Kissa Kursi Ka – a chairy tale by design artist Gunjan Gupta at Kochi Biennale 2016

Kissa Kursi Ka – a chairy tale – is the only design based collateral event at the Kochi Art Biennale. This exhibition will showcase 10 years of research and explorations around seating by design artist Gunjan Gupta. At Heritage Arts she presents a series of sculptural seats. The venue is a beautiful warehouse of old antiques and colonial furniture in Jew Town, Mattancherry that will host the exhibition and for Gunjan it is of interest to see how contemporary design sits in the context of Indian traditional arts.

The collateral event is being curated by a world renowned curator, Yoichi Nakamuta who through his organization Alamak! pioneered the Made in Asia show/movement that debuted at the Triennale Di Milano earlier this year. Gunjan Gupta was representative of India in this initiative and was lauded for her design art representing an understandable essence of India and sharing an approachable narrative of India for the world.

Vasco Da Gama arrived on Indian shores in Calicut near Kochi in 1498 and in essence bought the chair with him. Prior to European arrival, Indian society primarily sat on the floor and elevated seating existed as thrones symbolizing power. This historical fact presents an interesting perspective on the evolution of furniture design in India, a theme that has been explored by Gupta in her widely acclaimed throne series over the past decade.

Says Gunjan Gupta, “Sudarshan Shett’y curatorial vision for this biennale talks about craft and tradition and pushing the boundaries of imagination and multiplicity which have special meaning for me. Having worked as a sculptural designer for the past decade with special interest in the crafts of India – it has inspired me to push the envelope and create artworks that capture this moment in design through this collateral project”.

Artworks at “Kissa Kursi Ka” Exhibition:

Kissa Kursi Ka Totem Pole

The Kissa Kursi Ka Totem Pole inaugurates the show with piled up objects that were used for sitting in India before the apparition of the chair that came with Vasco de Gama in the 15th century, a comment about the time when elevated sitting started to become common and not reserved as a symbol of power to those in power.

Dining Throne reimagined by Bandeep Singh

Gunjan Gupta’s defining design of 2006 resurrected a tradition from a lost era of luxury, of handcrafted wrapping of silver sheet and gold leaf and here re-examined 10 years later under the lens of Bandeep Singh, whose imagination has juxtaposed the design and the female form and reduced it to an elemental form of light and line.

The Bicycle Thrones

The Bicycle thrones emerged from a partnership between Gunjan Gupta and Droog Design in Amsterdam for the Experimenta Design Biennale in 2008. Since then, the bicycle thrones i.e; Gaddawalla and Kapdawalla shown in the exhibition have been showcased at Sothebys, Design Miami and the Triennale Museum in Milan. These thrones are what launched Gunjan’s International career in design due to their strong cultural narrative.

The Bicycle Throne series, which are built with bicycle parts that replicate somehow the way in which street vendors occupy the space as they move provoking a certain irony that distils from using popular non-value elements to build a throne and therefore a very symbolic seat. The Khilonewalla throne captures the iconic image of a toy seller framed in a halo of balls while the ‘Muda’ walla captures the sculptural imagery of a bamboo seller with his wares. The ‘Bartanwallah is a sculptural pile up of handcrafted brass vessels that are handbeaten by the ‘thateran’ craftsman. The new Boriwallathrone is a more sculptural rendition from the previous one with a wilder and more random pile up of boris that create visual impact.

Aloo Bori Sofa

The Bori sofa was first shown at Design Miami in Basel and became an instant hit with the art collectors who found this to be a very arresting version of an Indian couch. The Aloo Bori sofa for the Kissa Kursi Ka exhibition is an extension of this seat that subverts the idea of the couch potato and presents itself as an installation of soft foam filled jute sacks meant for sitting that is deceptively comfortable.

The Do NOT Handle with Care Matka Mix

The Do Not Handle with Care Matka Mix handcrafted in stone is a set of stools that can be used as a coffee table cluster that plays with the notion of fragility and alters utility of the mundane terracotta matka form. Handcrafted and carved by stone craftsmen in Rajasthan, they express a different way to look at luxury, a contemporary one that is far from stagnated ideas associated with expensive and shiny materials as the forgotten terracotta matka is emptied of its former utility and infused them with a new unexpected dignity.

Gaddaseries, Potli and Masnad Chair

The staple Indian mattress is rolled into The Gadda Chair and juxtaposed with a colonialcane chair for The Floating Gadda Chair, while the comfort of a mundane laundry sack becomes the backrest in The Potli Chair and the much forgotten bolster cushion takes centre stage in The Masnad Chair.

Content Courtesy: VTY – Very Truly Yours, New Delhi

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