The Theme I BGB 2016

Urgency of Peace

The intriguing idea of ‘Peace’ is a departure point for the first edition of Bodhgaya Biennale and this allusion is hopefully not too late to recall a utopian urge and, hence, a modern zeal to foreground a ‘region’. The region has immensely contributed to the growth of Indian art and culture, albeit popular media has been bracketing it under the inventory of deprived regions.

Manifesting a wealth of folk and indigenous vocabularies, the region has globally articulated the civilizational vigor and a more elaborate culture. And great interest among state actors has endorsed prospect of nurturing ‘cultural renaissance’, in the region at times!

Retrieving the memories and the textual histories of the past, Uruvela, the ancient name of Bodhgaya, is a birthplace of Buddha’s Enlightenment. Among many, Bodhgaya is one of the oldest international pilgrimage sites and a seat of high learning. The place has witnessed the expansion of Buddha and his Dhammathat rendered into an ideology of the Mauryan state, under the Asokan rule (ca. 273–232 BCE), designed to weld together a widely divergent sub continental society, economy, polity, and culture.

Astounding landscape of Bodhgaya and other parts of region have strong connection with a variety of voyagers, pilgrims, intellectuals, artists, writers and thinkers who largely hail from South Asia South East Asia, East Asia and many other parts of the globe. Social mapping of ancient Uruvelasubstantiates meanings and values that was collectively imbibed by the inhabitants of this tiny village. The life world of Uruvela (at present Bodhgaya) was fulfilled by the enchanting idioms such as wisdom, equality, fraternity, peace and harmony. Even today such kinds of idioms have a strong resonance in our contemporary times, which offer us an imagination of an ‘ideal world’ to wrestle with the clutches of perpetual conflict.

The conceptual framework of Bodhgaya Biennale redirect and explores, through the array of exhibits and lateral events, the affects of shifting technology, inevitable migration, rapid communication, flow of capital, economic rupture, ethnic conflicts, state terror, unequal human conditions and neo-liberal hybridization or ‘consensus’, on South Asia and elsewhere in the globe. The emergence of such societal conditions is blurring our vision and fading away idyllic dreams of coexistence of a plural society, whereas the soaring penetration of sectarian violence, religious extremism and hostile ideologies eventually violate the individual vis-à-vis collective experiences of peace. Grave danger has been hovering around the cultural edifices and rich heritage of the world and recent upheavals triggered the triumph of “Islamic iconoclasm” and militant Taliban over the site of Bamiyan, where monumental rock-cut images of Buddha were destroyed. These obvious complexities of (in) human actions do characterize the helplessness of the so-called global community to address the erasure of culture, as one of the deep crisis in any meaningful way. In past, the function of art has had stimulated the idea of peace from various directions and sites whereby peace has been exploited, if not necessarily, by powerful nations to prove their world dominance. Hence, the word ‘Peace’ has deemed to lose its vitality and neutrality. Bodhgaya Biennale affirms an ideal point of reference to rediscover and explore the idea of ‘Peace’ afresh through this event and exhibition of prominent artworks at incredible site from where the message of peace and harmony have duly stemmed and expanded across the world.

The Bodhgaya Biennale Report 2016

A dirty dormitory, an uneven ground and a very short period of time. That is what the team of the first stretch of the Bodhgaya Biennale had to work with. To convert the garbage ridden ground to what the design team perceived it to be. Alongside the work of the grounds we had the uphill task to convert the dormitory into a workable display space that met with our high standards. Cleaning it, covering all the windows, getting all beds out and making in to an art space. The other part of this preparation was opening the art work, assembling them, putting them in frames and stretcher. Painting the venue inside out. Getting security ready, making a work shift kitchen for the team and the workers. Alongside of all the manual work we had the massive task of guest relations, logistics, hotel and hospitality management and invitation to the local administration as well as talking them on board.

The team of Bodhgaya Biennale consisting of few people did all this and even more till the end to ensure nothing was left to change. It was a chance to play with fate and destiny and achieve the impossible. The 2nd Biennale in the country had a lot of scrutiny and deleterious observations. As such it was imperious to take control of our own fate and take control of every single detail. Problems were faced along the way, in many forms. But every single one of them was met head on.

