Archive

Monthly Archives: August 2015

Tuesday 18th August 2015

The second day opened with two papers addressing the architectural development and planning of Chandigarh. Iain Jackson (Senior Lecturer, School of Architecture, University of Liverpool) explored the overlooked and quotidian portions of the city in his paper, ‘Chandigarh Dwellings: Ghastly Good Taste or Flamboyant Modernism’. Departing from the over-cited work on the city by Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret, Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew, he detailed his early research into private developments which have avoided similar ossification. 

His documentation of these private dwellings showed idiosyncratic modification contra to the city’s founding vision. Discussing this independence from the Government’s arbitration of taste and aesthetic agenda, Jackson proposed a series of classifications including Punjabi Baroque. He stated that this peacock flamboyancy and non-utilitarian adaptation showed Chandigarh remained open, unresolved and signalled the failure of modernist notions of ‘home’. 

New Chandigarh villa

New Chandigarh villa

Melissa Smith (Banduksmith Studio/Visiting Faculty, CEPT Ahmedabad) spoke on ‘Chandigarh plans un-planned’ The paper focused on the un-planned nature of Chandigarh as an enriching force often overlooked by the predominance of Le Corbusier’s unjustifiably inflated legacy. Looking at architecture as the beginning of the evolving city organisation, Smith detailed the Banduksmith Studio Ageing Modernism project. Her research on shop typology showed that the city had accommodated and adapted these regulated spaces. The city manifested interesting and pleasant surprises which reinvented austere forms, swerving away from Le Corbusier’s concrete rigidities

The discussion opened to the floor and addressed Chandigarh’s other authors, those transforming the space contravening central regulation. Religious communities and informal economies were acknowledged for their interaction in the city. Whilst religion was assimilated, migrant labour was maintained at a distance from Chandigarh, which held onto its claim as a ‘slum-free city’. 

The next session introduced Goa as a city of complexity and point of overlapping and multiple identities. Jonathan Gil Harris (Professor of English, Ashoka University) introduced ‘Goa and the Sixteenth Century Judeo-Muslim Nexus’. Velha Goa of this period, one of the largest cities in the world, was a palimpsest combining Christian structures and Bijapur Sultanate traces. With transnational intimacy, the city fostered unexpected inhabitants and linguistic multiplicity followed. Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese and Konkani languages were used by Andalusian and non-Andalusian ‘new Christians’, Muslim merchants, and Sephardic Jews. The paper focused on the Judeo-Muslim network of trade, and the publication of Garcia da Orta’s Colóquios dos simples e drogas he cousas medicinais da Índia at Goa in 1563.  Goa was, as Harris stated, a place of ‘connected histories’ and timeless geography, where borders and linguistic identities merged, notions of state and culture were inverted, and ‘Christian’ surfaces bore traces of a covert Judeo-Muslim connection. 

Garcia de Orta

Garcia de Orta commemorated

Rochelle Pinto (Research Fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Delhi) presented ‘Collective commerce – the city of Bombay, the village in Goa’. Utilising Konkani newspapers from the late nineteenth century Bombay, her paper looked at the newsprint realism and the place of Goa’s print voice following migration to Bombay. Advertisements addressed to Goan migrants appeared like a map of the condition of displacement and assimilation. Though laying claim to dispossession, the production of text by Catholic Goans Pinto argued, would have weighed towards the upper castes. The close reading of the newspapers established that the place the print voice claimed were the street of Bombay and the village in Goa. 

Animesh Rai (Alliance Française de Pondicherry) concluded the morning addressing the historical relationship of the French in Pondicherry. ‘To be, or not to be, French: the balancing act of Pondicherry’ analysed the nature of French influence in the region using the theory of creolization. Looking at the historic and contemporary city, the paper discussed the conflictual nature of this juxtapostion of cultures. Rai stressed the relative nature of creolization and the importance of recognising the larger context of India as a nation state. 

The audience discussion considered the dietary practices of sixteenth century Goa and the means by which pork was used as a tool of the inquisition. The body, Harris remarked, was an important part of da Orta’s engagement with the city and his own was the site of experimentation for his researches. He reinforced the statelessness of Goa which, as highlighted by further conversation, found articulation in the rhetoric of Pondicherry’s Auroville. 

