Treat for the senses

Shahnaz Siganporia talks to Fausto Giaccone and Anusha Yadav about their artistic journey during Sensorium, Goa’s art, literature, and ideas festival.

December 27, 2014 05:15 pm | Updated 05:15 pm IST

Indian Memory Project - Anusha Yadav. Photo: Anurag Banerjee

Indian Memory Project - Anusha Yadav. Photo: Anurag Banerjee

Sensorium is the newest kid on the cultural festival block. This annual festival of art, literature and ideas was launched on December 6 and will continue until February 5, 2015, at the Sunaparanta Goa Centre of the Arts, a beautiful old villa tucked away in the hills of Panjim, Goa. For festival junkies, the venue itself will make this an annual fixture but Sensorium is better suited for the sceptics and nay-sayers.

Directed by Prashant Panjiar, photographer and creative director of the Delhi Photo Festival, and photographer-author Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi, the festival sees the duo combine their prowess over words and images, and put together a curated experience that seamlessly intersects both their crafts. Shanghvi’s aim is simple. “I wanted to keep it open-ended; the best narratives allow the story to continue. Therefore, if the inaugural addition focused on photography and its shadow on cinema, literature, art then the next edition could focus on music, politics and how we love.” Shanghvi wanted to create something that was counterpoint to the idea of “big and incredible”. And his guiding principal through the entire curation process has rested on the simple motive of keeping Sensorium small and serious. “I think credible, moving and sized ‘civil’ are more relevant to me.”

In the bludgeoning festival circus, between the gently wafting smell of the beach and the delicately curated programme, Sensorium offers a more intimate sort of experience. It is a sparse calendar of events stretched over a two-month period; so there’s no tumbling of one event into another. The ongoing exhibits are leisurely spread over the lawns, around the courtyard, in the interior galleries, along with a remarkable library curated by Regina Anzenberger. 

On the programme is an eclectic mix of multi-disciplinarian artistes whose subjects range from the contemporary to the ancient. But care has been maintained to marry the various threads into a sort of seamlessly-told multiple-narrative. Be it stirring together media through Farrokh Chothia’s jazz greats with a perfectly synchronic introduction by Salman Rushdie, or Sooni Taraporevala’s Oscar-nominated debut Salaam Bombay , that finds a new space here where film stills are fittingly juxtaposed with the original script. Or, playing with perspective — Sohrab Hura’s Life Is Elsewhere is the subliminally emotive and internal journey of a son coping with his mother’s illness; while Adil Hassan, S. Biswas and Sudeep Sen reinterpret Octovia Paz’s poetry through imagery. But through the entire narrative there is a constant looping in and out of time — past, current and memory. The crescendo of the many exhibits is a sort of harmony between a tribute and an archival project. Fausto Giaccone’s Macondo, where “a photographer sets out to discover a mythical place immortalized in one of the greatest novels of the 20th century”. The exhibit is an ephemeral photo-tribute to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s masterpiece OneHundred Years Of Solitude . And Anusha Yadav’s more specific recounting of time past in The Indian Memory Project, where oral and visual history come together through the medium of the family album and an online archival process. The two artists, exchange notes and recall their own artistic journey.

Fausto Giaccone remembers Macondo:

“It all began in 1971 when I was in the military. In response to the boredom of those long months, I discovered reading. The book that most struck me was Gabo’s OneHundred Years of Solitude . Many years later, in 1987, my work as a photojournalist took me to Colombia, and I discovered a world that had been revealed to me many years before, when I read that novel. So I made several reportages inspired by that world for various magazines. Several years later in mid-2000, I felt the need to make a photo-book about that subject, but I wanted it to be a completely new kind of work. It was an introspective exercise to check if, after close to 40 years of photojournalism, I could still be able to start a new project with a new personal language that would be closer to my new need.

So the new adventure began. I travelled and took pictures for three years, ending in 2010, and during the same time I voraciously read all of Gabo’s novels and biography. All the while wondering what would be the right language to express my new needs. Macondo started from a new need, but came from a very old passion.

Exhibiting my work at Sensorium has been an extraordinary experience for me. I would say it’s a kind of miracle, that was sparked by a series of lucky coincidences. It all started some months ago, when I was travelling in India. I had the idea to show my book to Prashant Panjiar, whose work I knew as we are both contributors of the same photo agency (Anzenberger, in Vienna) but whom I had never met before. He was approached by Sunaparanta to be the curator for its festival at about the same time and he proposed my work among the different exhibitions. When the festival opened I realised that Macondo had never been understood and exhibited in such an inspired way. It could have been because of the tropical atmosphere but it was almost as if I was exhibiting it in Colombia, something that has still not happened, but I do hope it will.”

Anusha Yadav on how The Indian Memory Project came to be:

“I have always been interested in old photographs. Photographs are a way to travel time and imagine stories — how it must have been, who they must have been. I have no formal education in Art History or Anthropology, but have always been interested in both, and I have spent a lot of time creating my own theories, conjectures and connections. I am also a book designer.

The project was a sort of culmination of all of this, with Facebook and its photo posting, sharing and access to people, I thought it might be a good idea to source images and start collecting original pictures to research a book on Indian weddings. With the innumerable diverse cultures within India, it would have made a most interesting read. At that time, I wanted to research ceremonies and traditions, all that was gradually disappearing behind the curtain of Bollywood quick-fix yet elaborate weddings. I was hoping I wasn’t the only one interested and I wasn’t mistaken.

However, people began posting all kinds of old photos, with very interesting anecdotes. Almost everyone had an interesting story, or an accomplishment that they wanted to share. Several phrases began to become categories or subjects like in a library. Moreover, these images were the only form of any documentation of personal histories, which if suffixed with narratives could open a whole unknown world about our lives.

I guess, that’s when the bulb went off, there was more to it than I had thought. I realised that if I were to put 20 pictures and their stories side by side of a city through time, it would give me a fair idea about its History. And so, an entire collection could offer the essence of a country, or even a continent. In 2010, I took my Facebook Group and expanded it beyond. With only 15 stories and the help of a free blog, I formally founded the Indian Memory Project.”

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.