikarnika Ghat to retrieve coins. Photo by Harikrishna Katragadda.

From the level of pollutants in the Ganges to global-warming leading to migration in the Sunderbans, from Kerala’s ponds on the verge of extinction to the all-encompassing Mother Earth — four young photographers capture four different stories to bring into focus the pertinent issue of sustainable development. Titled ‘Panchtattvas: The Road Ahead’, the month-long exhibition, part of the Habitat Photosphere festival, aims to strengthen global conversations on climate change.  

A decomposing dead body floating near Manikarnika Ghat in Varanasi, Cyanotype by Harikrishna.A decomposing dead body floating near Manikarnika Ghat in Varanasi, Cyanotype by Harikrishna

The exhibition showcases photographs and photo-based installations created by the four awardees of the prestigious Photosphere grant  — Harikrishna Katragadda, Monica Tiwari, Shraddha Borawake and K.R. Sunil, along with their mentors Parthiv Shah, Bandeep Singh, Prabir Purkayastha and Aditya Arya respectively. Talking about the initiative, Alka Pande, curator of the show and artistic director, Photosphere explains, “Photosphere is a concept and an umbrella which is addressing the seminal concern of sustainable development in the world using the democratic and immediate medium of visual culture, namely photography. We are a festival with a green conscience, evoking the bhaav of sustainable development. The month-long exhibition will act as a sign post for the nation, urging them to ruminate on environmental issues, a matter of critical importance, through the lens of photography.”

Benevolence, Photo by Shraddha BorawakeBenevolence, Photo by Shraddha Borawake

Panchtattva denotes five elements of the universe — earth, water, fire, air, ether. “The idea is to focus on art to make a deep commitment to sensitise the public towards the need for a more sustainable process of development and protection of our increasingly fragile ecology and environment,” shares Alka.

Photograph by Monica TiwariPhotograph by Monica Tiwari

Pune-based artist Shraddha Borwake undertook a collaborative installation work to provoke inquiry about planet earth through her installation-based photographic project titled ‘Benevolence’. Explaining her work, she says, “The project is a photographic dialogue (called Earth) with ceramic works (Panchatatva). It is the story of an eco-system under threat of being disrupted, a textural portrait of social typography that has existed. Therefore, looking at Earth in Panchattatva, through the lens of sustainable living, poses complex questions, especially when we try to place value judgments on these relationships. Everything that is an artifact of man is a result of being processed through the five elements to create that, which is drawn from the earth.”

Anomoly, Photo by Parthiv Shah at Mandi House Metro stationAnomoly, Photo by Parthiv Shah at Mandi House Metro station

Mumbai-based Harikrishna Katragadda’s work titled ‘You Can’t Step Into The Same River Twice’ focuses on river Ganga. For his project, he used contaminants like plastic, bone particles, chemical disposal, etc found in the river. “The consequent traces on the landscape charred by the fires, and the river contaminated by ash and flesh is the starting point of my work. I have used elemental processes such as a mark-making using site-specific material on the cyanotype chemical coated paper. This paper, sensitive only to the ultraviolet light, is then scratched with the charred landscape; at times exposed with dead fish and debris found in the contaminated waters of the river. The patterns formed by the Markin cloth on the paper metaphorically represent the river, simultaneously bound and unbound, and signify that nothing is constant in nature,” explains Harikrishna.

Artist K.R. Sunil’s project carries out documentation of physical features, human ecology, local history and myths and narratives revolving around ponds in Kerala which are on the verge of extinction. Talking about the project, he says, “Every pond is a beehive of activities that come alive from dawn to dusk every day. This project takes an ethnographic documentation of each activity — how various sections of population engage with the local ponds from close quarters, both individually and collectively as a group.”

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The venue is transformed into a multi-layered art gallery — with both its indoor and outdoor spaces. Alka shares, “There are two special works on display by guest artists Ashim Ghosh and Swiss artist Ursula Biemann. Ashim’s work is a light-based installation titled ‘Illume’ while Ursula’s is a video work called ‘Deep Weather’. We also have an exhibition by authors Kavita Singh Kale and Santosh Kale showing images from their graphic novel project called ‘17 Seen Unseen’ at Jor Bagh Metro station.”

Tags: environment, art, global warming, human ecology, earth