A large blue letter box and dangling threads invite visitors to pen their thoughts in post cards and share them with rivers. These are among the ways that visitors can relate to nature and artists’ ideas at the DAMned Art festival that was inaugurated at Lalit Kala Akademi on Friday evening.
Organised by the Goethe Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan, the month-long art festival has 13 artists from Europe and India present their artworks on ecology, the Cooum and ways to have a public dialogue on collective responsibility towards waterways. The public art festival that was originally proposed by the Cooum had to be adapted to the gallery ambience as permissions were denied.
A ‘kolam’ by Chennai-based Parvathi Nayar presents the stark reality of the status of waterways. The 13-dotted kolam was created using trash found along the Adyar to remind people about the degradation of the river. “I originally planned to have an art installation using ceramic pieces shaped like algae found along the river. But I came up with this idea that everyone would relate to. We found interesting things like a pair of boxing gloves and big toy head,” she said.
In an effort to give an idea of what the public art festival would have been like in Chennai, the artists have put up video installations, pictures and drawings of their original proposals. An artwork using plastic bottle caps to convey the mounting crisis of plastic consumption, images of light installations and ‘Lake 301 — a lake in a river’ that envisages a small freshwater body within the polluted river are some of the artworks on display.
Artists Anna Witt and Shwetha Bhattad showcased their artworks done as part of participatory community projects with school children. Visitors can also learn about the impact of the obstruction of waterways through a game.
Earlier, artists and art curators Florian Matzner and Ravi Agarwal took part in a panel discussion. Helmut Schippert, director, Goethe Institut, elaborated on the challenges faced in the past two years while organising the festival, which will have workshops, music and dance events and interactive sessions.