The inauguration was advanced from the 17th to the 16th on the behest of our Chief Guest, the Art, Culture and Youth Minister of Bihar, Shri Shivchandra Ram. The venue being THE MAHAMAYA PALACE. The guests for the inaugural day along with the Minister were, Shri Chanchal Kumar, Principle Secretary to the Chief Minister of Bihar and Patron of Bodhgaya Biennale, Shri K Ravi: DM of Gaya, DIG of Magadh Range -, SSP of Gaya Mrs Garima Malick, Regional Director of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations Shri Shatrughan Sinha:, Rahul Dev: Co-Curator for the Biennale, Satradu Sovin: a young Indian Artist and Shri Vinay Kumar: Artistic Director and Co- Curator of the Biennale.

The event:

• 7 days, 100 named artists, 5 live performances of artists, one workshop, guests and dignitaries ranging from film stars to eminent people of the art world. From high flyers of the bureaucracy to spiritual leaders, all had turned up to see the going of the Bodhgaya Biennale.

• The noon of 17th of December 2016 had its opening session of the Biennale. The Guest of Honour was Shri Balan Nambiar, an eminent Indian sculptor. Day 1 of the biennale was opened through a panel discussion on the topic that the biennale was curated on: “Urgency of Peace in Contemporary Times”. The panel with Balan Nambiar consisted of various people from the field of Arts. Priya Venkatraman (eminent Bharatnatyam dancer), Shri Vinod Bhardwaj ( Senior art critic), Shri Manish Pushkale (Young painter and Trustee, Raza Foundation). The discussion was moderated by Shri Vinay Kumar,the artistic director and co-curator, the biennale. After the discussion, a Sufi recital was performed by the children artist of Kilkari. Kilkari is a program of the State Bal Bhawan of Bihar that imparts the knowledge of the Arts and Culture in children.

• Day 2 of the Biennale was the performance of Kashmiri Artist Inder Salim, Art Talk on Biennale, Exhibition and Museum by Nanak Ganguly and Vinod Bhardwaj. And the second Art Talk of the day was with S.Santosh and Y.S. Alone on the topic-----. The performance of Inder Salim was called Wise Wann….a take on Kashmiri Mutton dish. 12 different earthen pots consisting of 12 different versions of the mutton, each with a unique and altered taste. In a new category that is being formed in the art world, food and cooking are becoming a part of the art work, where live performances are given and food is cooked in front of a live audience. This is what Inder Salim did with his performance. He urged the visitors to help him in the cooking process and interact with him. It was a whole day process where all the preparation was done with help of volunteers and visitors. This day also saw the famous Bollywood actor Sarika .

• Day 3 saw Poulomi Das and Ashok Bhowmick at the Art Talk. The topic being “Art in the Modern Era.” The day saw the live artistic performance by a young photographer B. Ajay Sharma. His performance was called “The Man with the Singing Bowl”. The highlight of the performance was Sharma using blind singers that sit outside the Mahabodhi Temple and sing and seek alms. He provided then with the centre stage and gave them the opportunity and dignity that many of us do not bestow them with.

• Day 4 was a day of technical knowledge, the Art Talk on Alternative Photography. The speaker was P. Madhavan, noted Experimental Photographer and the moderator was an emiment Photographer of Bihar, Suman Srivastava. The Talk ranged from the history of photography and how would one define what Alternative Photography was. From making cameras out of match boxes to the approximately 100 odd ways of talking or category of photography techniques. It has also been discussed that how Alternative Photography is facing the challenge to express the complexity of the society and visual medium. The live performance saw young artist Murari Jha named “Carrying the History”.

• Day 5 was for was Ravindra Tripathy, Hindi Author and Anil Jhon from IIM, Bodhgaya that dealt with Cultural and Biennale. The performance was given in the evening by young new media artist Naresh Kumar in the evening. The concept of the performance was migration and displacement. What some is goes through when they migrate in search for better options. Do they lose their self, the essence of what they are made of or is it the society that forces them in to compartments and makes them lose their identity and become just the grease in the wheels that needs to keep on moving.

• Day 6 was a day for the environment and how we can incorporate the activism of bring the environment to the forefront and how the Biennale space can be utilised for it. Father Robert Ethickal was the speaker of the day. He is the brains behind the green revolution Tarumitra in the State of Bihar. The performance was by artist Kaushal Sonkaria

• Day 7 was the closing day of the Biennale.