The afternoon opened with Dhrubajyoti Ghosh (Special Advisor, Agricultural Ecosystems, Commission on Ecosystem Management, IUCN). ‘My Tryst with Trash: A Community of the ‘Vandals’’, presented a case study of Kolkata’s Dhapa, a space used as the municipal dumping ground. Started in 1985, his research charted the historiography of the site and methods employed to make the space feasible for agriculture. Taking example from Shri Bhabanath Sen’s initiative in breeding fish in waste water, which created a new landscape for eco-recycling wastewater and trash collection, Ghosh focused on the contemporary character of the site. Regarded as ‘vandals’, the marginal communities who make their livelihoods from salvaging waste are denied civic rights. His recent fieldwork detailed the political challenges and strategies employed by current trash-diggers and garbage farmers. 

Kolkata's eastern dharpa

Kolkata’s Eastern dhapa

Ghosh described the livestock rearing which took place in Dhapa. Both pigs and cows subsisted on the site and created an informal source of income for the community. The cows’ milk was excessively creamy and whilst not drunk by the owners, was sold to goalas (milk merchants). He posited that these communities and their livelihoods could be understood in terms of creating ‘positive ecological footprints’. 

Following apologies sent from Aditi Mukherjee (PhD scholar, Leiden Institute for Area Studies, Leiden University), the afternoon continued with Durgesh Solanki (M.Phil Scholar, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai), on ‘Cast(e)ing life: The Experience of Staying in a Caste Quarters’. From ethnographic research, Solanki presented the political and social complexities encountered by Bombay’s Meghwal community. Employed by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) as conservancy workers, they were historically assigned segregated living quarters. The paper explored how this relationship was reinforcing caste hierarchy.  Through the uncertain provision of housing, Solanki argued that the state was maintaining Brahmanical notions of purity and pollution and furthering inequality. 

Sarover Zaidi (PhD Scholar, Max Planck Institute, Department of Religious Diversity) continued with an anthropological study, ‘Religious Moderns: architecture and selfhood in Bohra Shias of Bombay’. Her on-site research at Bhendi Bazaar charted the development of this modern architecture and perceptions of the area in relation to the heritage of the colonial city. Describing the organisation of this Shia community as a ‘strongly urbanised sect’, she argued that architecture was a formative part of this ‘self consciously cultivated’ statement.

Proposed plans, SBUT

Proposed plans, SBUP

Two current development projects; Saifee Burhanee Upliftment Plan and the Saifee Hospital reinforced this distinct identity. One of the biggest urban redevelopment plans undertaken in India, this initiative around the Rouza (mausoleum) envisions a site of highrises and sky scrapers alongside aspects of Fatimid architecture. Zaidi commented on the propagation of their isolation within Bombay and the moving registers of ‘religious modern’ rhetoric. The bricolage of styles, contingent upon sacred geography provided a medium from which to understand Bohra subjectivity. Zaidi concluded that these plans and her fieldwork established the complex relationship with modernity was built on a deep base of piety and intense sense of being Shia. 

Residential patterns and the envisioning of a global city were explored by Anushka Sen and Dalia Chakraborty (Departments of English and Sociology, Acropolis Project, Jadavpur University). “Live in New York in New Town”: Kolkata’s own Global City, focused on life-styles in the planned township, Rajarhat-Newtown in the Northeast of the city. Utilising advertising campaigns and a close reading of the text, a promise of ultra-urban and ultra-modern living was analysed. 

Key terms including leisure, security and convenience provided an entry point from which the hybridity of these aspirational sites could be read. Described as ‘unambiguously Continental or American or even Western’, the blurring of rhetorics by promoters and the researcher’s ethnographic work in the area established an elusive imagined model of real and hypothetical lives. 

Discussions of the papers questioned the nature of ‘global modernity’ and the qualities it embodied. ‘What was being aspired to?’ Professor Supriya Chaudhuri asked, and ‘what direction did it take?’A continuous projection forward was identified and a movement of terms was suggested as at once maintaining a distance and enclosing these communities. This was contextualised by the recent adoption of ‘curated boutique living’ in Kolkata. 

The conference concluded with readings of Kolkata through its representation in nineteenth century literature and the 20th century auteur cinema of Mrinal Sen. Abhishek Sarkar (Assistant Professor, Department of English, Jadavpur University) discussed early precepts about criminology using detective memoirs. ‘Crime and the City: Two Detective Officers in Nineteenth-Century Kolkata’, discussed the work of R. Reid (1887) and Priyanath Mukhopadhyay (1892) and depicted a trans-cultural complex of investigation and surveillance. 

