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Indian art German engineering

Woodcarvers of Mahim design skateboards for German curator’s exhibit in the city.

art and culture Updated: Mar 25, 2011 14:11 IST
Shweta Mehta

Foreigners or newcomers in the city are perhaps the only ones whose eyes curiously veer towards the woodcarvers’ shops in the busy streets of Mahim. For anyone else, these skilled craftsmen have over the years become a part of the background.

Tobias Megerle, luckily, constitutes the former group of people. This German curator claims to have been magically attracted to the intricately designed frames, chairs and tables at first sight. “The open workshops, woodcarvers seated on the floor with their traditional tools and beautiful objects form a beautiful and artistic atmosphere. I visited them several times after that and kept thinking of what I could do with their work,” he recalls.

Megerle’s exhibit, The Final Cut, features hand-carved skateboards by 12 woodcarvers from Mahim. The show is a part of Solicited Perspectives, a project by The Loft, which offers a platform to first-time curators, with Megerle being one of the finalists.

Ask him how he conceptualised the exhibit and Megerle explains, “The furniture they were making may not have been so interesting in the art context, so I tried finding something I was comfortable with, and a series of thoughts led me to the skateboard.” Not surprising, for skateboarding is a rage in Germany where Megerle grew up — with a particular style of clothing, music and even dedicated parks defining the culture.

The woodcarvers, on the other hand, were puzzled by Megerle’s proposition. “They were seeing a skateboard for the first time in their lives, and many were hesitant, but they agreed eventually,” says the artist, adding, “I left it to them entirely, only showing them the shape and dimensions. They are professionals, so they didn’t need any advice after that.”

The challenge didn’t end there. “I needed an interpreter to communicate with them, and back and forth, it got a little tricky. The biggest difficulty, though, was to explain to them that they were creating a piece of art and not an object of utility. They are used to making tables and chairs that people use, but these skateboards will be hung on a wall and admired by many,” he smiles.

The Final Cut is on display at The Loft, Lower Parel till April 12.