When you cross mall culture with theatre and adventure sports, you get a pretty cool performance

There’s always a way of retaining a part of the past with the new, especially when it comes to history. In the case of a new visual theatre project, history’s best friend is art. A new theatre performance piece titled Mall Wall, a collaboration between Bangalore theatre group Actors Ensemble India Forum (AEIF), India Foundation for the Arts, Phoenix Marketcity and adventure sports firm Mars Adventures and American wireless telecommunications firm Qualcomm.

Mall Wall is what you get when you cross mall culture with theatre and adventure sports. Ram Ganesh Kamatham, an artiste from the Actors Ensemble India Forum, says they chose to work with the idea of the Bangalore cityscape quite directly. Kamatham explains, “We thought we’d work with a public space, a climbing wall in a shopping mall, and that we'd present the performance 50 feet in the air, on the skyline. When you have an idea like this, you have to be inter-disciplinary. We had to push the limits of what we do, to include the art of climbing, visual art, aerial movement, rigging, and more. We’ve also drawn on some wonderful research into heritage conservation and urban planning.”

Kamatham and his colleagues at AEIF, with climbers at Mars Adventures spent 10 days painting the artwork, inspired by graffiti artist Banksy, and simultaneously had climbers help train the actors. Theatre actor and trainer Mallika Prasad, led the process of creating the artwork, working with graphic designer Tarun Cherian and wall painter Shunnal Ligade. “The design process was quite extensive,” says Kamatham. In the course of 10 days, both painters and climbers painted the wall. “Climbers would often do base layers, or work on difficult-to-reach places. Painters would then do the detailing. By the end of the project both painters and climbers were swapping ideas,” says Kamatham.

Kamatham says the performance will deal with “the transformation of Whitefield” He adds, “(It) signifies the best and worst of the changes in Bangalore. The mall is in Mahadevapura sitting at the edge of Whitefield, so we get a vantage point, not only physically, but also on the ‘idea of Whitefield’. Through our characters we hope to reintroduce ‘old memories’ of Whitefield into the swanky new space.”

The central ideas of Mall Wall, according to AEIF are to pit the Garden City times against the current concrete jungle to create tension and opposition. Says Kamatham, “Old versus new Bangalore. There are also several motifs in the artwork that reference landmark architecture in the city, as well as trees particular to the area - such as gulmohar, bougainvillea and tamarind trees. We've also worked with an old map of Whitfield, referencing the inner and outer circles.”