Students interacting with dreamcatchers. Photo Credit: Special Arrangement
In true weekday spirit, Lady Andal School is a picture of joyful chaos as students in neatly pressed uniforms get ready for a typical school day. The well-lit corridors of the school's new wing, built around a giant banyan tree, are alive with activity. These corridors also lead one's eye to a circular disk of colored dots suspended in the air. Looking closer we find a 40-feet vertical installation called Dreamcatcher by Chennai-based visual artist Parvati Nair.
Soaring over four floors, this artwork gives a different perspective every time one sees it. An abstraction of the run-of-the-mill dreamcatcher, the structure consists of more than 120 circular discs, each an interpretation of the artist's concept or idea through colored dots. Each disc is a puzzle in itself, and invites conversation.
A cross section of the installation as seen from the corridor. Photo Credit: Special Arrangement
The ideas explained are a blend of science, art and concepts from the IB (International Baccalaureate) program that students are a part of. Here, everything from contemporary forms of traditional kolams to the concepts of recycling and renewable energy, cloud computing and even Van Gogh can be seen. “I invite students to open it up and look at it in many ways. The fun part for them is decoding it,” says the artist, who has been working on the installation for eight months. While sketching and drawing, the artist came up with the idea of a crocheted dreamcatcher. The basis of the structure in each floor is an abstract form of the designs often found in dreamcatchers. “Part of it is that ‘form follows function’. The installation was not shoe-horned into the structure, but space was left for it. The next question was how could I use dots in a way that also related to pedagogy,” says the artist, whose interest in dots and pixels is nothing new.
The scale of the installation also requires new methods of interpretation. “The idea is that as students move up in class, they discover something new in their dreamcatcher,” says Parvati. The artist says that a huge conspiracy was hatched to establish this. The size and location of each disk had to be carefully measured to create the complex, but meticulous web currently displayed. The way sunlight falls on the installation on each floor gives it a luminous quality.
Parvati Nair Photo Credit: Special Arrangement
“One of my favorite discs depicts waves of sound or water that originate from a single red dot,” says Parvati. The artist met with faculty before conceptualizing this piece to better understand the IB program. “It would be fun for me to sit down with teachers and discuss ways they can bring this to life with students,” says the artist. “The school should also be honored for thinking about how art can be integrated into its architecture,” says Parvati.
The sheer scale of the artwork was challenging to overcome. Parvati adds, “I had to think of a way that was relevant to the site, that spoke to the pedagogy both aesthetically and physically.”
The interactivity of the structure is crucial to its functionality. “When children are exposed to art in their cognitive years, it changes them; It is a tool to expand their way of thinking. Art is sympathetic. It encourages them to see the world in their own unique way,” Parvati concludes.
A look inside the installation Photo Credit: Special Arrangement