Take a chance on art


As part of its 12 year anniversary celebrations, Sunaparanta – Goa Centre for the Arts is all set to host ‘Games of Chance’, an exhibition of contemporary Indian art, featuring the works of 24 artists, and curated by Leandre D’Souza


Is chance completely random? Or does every person play a part in it? Or is it predetermined? Twenty-four artists have come together to explore this theme through the various media of paintings, photographs, video, sculpture, etc, at the upcoming art exhibition ‘Games of Chance’ which will open at Sunaparanta – Goa Centre of Arts, Altinho.

Curated by Leandre D’Souza, the exhibition which opens on January 17 brings a constellation of India’s leading artists, in partnership with Experimenter, Gallery SKE, The Guild Art Gallery, Galerie Mirchandani+Steinruecke, Nature Morte, Project88, and Vadehra Art Gallery.

“The exhibition commemorates 12 years of the art gallery in enriching the art culture of the country and is also the first show of 2020; the start of a new decade,” says Leandre D’Souza, who is also the programme director at the centre.

And each of the artists has tried to interrogate the theme of chance from various perspectives, be it through the environment, the political climate, history, and more.

For instance Tara Kelton’s work ‘Death By’ demonstrates 95 ways of dying. The causes of death include divorce, stampede, an overdone of pills, etc. “The artist here is getting us to question the metaphysics of death through a very playful way but at the same time telling us that if you change the way you look at life, death is not something so scary,” says D’Souza.

Rohini Devasher’s ‘Elseworld’ is a photo etching co-produced at the Glasgow Print Studios realised as part of a series of experiments. “It took them 52 tries before they could arrive at the right time, right moment, right exposure to get it just right,” explains D’Souza.

LN Tallur’s work titled ‘Sedimentation’ in the courtyard of the art centre is a sculpture of a fish. “This work is related to philosophy of karma. When an individual does a bad thing, they leave behind the residues of these bad actions that also affects their future life. Thus to ward of this karma, the artist invites people to put coins in the mouth of the fish,” states D’Souza, adding that the work is also related to the Biblical story where Jesus asks his apostle Peter to take the first fish he catches and cut open its mouth. A four-drachma coin is found inside and is used to pay the tax.

Also located in the Sunaparanta courtyard is the Sanchayan Ghosh’s site-specific, life-size installation ‘Doosra’ featuring a maze forming the Urdu word ‘Doosra’, meaning different. Once you enter the maze, sound sensors are activated telling stories of people that have migrated and stories of nationhood and how the idea of citizenship and belonging is constructed. One also encounters butterflies which are a symbol of life, chance, and death.

“The notion of outside and inside and, outsider and insider are an integral part of human existence and the practice of othering has been a system of hierarchy within the social system of India. But it became a social tool in the hands of colonialism to divide, control and govern,” says Ghosh. With the age of industrialisation, an environment was created of forced migration on the line of labour, work and economy. The encounter with the other thus generated a new phenomenon of cultural conversation that is multi layered and contested the ownership of the land. “Today in the age of globalisation and neoliberal economic times, the colonial phenomenon of otherness has emerged as a dominant space for cultural multiplicity of the post colonial era. Today’s social spaces are a complex network of interdependent multiple communities coexisting like a maze that is irreversible,” explains Ghosh.

And situating a work under ‘Games of Chance’ in Goa became a site-based dialogue with the garden area of Sunaparanta and the colonial legacy of Goa, he says. “I thought of engaging with a colonial cultural device to re-engage with the cultural context of a post-colonial city and explore the complexity of the position of the outside and inside in contemporary times and critically engage with the term ‘other’,” he states.

Another thought-provoking work by Pallavi Paul ‘Far Too Close’ examines the idea of citizenship. “Today there is an eruption of claims around who a citizen can or cannot be and at the crux of the crisis is a simple question: if you are no longer a citizen of a place that you have always known or belonged to and no other citizenship can be conferred on to you then really who are you?” says Paul.

In this work, the viewers first enter into the belly of the sea where they are then led into three safe spaces constructed out of material used for emergency blankets given to refugees. In these spaces, people then hear the voices of people from different important historical times addressing questions of violence, belonging and loss.

“I have used the sea, as this is really the first natural claim on life. While the land borders have been clearly demarcated, the sea has a sense of fluidity to it. To refugees it becomes a ray of hope as a means to get across to somewhere else but at the same time it is also threatening on account of its vastness,” says Paul.

The three voices that are featured in the safe spaces or tents are of Ismat Chugtai, Hannah Arendt and Vidrohi. “The recording of Urdu writer Chugtai was done in 1982 where she recounts the trauma of partition and of losing a dear friend on account of it. Philosopher Hannah meanwhile is thinking about the Holocaust and the relationship between power and violence. This recording was done in 1968,” says Paul. Ramashankar Yadav or Vidrohi was an Indian poet and social activist who passed away in 2016. “Yadav used poetry as a form of resistance. He evoked the mountains of Caucasus, the plateau of Pamir and the ruins of Mohenjodaro among other things. So this was a roaming transnational voice, not located in any one country,” says Paul. Thus through the use of recordings of voices from different eras, Paul is also attempting to show that the questions of today were there previously and that the fight for a just world is ongoing.

(The exhibition will be on display till March 27.)