• Though Biennales are international in nature, we at Bodhgaya Biennale took to the folk arts as well. This edition dealt with some forms of folk arts that are there in the State. Sikki Grass Art and Terracotta modelling were showcased there every day. How clay and grass take shape into a doll or jewellery. The visitors were able to witness the making of stunning works of art out of simple things like clay/mud and grass. Other forms of folk art divulged into the ancient art of storytelling of Raja Salhesh in Mithla language in song format and Manjusa art that has painting as well as tantric traditions in song and dance format, are important local intangible cultural heritage.

The Exhibition and Installations:

• 100 named artist with 5 live performances. The Biennale had paintings, print medium, photography, and sculptors, new media that included videos and LED Light Digital Display and Installations. The international prints where from countries like Cuba, Egypt, Spain, USA, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Austria etc.

• Noted artists of the Biennale were Himmat Shah, PR Daroz, Gautam Das, Ganesh Haloi, Dhiraj Choudhry, Rajat Ghose, Ranjeet Das, Savi Sawarkar, P. Madhavan, Anil Risal Singh, Prasant Panjiar, Prabir Prukayshta, Binoy Varghese, Diwan Manna, Rm. Palanniappan, Sonal Varshneya, Bibek Santara, Santo Devi, Rokeya Sultana, Michael Schneider, Dhanushka Marasinghe , Anoli Perera, Ajit Seal, Panjak Panwar, Wael el Sabour, Karen Kunc, Richard Cox, Tom Piper, Sue Hunt, Sabrina Osborne, Sachindra Nath Jha, Vinay Shrama and his collaborated works with artist from Cardiff.

• The Biennale had a building that was dedicated just for video installations. The exciting factor with this building was that it was still under construction and we used it with machinery, paint stains and loose electrical wiring to our advantage and ambience. Some noted artists who’s video installation where showcased at the Biennale were Vivan Sundaram, Gigi Scaria, Pratul Das, Veer Munshi, Dhanushka Marasinghe and Anoli Perera.

• In the video section there were wide range of issues that were showcased with an artist point of view. From Sri Lankan civil war to its path of peace, to how some one perceives things. To how chaos and city noise drowns the inner creativity and peace of a human being. The death a river goes because of pollution and how its surroding die too. The “state” of Kashmir. How we balance our lives and the feeling that it’s a tight rope walking episode every single day. These video installations showed human, environmental, spiritual and physical aspects of our circumstances. The medium is not traditional but then they convey every emotion that the artist feels.

• On the outside grounds of the event site where few installations that used to provide the visitors the first look of the Biennale. They did their job well as through them that the visitors and tourists used to become curios and take a look around of the Biennale. The installations belonged to Amrit Shah, Amresh Kumar, Arun Pandit, Shambhavi, Nitin Datt and Susant Mandal.

• In other brownie points for the Biennale was the VIP guests that graced us with their visits. The Karmapa of the Buddhist Sect. Bodhgaya, as the name suggest is one of the important places for Buddhism. As such a lot of forgien Buddhist sect heads reside here. Like all religions, Buddhism also has an affinity with the arts. The scroll painting or even the arts that surround the walls of their monasteries. the visit of the Karmapa was to show his support to the cause of Arts and to CANVAS for organising an Art event of this stature. Also to visit us were the Principal Secretary of the Art, Culture and Youth Department of Bihar Government, Shri Chaitanya Prasad and the Managing Director Tourism Department Mrs Harjot Kaur. The visit of these two officials were the morel boost that was needed in the middle of the Biennale week. Also to collaborate with us was the Indian Institute of Managemt Gaya (IIM,Gaya). Its Director took part in one of the Art Talk sessions. He spoke about the new couses that are being offerd keeping in mind the lucrative market that the art word is becoming for young entrepreneurs.

As always any event will not be complete if we don’t have partners to support us. Weather it was monetary in nature or in kind, every help and support that they gave us was needed and appreciated. From the galleries that send the art works of the artists at their expenditure to the tourism department that gave us their venue and hotel, to the media partners that gave us coverage in form of Newspaper to electronic media like radio (RADIO MIRCHI).