Monday, 15 June 2015

Conversing with…..

Author V. Sanjay Kumar in conversation with Sadanand Menon
A SITE art space & The Collective Studio Collaboration
21st February 2015

SITE art space & The Collective Studio Baroda have collaborated for a year to make a series of exhibitions as a gift for the city of Baroda. As both share a vision for art that focuses upon community and interaction as seminal features that we wish to engage with, as well as highlight alternative spaces of exhibiting and discourse as valuable and critical to sustaining an energized and ever evolving art context, this collaboration has proved to be most rewarding in the responses it has garnered. That our endeavor has generated excitement and participation that allows for this idea of cultural engagement to be meaningful for the city of Baroda, is finally what has mattered the most to those of us who have put this all together.

For those who do not know us intimately, SITE art space being situated in GIDC Makarpura lies within the heart of the industrial production zone, making this a venue that defies the conventional norms associated with an art gallery. It is co-owned by Manish Maheshwari & Piyush Maheshwari, two brothers who combine their skills within a very successful partnership. Within this compound exists a fabricating unit, an exhibition gallery, a display space of art products designed for commercial use, a library, a residency program unit & a pop up café space. Such a set-up acts as a reaffirmation for the need of alternative spaces in a city where the community of artists and the audience can more intimately be engaged with discourse and interaction, and where the agenda is not market driven.

On the other hand, The Collective Studio Baroda was set up by me in the traditions of the guru shishya practice where students and teachers live and work together. It is a space of learning that does not charge any fee nor accept any payback via works of art in exchange either. Founded on the principle of trust and belief in the commitment and passion to study art from the comprehension of it being a holistic world of imbibing knowledge and experience, and where the rigors of long hours of studio practice are mandatory, the selection of students and young artists are through invitation only. Teaching, residencies, lecture programs, curatorial projects and fund raising are amongst some of the major activities that we focus on.

Perhaps most significant is that the exhibition Subtextual Documentalists that we showed in November 2014 of Jyoti Bhatt & Manisha Gera Baswani’s photographic archival documentation of their own cultural contemporaries, opened on the 19th of February 2015 in Mumbai, where it was presented in collaboration with Sakshi Gallery, and will then be showcased along with the addition of Korean artist Noh Suntag at the Korean Cultural Centre in in Delhi August 2015.

Integrated within this collaborative program we invited Ankush Safaya, a Delhi based artist to Baroda, to do a one month residency between SITE art space & The Collective Studio Baroda.  He used the fabrication unit to do a sculptural installation that is now on permanent display in the garden of SITE art space. Testimony to the sense of community that Baroda culturally generates, Ankush Safaya has now relocated to Baroda to join The Collective Studio on a more permanent basis.

In hosting an evening of interaction between Sanjay Kumar and Sadanand Menon as the closing chapter to the year of collaboration, author Sanjay Kumar returned to Baroda with his latest book Virgin Gingerly to talk with Sadanand Menon about narratives that deal with the city. Both of them really need no formal introduction. However it would be remiss of me to skip that formality. V. Sanjay Kumar was born in 1960 in Tamil Nadu. His schooling and undergraduate years were in Chennai. He completed his MBA in 1982 and joined the corporate world in Mumbai. After a two year stint with an investment bank he set up his first business venture in financial services in 1984. Thereafter he set up a software business as well, in the banking space. His entry into the world of art began in 1988 with a business partnership under the name Sakshi Gallery. Sakshi is based in Mumbai and is one of the premier galleries for art in India. Over the last 25 years it has promoted many successful artists and hosted some notable shows in India and overseas.

His first foray into writing was ‘View from the Edge’, a non-fiction publication that was based on a themed art exhibition that he curated in 1995. Since 2008 he has written two novels. Artist, Undone his first novel had the art world as a central character. Virgin Gingelly his second book is a narration on a street in Chennai. He currently stays in Chennai near Elliots Beach but will soon be relocating to Bangalore with his family.

Sadanand Menon who lives and works out of Chennai is a nationally reputed arts editor, a teacher of cultural journalism, a widely published photographer, arts curator and writer on politics ecology and the arts. He is currently faculty at the Asian College of Journalism in Chennai as well as at the IIT in Chennai. A long-time collaborator with Chandralekha, the pioneering and radical dancer/choreographer, he is deeply involved with issues connected with the creation of a contemporary Indian dance practice, and has travelled extensively in India and abroad as the technical director of Chandralekha's performances. He has convened several national-level seminars and round-tables on diverse subjects like human rights, media, visual arts, cartooning, photography, stage-light design, dance, theatre and architecture.

Sanjay Kumar in sharing his territory of ideas related to his new book allowed for Sadanand Menon to take us through a conversational space with the author that  opened up an interpretative space for us to share.

Baroda is known as a cultural center of art that prides itself on the legacy it upholds of discourse and debate being a vital pivot to this city’s creative practices. Therefore it seemed fitting that as our concluding program we had this event that allowed our city the opportunity to engage with a glimpse into how an author defines his premise of articulation, crafts his language skills and transposes his personal experiences into investing his narratives with insights that hold our imaginative territory in sheer delight.

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