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'Spaghetti Harvest', curated by Clark House Initiative, opens at Project 88 in Bombay
Our adherence and belief of the moving image being the harbinger of truth has been a disservice towards logical thought and humanism.

By: Sumesh Sharma

BOMBAY.- The conclusion of the recent elections to the European Parliament saw many nations emerge from their World War II guilt onto a path of xenophobia, the rise of Jobbik in Hungary, Front National in France, the United Kingdom Independence Party and Geert Wilders's Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, not only questioned the survival of the union but also an increasing public support for closed borders. Leaders of the Far Right orchestrated a campaign that began with high profile visits to the Italian island of Lampedusa, these events were televised, shown on national television. This led to a series of televised reporting on the landings of refugees from North Africa, followed up by investigative documentaries that followed immigrants on their paths to Germany, France, and the United Kingdom from they moment they slipped through the barbed wires of their detention centre. Soon numerous documentaries and amateur home videos began cashing in on the excitement. Reality television in the United Kingdom began chasing illegal workers around underground stations and the streets of London, they accompanied UK Border Control officers on their daily ordeal. Yet another began recording the interrogation of passengers at the immigration control of Heathrow. As this was being televised across channels in Europe irrespective of their political affiliations, TV5 Monde, the French broadcaster showed a series where two young French men who had returned to live amongst nature in Normandy had managed to cross the English Channel without even clothes forget the need for a national identity card. BBC reported the presence of British teams on the French side of the channel with oxygen monitors that checked trucks headed for England for hidden contraband - illegal immigrants.

One such documentary, a recent edition of Panorama, critiqued a constant failure of successive British governments of instituting a comprehensive immigration policy. It commented on the fact that Britain's eagerness to allow immigrants from the Commonwealth had led to a society that was not well integrated. One of the commentators played down the paranoia that was been strummed up against immigration by pointing to ignorance to the outside world. He talked of how in 1957 as a child he had watched Panorama's April Fools documentary that convinced a majority of Britons that spaghetti was a fruit farmed in Italy and the slopes of southern Switzerland. Careful editing and a convincing voice had played magic. A familiar voiced echoed the sentiments of the Far Right and organisations such as Immigration Watch, careful editing had successfully created paranoia against humans seeking better lives. At Clark House we have supported the right to immigrate and the globalisation of human beings without the fear of xenophobia, demographic challenges or social security concerns, that should come in the way for population exchanges that have been happening since the evolution of the human race. We believe all immigration has net positive impacts on society. A change none of us can deny or oppose. The metaphor of the flamingo on a curtain brings the idea of immigration into the domestic space in Prajakta Potnis’s curtains, on the windows of Project 88.

Our adherence and belief of the moving image being the harbinger of truth has been a disservice towards logical thought and humanism. Bollywood often boasts of the best film editors in the history of cinema, perhaps due the fact that film-direction is often passed on through successive generations of a Bollywood dynasty, someone has to make sense of all the film footage that is collected and processed. But more than seven decades ago V Shantaram with the Prabhat Film Company created films that were avant-garde in their direction, cinematography, choreography and music. One such movie is 'Shejari' or 'Neighbours' produced in 1941, it talks about the impeding disaster that partition was going to bring about by narrating that story of a Muslim and a Hindu neighbour and the distrust that arises from communal politics. The dance sequences in the film follow patterns from modern ballet and traditional Indian kathak, using an orchestra that dances along with traditional tunes and musical instruments. Nation building in accordance with the Nehruvian secular model had concerned the practice of these film makers. They were to help a nation arise from colonialism thus is was not surprising to see a sense of equality in the steps of the dancers in 'Shejari', an aspect now eclipsed by misogyny. Lastly as a Marathi song echoes within a space seen as an anathema to the jingoism that is simultaneous with culture today specially in Bombay, where language is not a learned pleasure, but rather an unfortunate division that sometimes defines demarcations of class and caste.

Film or Performance has never been a media alien to the arts or the audience, but a paranoia about its alienation from more conventional forms is always played up during comparisons and criticism, with the urge to establish a hierarchy between mediums. Clark House thus constructs a show that attempts to critique not only the political paranoia created through video but the paranoia towards videography and the animosities created by the stress on medium based practice. We collaborate with Raqs Media Collective and CAMP who have encouraged a dialogue through exhibitions, texts, and the sharing of content with the Clark House. We construct associations of time, politics, architecture and technology to put forth our fears of its misuse and the strengths of collaboration across practices to oppose the politics of the Far Right who have been very sophisticated in their use of media and technology.

Amol Patil, installs his video 'Asylum for Dead Objects' within a Sony Trinitron television placed on a recreation of a Bombay bourgeoise living room, with dadaist influences in the furniture, where their edges are turned into curves. But on the mantelpiece there sit drawings of sanitation workers and the economies that allow the city its metropolitan life. Yogesh Barve draws singular line on a sunmica dining table board which has been painted over representing the cane of a blind man, the visual aide that creates and allows visibility based on assumptions. Nikhil Raunak's etching of Venus the Milo carefully edits and crafts an alternate view point adding onto it another layer of history while referring the slave trade. Rupali Patil etches a chair covered by a cloth, over a lightbox, reminding us of the silent workings of power. Prabhakar Pachpute right out of school at the age of 18 he went to assist Laxmanrao Thakre at a Gandhian Ceramic Worskhop in Bhadrawati near his hometown Chandrapur. Here the waste from the mining activity that had destroyed the landscape around him was turned into ceramics and terracotta by a team of dedicated sculptors. Later he was to graduate with a degree in Sculpture from the MS University in Baroda. His early drawings placed aside found objects, a vase by Thakre and a recent bronze sculpture, denote Pachpute's use of light and architectural perspective to create drawings that are in fact sculptural installations. Christine Rogers revisits the history of Project 88 by printing on a metallic surface by using a photocopying machine. Project 88 earlier housed a metal printing factory.

Camp edits and creates a three channel video of an archive of whose history they know briefly and edit scenes referring to movements in cinema, architecture, times in history irreverent to the intent of the person who had filmed it. On a curved table, lies a ceramic found in the second hand market of mutton street, from a vendor who clears out old people's homes. When bought we were intrigued by its shape, when we asked, we go to know it was an edition of Jean Arp, suddenly wanting us to imagine whom it may belong to and why? Of those in Bombay who agreed with Dadaist movements, of latent emotion in the city that reject absolutism in art and politics. Across from Amol Patil's Asylum for Dead Objects which also shows him performing a clock, we would like to place 'Whenever the Heart Skips a Beat', we believe it adequately illustrates the paranoia. There is a literal reference to time and how over time political associations in culture change with certain things - such as media or movies, how collaboration with the moving image was once the mainstay of the JJ School of Arts and that collaboration between writers, artists and cinematographers was during a period of Bombay's most prolific and interesting times. And also about how words can create simultaneous understanding of doubt and animosity and at times cooperation and solidarity.

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