Sen filming in Calcutta

Sen filming in Calcutta

Somak Mukherjee (E-QUAL Project RA and PhD Scholar, Jadavpur University) discussed Kolkata’s streets as spaces of multiplicity. ‘Infernal Encounters: Street and (Non)-Interpretation in Mrinal Sen’s Calcutta Quartet’ posited Sen as ‘the definitive chronicler’ of the city’s streets. Utilising clips and stills from ‘Interview’, Mukherjee stated that Sen captured the street as an ‘unobtrusive space of fluidity’ which defied locatedness. Framing the ‘street as the structure’ which was particularly pervasive in a city such as Calcutta, the paper emphasised Sen’s subversion of the street as a self enclosed totality. 

The gender dimensions of the street informed the ensuing discussion. The contemporary politics of the street were considered in terms of surveillance and its presence/non-presence in the Indian city. As an inherent component of the ‘global city’, its application warranted further investigation. 

The workshop was drawn to a close by Professor Supriya Chaudhuri who thanked all involved for their inputs and contributions to a stimulating workshop. She stated that the ETIC project will continue online and will be producing a source book. She welcomed contributions to the website and hoped that from the discussions and presentations new collaborations would form. 

Advertisements

ENVISIONING THE INDIAN CITY: PEOPLE, PLACES, PLANS

UGC-UKIERI INTERNATIONAL WORKSHOP

HL ROY MEMORIAL AUDITORIUM

MONDAY 17TH AUGUST 2015

The third ETIC international workshop was inaugurated by Professor Sukanta Chaudhuri, Emeritus Professor of English and well-known urban historian. Supriya Chaudhuri (ETIC project lead, Jadavpur) thanked the Centre of Advanced Study, Department of English, Jadavpur University, for hosting the two days and communicated apologies on behalf of Professor Nandini Das (ETIC project lead, University of Liverpool). 

Narayani Gupta (Formerly Professor, Department History and Culture, Jamia Millia Islamia)  opened the first panel. ‘The Denial of History’ discussed the lost traces of Delhi’s cross-cultural connect throughout its ‘planning’ historiography. Delhi was depicted as an open city, attracting cosmopolitan migration including Armenian and Afghani communities, but Gupta commented on the lack of social historical interest in this multi-layered past. As Delhi gets reported in political terms, using phrases such as Lodi Dehli, Moghul Delhi, and so on, this lack of an awareness of the city’s actual inhabitants or a sense of development is, Gupta stated, increasingly obscuring the study of its past. 

Her paper concluded with the discussion of the predatory nature of the contemporary city which obscures clues to these longer histories. Describing India’s planners as ‘lacking self-confidence’, the recruitment of American architects and expertise was said to have created a ‘totally unworkable city’. Whilst aesthetically impressive, Delhi as an experience was, Gupta concluded, one of illogical plans for traffic circulation and incoherent planning schemes. 

Dalhousie Square 1905

Dalhousie Square 1905

Monideep Chattopadhyay (Former Professor, Department of Architecture, Jadavpur University) spoke on ‘Calcutta Planning: Its European Connections’. Calcutta’s dichotomous identity from its genesis was reflected in its architecture and metropolitan planning stated Chattopadhyay. The paper focused on this reflection and interaction with a comparative reading of Lal Dighi, or Dalhousie Square, that housed Writer’s Buildings (1824) and Trafalgar Square (1845). The evolution of Dalhousie Square was utilised to highlight the entanglement of rhetorics being played out in the city’s structure. 

Sujata Patel (Department of Sociology, School of Social Sciences, University of Hyderabad) presented ‘Are smart cities smart solutions for the Indian context?’ Patel opened with a discussion of current Indian urbanism in Bombay. Depicted as ‘visions of the elite’, she critiqued statistical data emerging and the omission of ‘subaltern urbanisation’. ‘The periphery is not captured’ and requires, as Patel stated, ‘consideration’. Urban density and scale need to be comprehended and attention paid to the increasing informalisation of labour in the urban context. From her analysis of development in Bombay she observed that there was haphazard growth with chaotic traffic and service delivery as well as conflict between state and municipal bodies.

