Artists to create installation from discarded bottles and packets of chips in Mumbai’s Aarey Colony
All this week, six artists – four from Hong Kong and two living in Mumbai – have been living in a tribal hamlet in the forests of Goregaon’s Aarey Milk Colony. They’re collecting soil to preserve in glass jars, creating an installation from discarded packets of chips and drawing a map that showcases the region’s rich diversity.
These artists are part of a project titled Forest Tales: Mysteries Hidden in Concrete, presented by Mumbai-based art initiative ArtOxygen as part of their ongoing public art festival, [en]counters that invites artists to interrogate common aspects or urban life in their art.
This edition is being organised in collaboration with the Hong Kong-based non-profit Art Together, supported by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council. “The idea is to test the notion of the ‘public’ and how art is interdependent with the geographic, social and political aspects of a site,” says Leandre D’Souza, curator at ArtOxygen, which has also partnered with the Aarey Conservation Group for this project.
The works will be exhibited on May 20 at the hamlet of Keltipada within the forest, after which they will move to the Juhu beach, from May 23 to 25.
The works are replete with themes of encroachment, loss of habitat, preservation of tribal culture and the need for conservation.
Mumbai-based artist Vikram Arora’s installation titled, Dhartari (Mother Earth) features haphazard towers made up of 33 glass jars filled with soil from different parts of the forest. The number indicates the hectares of land allocated for a Metro rail car shed.
“The idea is to preserve a memory of the land in case it’s snatched away. I do understand that we need the Metro. I too would like a good train network in my city, but at what cost?” he says.
The Hong Kong-based artists, conversely, were amazed to find that a highly developed city like Mumbai retained a forest. Given the built-up nature of their city, they said, they’ve encountered the tussle between development and open spaces.
Gum Cheng, chairman of Art Together and one of the participating artists, will make Chinese-style dumplings shaped like the geometric figures from tribal Warli art.
The artists will also involve local Warli and Kokna tribals in their works. Chim Chi Ho, who is making a soil kiln, will invite them to bake utensils in it.
Michael Leung, who is creating the ecological community map, had created a similar map last year when authorities in Hong Kong were trying to demolish a village for an urban housing project. “The map values the present conditions. It’s a means to encourage urban dwellers, who are constantly on the move and may not know what’s happening in their backyards, to actively participate in the movement to save the open space,” Leung says.
Mumbai-based Serbian artist Katarina Rasic will enhance his work with a performance that aims to conserve memories of the locals through food.
Tribal cuisine and its preservation also features in Arora’s second project, Cut Me A Slice Of That. He will display a coconut-and-jaggery pie inspired by a tribal recipe. The audience will get to taste it too, as a reminder of the piece of land being devoured by urban development.
(Timings, and a map to Keltipada, are available on artoxygen.org; the event is free and open to all)