Thursday 9 December 2010

This film was made by three Slovakian students that I met during my first hour in India. I arrived in Mumbai at around 1am and after booking into one of the cheap guesthouses I went for a walk. It was dark, Mumbai was asleep, someone let me into a dark room that was supposed to be an Internet café. For a moment I became scared of the darkness and the stranger who was leading me through the space. Then another door opened and when I walked in it turned out to be a bright room with computers and a group of westerners. I felt relived to see them.

They were traveling through India, filming a documentary. The film was supposed to be some sort of record of their journey. It was their first time in India too.

Without an initial plan, I decided where to go each morning. I was meeting different people on my way everyday. So did the filmmakers. I often followed the same track as they did (the tourist track) encountering similar situations to the ones they encountered. However, at the time it felt as if it was my own trail, a very special one.

I have returned to India two times after that trip. Both times to work on an art project. How different India and Indian people became in my eyes. How complex, sometimes difficult to understand. The class divisions, the inequality of life and my own presence there all puzzled me. I still have many of the same questions.

What I find very interesting is that by trying to understand "there" I am inevitably decoding "here".

I also frequently wonder about the words "cultural differences". Is it that we sometimes use them to cover things up? Explaining things, without really explaining anything. Rather, getting rid of responsibility, or discomfort.

I've wondered off a little. I posted the film because it seems to picture an honest way, that first time in a land, which feels "exotic". While aiming to see as much as you can, decoding and attempting to understand you are equally falling into
cliché that are constructed, often unconsciously, by your own prejudices.

Saturday 4 December 2010

Meeting Monimala and Jakub in London

Two weeks ago we spent a day with Monimala and Jakub, two Patachitra artists that are currently visiting the UK to promote their art. They are visiting the UK as part of a programme to promote Indian folk-art that is organised

We have been looking forward to this meeting, as we haven't been in touch with the Patachitra since we left India in April. We did feel apprehensive about communicating with Monimala and Jakub as we don’t speak Bengali and they speak very little English. Considering our translator was only able to stay for an hour we did surprisingly well! With a lot of pointing and drawing in the air...

We were of course limited in our ability to share our thoughts, and we were not able to ask all the questions we intended to. Sometimes we would say, "ok, ok...” yet feeling that something was left unclear or perhaps feeling we were being misunderstood.

That day we visited various contemporary art galleries in London. When we visited the Patua in India, they had presented their work and the works that had inspired them. Now we wanted to show a little bit of our life and what inspired our work. We visited art galleries that showed different approaches to making and presenting art in London and took them to places that show how we live and where we come from.

That evening we watched "Premise - ..." at Niels's house and after dinner Monimala sang Bengali songs. Unfortunately, we couldn't think of any songs to sing in return. Is our culture less expressive?

A day like this really makes me think about how momentary meetings like these are and how much we could all learn from them. We’re dressed in a different way, wer’e born and raised in a different culture, most of the things we’re used to are different, and yet, yesterday we kept saying: "I know what you mean", "I understand"... There was some sort of acceptance, kindness towards our differences. Those differences became reasons to talk, to compare our day-to-day realities, to exchange various points of view.

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Series of questions for Patua

  • How do the Patua see the work? What, in their conception of the project, is the work ? Where do they allocate 'weight'
  • What do the Patua think about the project
  • What was the most important part of the project for them (another way of asking where they allocate 'weight')
  • How would they feel about us showing the work again?
  • How would they feel about us reformulating the work?
  • Who does the work belong to? Does the work belong to anyone?
  • Is there anything they would like to change or would have done differently
  • Would they like to continue with it?
  • Do they think it is finished?
  • Were our actions clear to them? Did they feel happy about the way we worked?
  • Did they feel we understood them? And how they work?