Patel’s paper continued with a discussion of the Government’s contemporary strategy and elaborated on its concept of the ‘smartness of cities’. The introduction of smart cities, a brand patented by IBM and run in collaboration with a number of multi-national ICT companies such as Accenture, were offering a model built on offering a connection to the ‘global knowledge economy’. Patel was critical of the notion of urban citizen which emerged: an individual with global knowledge digital technology and literacy. 

The programme had ‘not been disseminated properly’ stated Patel, and lacked scrutiny. The paper offered up for discussion the provocative notion that the Smart City was a ‘techno-utopia’. The mechanics of patronage needed to be questioned and it had to be asked whether there was a feasible or equitable ‘smartness for Indian cities’? 

The audience discussion raised the advantages the smart city might engender in terms of transparency and anti-corruption. The gender and linguistic dimensions of the space were called into question. Patel responded drawing attention to the politics of patronage and the legitimising role which professionals play. She was critical of the profit oriented models and the monopoly large corporates enjoyed. The role of language and gender required further exploration. Women in domestic service were not considered citizens, they were not part of the knowledge economy and formed the alternative part of the dual city. 

Bungalow design in India

Bungalow design in India

The second panel considered India’s architectural histories and cross-cultural spatial legacies. Madhavi and Miki Desai (Faculty of Architecture, CEPT Ahmedabad) presented ‘The Bungalow in Indian Cities: Colonial Urban Legacy and Post-Colonial Impact’. The paper looked at the proliferation of this typography from the British colonial period. Regarded as bringing about a historical revolution in its plan, form, style and structure, the bungalow’s heterogeneous variations at pan Indian level were discussed in the paper.  

Utilising examples from Ahmedabad influenced by Nationalist movements post independence, trends in Delhi between 1913 and 1930 and the Bombay suburb, Khar from 1920 to 1930, the modification of the form was charted. The social history of the building and its development were considered through the prism of health, sanitation and climatic concerns as well as technological, political and cultural forces. Attention was drawn to the structure’s increasing link with suburban growth and its contemporary reinvention as a luxurious dwelling in developer-dominated communities. 

Rachel Lee (Institute for Architecture, TU Berlin) introduced ‘Learning from Bangalore: From princely visions to urban resilience’. Departing from the city’s princely past, Lee discussed current urban development as contingent upon a history of flexibility and resilience. The paper posited that Bangalore’s interstitial position as the capital of Princely Mysore enabled it to emerge as a place of progressive projects and evolving infrastructure. 

The impact of the Indian Institute of Science established with state, Tata and British funds was explored as a fertile ground for ‘modernity’ and collaboration. The ruler of the princely state of Mysore had followed a policy to recruit non-British foreign scientists. Lee focused on the work of Otto Koenigsberger as an example of Bangalore’s dynamic urban change, initiated in pre-independence times. Koenigsberger was a German immigrant, and his projects, including the installation of India’s first wind tunnel, were sensitive to the environment. The University site, built next to a slum, was a particular example of his desire for educational integration and exchange. 

Otto Koenigsberger with Nehru, Amrit Kaur and Mountbatten

Otto Koenigsberger with Nehru, Amrit Kaur and Mountbatten

The notion of exchange and participation was developed further in the context of Lee and Fenk’s recent project in Bangalore. The architects held a series of public consultations to create a ‘people’s vision’ for the city. Selected designs were subsequently published and distributed intended to make a ‘more resilient’ neighbourhood

The ensuing discussion focused on bungalow typologies, the emulation of British classicism and the progressive nature of the form during Koenigsberger’s period in Bangalore. His designs, as Lee stated, which connected the servant quarter to the house were, at that point, innovative. Desai affirmed that the changing nature of this structure throughout India, consolidated previously segregated living patterns and was an agent of social change. 

The afternoon opened with Parjanya Sen (Assistant Professor, Sonada Degree College, Darjeeling) presenting ‘Reviving a Lost Trace: the Buddhist Revival movement in the 19th century and its Calcutta Chapter’. The paper explored Buddhist revivalism and the conditions through which it emerged in Calcutta during the nineteenth century. Mapping the movement, three distinct registers were identified, incorporating active community participation, ‘secular’ intellectuals and sympathizers and British archaelogical practitioners. The paper investigated how these groups interacted and how this contact was facilitated by Calcutta’s spaces. 

