Monday, February 8, 2010

Mannat-'k'not a wish

By Suchita Mundhra

Where artists are taking up causes like global warming, child labour, harmful effects of pollution as areas of exploration in their Public Art Installation, three Pune based artists Ulhas Kagde, Vaishali Kagde and Snehal Chordia strike a chord with the viewers through their installation. The artists have displayed their work in The Times of India Kala Ghoda Arts Festival in Mumbai. Their art explores the realm of spirituality and the age old beliefs that has become a part of Hindu worship since ages. ‘Mannat’, which is the vernacular word for wish is associated with desires that can be fulfilled with divine help.

The installation is in into two parts, the first dealings with spirituality and the second using common beliefs practised by people. A bell or ‘ghanta’ which is used during Indian poojas at temples was suspended from a tree branch. This huge bell with a tainted with copper hue acted as an umbrella to the other smaller bells painted in different colours. It is a common belief shared by most Hindus that the ringing of the bell produces an auspicious sound that invokes the Gods. The use of dull copper hue gave the bell a look reminiscent of old temples. The second part of the installation had a rack with threads tied on it. The knot represented the fulfillment of desires which is a common India belief. In a lot of pilgrim places in India this is practised with a great amount of devotion.

When asked Vaishali Kagde, one of the artists about the choice of this subject, she instantly replied ‘my keen interest in spirituality and the belief in the traditional practices shaped my thoughts in this direction. When I expressed this idea to two of my other friends their opinions echoed my voice and I thought that I found the right people to put these thoughts together. The choice of using newspapers to make the bells was a unanimous decision made by the artists.

Though, both parts of the installation individually carried a thought, there appeared tobe a lack of coherence. A thin line divides the two; tradition and belief and the installation also did not quite distinguish or define it well. The special mention of the sound of the bell associated with auspiciousness muted the installation because of the lack of any sound. Visually the bell looked appealing yet there was scope for further exploration in the medium. Amol Patil, a practising artist from Rachna Sansad Academy of Fine Arts and Craft, Mumbai felt that it was ‘conceptually unclear and the use of the newspaper to make the bells showed lack of innovation. Though the use of bright coloured bells gave it a mystic effect, yet there was scope for further improvement.’

‘K’not a wish, the subtext that the installation carried left some viewers baffled and disappointed too. Speaking to Sunidha, a homemaker says, ‘I liked the concept of the bell and the threads. However, as it said that one can tie a thread, I felt that it is real. But anyway, I could not find the thread. A few other people gave similar reactions as the art did not seem to capture and bring out the essence of the practise that has been taking place since ages.

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