Thukral & Tagra’s ‘Sustaina India’ trains the spotlight on climate change

Feb 9, 2024


British Columbia in Canada is home to temperate coastal rainforests, some of the oldest forests of their kind on the planet. When Manjot Kaur, a contemporary artist who splits her time between Chandigarh and Vancouver, started traveling there a few years ago, she was freshly struck by the greenery.

“I was born in Ludhiana, a very industrial, urban city in Punjab,” says Kaur, one of the three selected fellows of Sustain India, a unique new art exhibition focusing on raising climate awareness at Bikaner House in New Delhi. ” “I lived in Vancouver for two years, and as soon as I started going into the forest, I realized it wasn't just trees. We are in symbiosis with them, there is reciprocity.”

Kaur's comments have come to light Parliament of Forests, a video installation that seeks to highlight the idea of ​​nature having its own rights. “The goal of this project is to think about personhood for forests,” says the artist, who is inspired by the work of French philosopher Bruno Latour, American feminist academic Donna Harroway and American eco-feminist Caroline Merchant, among others.

The Parliament of Forests by Manjot Kaur

Manjot Kaur's Parliament of Forests
, Photo Credit: SND

Sustaina India's first art exhibition is the result of an 18-month conversation between the New Delhi-based think tank Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) and multidisciplinary artists Jiten Thukral and Sumeer Tagra. Born from the alarming research-based observation that eight out of 10 Indians now live in districts vulnerable to extreme climate events, CEEW sought to fill the void between policy, awareness and on-the-ground implementation through artistic practice.

To this end, they contacted Thukral and Tagra, who have been working focused on climate change since the pandemic plays games – Like board games, Tagara says, “but another idea on how to connect with people and communities without involving any technology”.

Thukral and Tagra

Thukral and Tagra

interconnectedness of everything

In another room of Bikaner House, a partly-mud, partly-cement wall stands – by artist Debasmita Ghosh. living with the landAn art installation that tracks the after-effects of switching from clay to industrial materials for building houses in the Kondh community of Orissa.

Visitors to Debasmita Ghosh's Living with the Land

Debasmita Ghosh's visitors living with the land

living with the land

living with the land
, Photo Credit: SND

Ghosh, who first stepped into the tribal settlement in 2018, knew that there were no solutions or answers to the questions she was asking the community. “What we wanted to show was the process and journey that women in the community are taking: the impact, the change, their feelings about it – how it affected different aspects of their lives.”

Elsewhere, Mumbai-based environmentalist and artist Rachna Toshniwal has draped a small fishing net on a table, which looks like a colorful tote, but is actually made of her (and the women of Nari Shakti SHG) garbage. is a collection of sculptural objects made from. Collected on the beaches of Alibaug. Topic There is no such thing as waste, The Foundation is about “change.” “There is no waste in nature – everything is recycled, it's a closed loop,” says Toshniwal. The essence of the work, she says, is to remind ourselves of that interconnectedness; But also to “restore the dignity of the material things that we discard, which the sea gives back to us”.

There is no such thing as waste by Rachna Toshniwal

Rachna Toshniwal's there is no such thing as waste

Additionally, the curators have also invited creators from a myriad of fields to their Sensorium. ,[The chefs at Goa-based kitchen] Food archives are shedding light on food and daily rituals in their climate recipes, and our changing food practices; People can create their own menus to understand how winter affects our tongue and our gut,” says Tagara. ,[Designer] Excerpt from Gaurav Jai Gupta, time cycle, is inscribed with PM 2.5 ink, and the entire piece took over two and a half years to create,” Tagara continues. “You can see the sense of labor and the sense of taste.”

pay attention to message

Thukral and Tagra have been concerned about climate change for the past eight years, and according to Tagra, “continue to feel compelled to create a system or open-source program to help people understand that there is change and be more sensitive to Can”. Keeps. In the long run, they hope to see more mainstream conversations about climate change in key platforms, such as the India Art Fair, and in galleries and museums, both in terms of the concept as well as the ultimate message.

But can artistic practice do more than raise awareness of the urgency of climate change? “As painters, we understand that poetic expression can be one aspect of it, the other aspect is problem-solving and practice.” But his experience as an artist and curator on a platform like Sustaina India makes him hopeful. Tagara concluded, “I think we can offer a proof of concept in the art world.”

Sustaina India is at Bikaner House till 15th February.

The author is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai, who writes on culture, lifestyle and technology.

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