Art Exhibition

Ina Puri curates special exhibition that trains its lens on inclusivity on the 57th anniversary of the Birla Academy of Art and Culture

The group exhibition titled Stories of Light and Song: Contemporary Art Practices in Asia is on display from January 9 to February 9, 2024

The prestigious Birla Academy of Art and Culture (BAAC) is celebrating its 57th anniversary with a special exhibition ‘Stories of Light and Song: Contemporary Art Practices in Asia’ that will open for viewing from January 9, 2024. Curated by Ina Puri, the group show featuring works of Baaran Ijlal, Gidree Bawlee, Ranbir Kaleka and Sudharak Olwe, salutes the spirit of humanity through artworks ranging from installations to photographs.

In the show, junctions are made between objects, non-objects, quasi-objects and hyper-objects. Self-taught New-Delhi artist Baaraan Ijlal’s “Change Room” is a travelling sound installation of voices belonging to people who express their fears and desires as they listen and absorb. She conceptualised this as an open channel of voices telling their stories anonymously, with herself as the witness. The Change Room Archives is a growing and evolving record of chroniclers who have lent their voices anonymously at Change Room art installations globally.

The performers documented in Sudharak Olwe’s “And as for you; you are closely in unison with the grief of the anklet bells” black-and-white photographs belong to the Kolhati community, a Nomadic tribe often discriminated against because of their ‘low caste’. These intrepid women whom Olwe documented over years performed the Lavani dance, a form looked down upon by the conservative society. Refusing to submit to societal pressures, the Lavani dancers continued their performances and gained popularity as they performed across Maharashtra.

“These people (are) living in great poverty. Through the beauty of the art of tamasha Lavanis presents a marvelous surreal world before the audience. Emotions, their replication and continuation blend beautifully through the gestures, movements and body-language of the lavani dancers to present romance with great intensity,” writes Olwe in his conceptual note.

Gidree Bawlee Foundation from Balia, Thakurgaon, Bangladesh, is presenting “Waves”, a collaborative project between the two Bengals. Through knowledge sharing and experimentation have co-created a site-specific installation that will trace the history of bamboo crafts. Time and Space yoked together form the background of Ranbir Kaleka’s haunting video ‘how far…”? Tragic displacements are forced by recurring conflicts, too often we hear of stories of internally displaced people, migrants, refugees — people who have no place to call their own — seeking an escape to a better life elsewhere. Kaleka’s

video is an elegy to the personal existential crisis that plagues the displaced people everywhere.

“This exhibition brings to the city of Kolkata works that sing of love and loss, a show that celebrates life while accepting its ruptures and contradictions, saluting the spirit of humanity. Contemporaneity requires museums and art institutions to engage in a dialogue with the world on an equal basis. Stories of Light and Song: Contemporary Art Practices in Asia is brought to the Birla Academy with the hope that we can speak one universal language of inclusivity. The powerful, contemporary voices may be moving at different speeds, yet they move through the same historical time,” says curator Ina Puri.

The opening of the exhibition on January 9 will have Ina Puri in conversation with Sudharak Olwe and Kamruzzaman Shadhin and Salma Jamal Moushum of Gidree Bawlee Foundation illuminating the various facets of this exhibition. Another engaging talk will be on February 9 with Ranbir Kaleka.

Established in 1967, the Birla Academy of Art and Culture has primarily focused on promoting young practitioners, showcasing their works alongside those of the more established and senior artists. The 57th anniversary celebration of BAAC is month-long, which will feature lectures, talks, winter performances and demonstrations starting with Lavani, performed by Mamta Patil and troupe, Kabeer, a musical mono-act by Shekhar Sen and Sutra by Sharmila Biswas, and more.

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