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India muse to new age 'land art'

Delhi,Art/Culture/Books, Sat, 28 Apr 2012 IANS

New Delhi, April 28 (IANS) Demolished buildings, piles of bricks, an odd tree and colonial style homes arranged in artistic shapes are the symbols of new age 'land art' for a handful of contemporary artists from the West who have made India their muse.

 

Three of them, supported by the Embassy of France and its arms, have captured the everyday heritage of the country, introducing the concept of 'land art' to India.

 

 

Fashion photographer Sebastian Cortes has documented the quaint Indo-French cultural landscape of Puducherry in his project, 'Pondicherry', a series of photographs and a book, which will open April 30.

 

 

Cortes, who worked between Milan and New York, settled in Auroville in Puducherry 10 years ago with his yoga instructor wife.

 

 

'I wanted to explore a place and the town of Puducherry was next to Auroville. The city had a historical layering with its French, Indian and Tamil traditions and Catholic influence. I have tried to put the diversity in architectural panels and designs lingering between the past, present and the future,' Cortes told IANS.

 

 

The 'obscure rituals' at the Aurobindo ashram, the 'ordinariness of life and the colonial past' - as Cortes says - acquire a strange rhythm in the carefully planned frames of 'French-style villas, an old pier, Aurobindo's shrine, the town's political history sprinkled with French symbols from another era, Hindu icons, people and the sea'.

 

 

The artist says the mixture of legacies is what India is all about with 'plastic chairs being the new art icon'.

 

 

The urban landscape of India is fast changing. In 10 years' time, Delhi might touch Jaipur crafting new land art symbols like high-rise archaeology and urban ruins, says French land artist and archaeologist Alex Boucher, who manages a design boutique, 'Pruriel Design' in the capital.

 

 

Boucher has enhanced the canvas of one of his land art projects, 'Little Temples to the Road', which he began in France in 1995 to document the disappearing little old landmarks like 'small kiosks, streetside garages and the craftspeople' from Paris.

 

 

He plays with the theme of demolition, construction and the accumulation of neo-ruins of buildings, which he describes as the 'archaeology of time'.

 

 

He has brought the 'Little Temples...' series to the capital under the title 'Earth-movers', a collection of 100 photographs of the building sites, flyovers under construction and demolished settlements of Delhi, the easy-to-recognise symbols of land art.

 

 

'In modern archaeology, you don't have everything on the floor. Things are in the third dimension of vertical plans. These are the future temples of the sculptural landscape of the city,' Boucher said explaining his land art project.

 

 

Land art either documents the landscape and its symbols through the eye of an artist to convey a specific idea or subverts the landscape to create new friendly and fantastic forms in both nature and cities.

 

 

History cites that the land art movement began in October 1968 with the group exhibition, 'Earth Works' in New York.

 

 

The genre, coined by artist Robert Smithson was practised by leading post-modern artists like Andy Goldsworthy, Hans Haacke, Alan Sonfist and Constantin Brancusi.

 

 

Artist Delphine Gibley Ghai of French origin, who unveiled her built art project, 'Open' in the capital Thursday, has mapped the land art of India and its South Asian neighbours in striking photographs.

 

 

At an ongoing exhibition in the American Centre in the capital, four women artists, Danielle Smith-Llera, Eva Gustafson, Anja Palombo and Adele Caemmerer have used elements of land art - typical urban symbols - from the capital to graphically map the metropolis to raise questions about traffic, sound and environment.

 

 

Land art in a more indigenous context in India has been pioneered by the Khoj International Artists Association through its interactive art projects themed on urban India.

 

 

Only a small band of emerging urban artists and photographers subscribe to the concept in their art practice in the country.

 

 

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at madhu.c@ians.in)

 


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