Independent Film Maker and Photographer Ritam Talukdar is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this social documentary photography. To follow Ritam’s photo journeys click on any image.
Art Can Win Over Hearts
Far away from the fake laughter and selfish love that has bound us within a segment of the society, there is a village that is totally free from all this self-satisfying needs of the mechanical world that has slowly killed our dreams in every possible ways. This desolated place situated in one of the corners of West Bengal is a village which is still free from all the polluted air of commercialization that has slowly killed the innocence that at present rules the cityscape. It shows opportunity to do something for the small amount of people who are the resident of this very place, free from all the hustles and bustles of the city life.
It’s quite rare to see the term hope in the concrete jungle of the cities where we reside, rather than in the villages which is in desperate need of it. A term that has only existed in the beliefs and can’t be experienced if you don’t know how well it can bind the people together to define creation and viability in a newer way. Life will always find its way to take a sneak peek into the families that reside here. They may have their inner conflicts amidst all the turbulence of existence which always has a way of creating a difference in terms of the closeness that the villagers share, but they always have a smiling presentation in their face. That’s the freedom from guilt and blame which gives a strange aura of irreproachability in everybody’s face here. Their welcoming gestures and their ability to learn is quite dynamic which actually shows the way they have been disregarded with time and we are the ones who will have to focus on that so that we can bring about a change in the environment they are living in.
If this is all about life, what about the art which is also dying? The wave that once defined the terminology of proper creative activity has got manipulated within the technicalities of technology that has stopped us to think! It made us lame and in between all these, what changed? Our thinking got capsized and we started making jokes in terms of what legends left for us! We changed the definition that once was stated by the famous painter Paul Ganguin, “Art is either plagiarism or a revolution.” But in broader terms this has been a proper revolutionary movement all along not only in terms of the recognition that we seek to achieve but also in terms of making a statement in the face of others who are just degrading the qualities of art in terms of its various applications. We build lives through art, be it in any forms and we build communities through the thinking that not only helps other to be free but also to understand the severe complexities of life that surrounds us at every times.
Just like the sounds of nature gives a natural melancholy and the sweet fragrance of labor gives birth to new fruits, art comes from the essence of understanding the community through a series of arousal of all the senses that can surely plant a new thinking. And this sensible reasoning can give rise to a new life that may blossom in the upcoming years. According to Leo Tolstoy, “Art is not the expression of a man’s emotions by external signs and it is not the production of pleasing objects; rather it is a means of union among men joining them together in the same feelings and is indispensable for the life and progress towards the well-being of individuals and of humanity.”
According to Michelangelo Pistoletto an Italian painter, action and object artist and an art theorist, “Artists must not be only in galleries or museums and they must be present in all possible activities. He must be a sponsor of thought in whatever endeavor people take on, at every level.” And this very thinking which gives birth to a new hope, can never be contained within the four walls of a wooden gallery nor can it be kept within the transparent bindings of a glass box, only to be appreciated from outside. It should also be created naturally and should be left in the hands of nature to get eroded in a natural process. You may never know; a certain art can also get created through the erosion.
It all started when some of the ancient cultures used earthworks to express themselves, long before the invention of the term “art”. It came though the way of perceiving the nature and instances of such art can be found all over across the globe that included the American Continent too; just like the works in Peru by the Nazka Indians or in the form of the Great Serpent Mound in Ohio in USA. This form of contemporary earthworks later on found their recognition in the society as Earthworks or Earth Art, when slowly the artistic movement emerged in America during the 1960’s when a number of sculptors and painters such as Robert Smithson, aimed to heighten the public awareness. Through a series of thought provoking constructions he tried to aware man’s relationship with the natural world by an act of intervention of the landscape.
Earth art or Land art involved the creation of site specific structures, art forms and sculptures using the natural landscape. The essential feature of the land art mainly strengthened the inseparable link between the work of art and where it is being created. It mainly revolved around the use of materials such as stone, bed rock, water, twigs, branches and other elements that are naturally available. This is a form of novel type of visual art that was created to increase our sensibility towards our environment. It is a form of contemporary art with land-based interventions that took a variety of forms, from large scale artworks like man made curtains reaching across vast stretches of landscape to simple lines of footprints in the earth.
This movement was an outgrowth of Conceptualism and Minimalism where locales were commonly chosen for reasons that mainly revolved around recognition and rebirth. And Earth artists disdained the artifacts status these venues conferred on art, in a way to challenge the traditional definitions of art as something to be bought and sold for profit. Earth arts shared certain traits with Minimalism including its concerns with how the objects specified their space; the interaction of humans with works of art and especially simplicity of form. In carrying out this piece of art the artists were typically hands-on with the documentation and process of production at times even including a performativity element. And because of this they had a character with Post Minimalist tendencies such as process art, installation art and performance art and largely existed outdoors and were subjected to natural degradation and erosion that would occur with the passing time which was antithetical to Minimalism’s more Industrial and Urban Aesthetic making it one of the unique elements of the Earth Art Movement.
Far away from all these turbulences and controversies, this movement took a unique turnaround when it happened in the year 2017, in a village called Komdhara near Singur. Under the famous Contemporary Artist Bibekananda Santra’s “Narrative Movement” and Utpal Pal’s “Pro-Active Foundation” this concept of Land Art took a huge form in this very village. With the overwhelming participation of about 42 artists from 17 countries this Land Art Movement took a new shape in all of its form. With the cultural participation of all the artists, they successfully created a seven day thematic representation of art that ended with an expressive dance with performance art by Aditi Sinha, fire installation by Germany’s Reiner Langer and an ethnic extravagance of a musical evening by Biplab Barman, Laxmi Santra and Fanny Anderegg that surely showed that hope is somewhere lurking around the corners of this village. It won the heart of every single participant who was a part of this event where language and skin color was no more a barrier for art to flourish. Even the villagers blended with them to create a healthy environment through art and culture. It left them in tears after the whole event was over, which indeed showed how the three letter word can overcome severe hurdles where communication is no longer a factor and love becomes a matter of immense importance. From the haystacks to the crop fields, the artists used every single material which they can discover amidst the nature to create their artworks as if the whole village is a single piece of canvas for them. From the bathing places to earthen walls of the mud huts to the earthen ovens, every single commodity became a perfect mirror of the heavens to reflect the artwork of various nations and showed the lively concepts of earth art that was based on the theme of “Mirror, Light and Shadow”.
Maybe someday we will surely witness as to how this conceptual movement can give rise to a bigger form of art that can indeed strengthen the pillars of recognition of the society that can create a million dreams for the young hearts to follow.
By Ritam Talukdar