Mohit Ray (Engineering) presented his work ‘Kolkata – water bodies, people and history’. Drawn from his recent publication ‘Five Thousand Mirrors: The Water Bodies of Kolkata’ JU press, he outlined the multifunctional qualities of these spaces. From their eight hundred year history, with a focus on Lal Dighi, he spoke of the significance of water bodies in the urban environment. 

Describing contemporary Kolkata as a city of ponds, his study had identified five thousand water bodies and a similar number which had been filled up. His research into these contemporary water bodies had looked at the usage of these spaces. Supporting 23% of Kolkata’s population including bathers and a community of three thousand fishermen, these entities, Ray argued, needed to be preserved by effective policy making. Overlooked and undocumented by the Government, the ponds could also be looked after by the community. He gave the example of a local movement without institutional support which had resurrected a dying jheel in the South of the city. 

Per Ganges, letter from Wallich to Roscoe

Cleo Roberts (PhD Scholar, University of Liverpool) concluded the session speaking on ‘The River Ganges and Intellectual Exchange? A Liverpool-Calcutta Connection’. The paper focused on a series of botanical exchanges between William Roscoe and Nathaniel Wallich during the early 19th century which exemplified the river’s connection to the global emergence of natural history. Speaking through the pragmatics of successive shipments, her analysis went on to discuss the personal relationship which manifested. Visual representations were utilised to discuss the inefficiencies of the intellectual exchange which she argued, were contingent upon Wallich’s inherent subservience to Roscoe. Questions asked during the discussion again focused on the inequality of such a relationship in the imperial and colonial context, and brought out the many ambiguities of Wallich’s position.

Sujaan Mukerjee (PhD Scholar, Department of English, ETIC project RA, Jadavpur University) opened the final panel of Day One. His paper, ‘A Second Look at the Calcutta High Court Capitals’, explored the aesthetic and architectural history of the Court’s capitals. Tracing their classical design to Walter Granville, further primary source research had dispelled former claims of their link to the Cloth Hall, Ypres. Mukerjee posited that Doges Palace, Venice could have been the inspiration. Discussing Victorian aesthetic debates and gothic revivalism, these capitals were therefore best re-approached and situated within a ‘Ruskinian’ dialogue. 

Anubha Fatehpuria (Visiting Faculty, Department of Architecture, Jadavpur University) considered Calcutta’s cultural heritage and contemporary institutions. ‘The Stage at the Heart of the City: Culturing Kolkata’, called for increasingly considerate and consultative cultural policy. As a performer, her professional experiences informed her discussion of the failure to adequately facilitate and nurture culture in the city. She argued that planning of spaces had to be in direct consultation with practitioners and audiences whose expectations were often unmet by the spaces built. 

Shubhrajit Das (Professor, Department of Architecture, Jadavpur University) continued with a discussion of Calcutta’s architectural status. ‘Spatial Vibrations in an Indian City’ reflected on the city’s current ‘insipid architecture’. He called for a reinvigoration of practices which considered India’s architectural heritage and reflected the city’s environment. He drew attention to the city’s distinct light quality and using a recently completed project, described how architecture could animate and play with this aspect of the urban complex. 

Following an animated discussion of the three papers, the first day concluded with a screening of Quarter No.4/11. Introduced by Ranu Ghosh (Director), the documentary followed the urban real estate development of South City, a shopping and residential complex in South Calcutta. Focused on the narrative of Shambhu Prasad Singh, an ex-factory worker whose living quarters were on the development site, the film gave an individual perspective on the political and social conflict encountered. 

Shambhu Prasad Singh, still from ‘Quarter Number 4/11’

Shambhu Prasad Singh, still from ‘Quarter Number 4/11’

Goa, in the early sixteenth century, as the ETIC website banner proclaims, was a place of transnational traffic and colourful encounters. Comings and goings mediated through its port brought the Estado da India Portuguesa and in time, a ‘turning of each old Goa – Goa velha, velha Goa into a new one…with its own rewriting’ (Das 2014). 

As rewriting implies, Goa was a place of incessant cultural dynamism and idiosyncratic reportage. Diverse characters with their diverse conceptualisations of the world were attracted for merchant and missionary potential. A trio of Japanese teenagers, of a winter in 1538, took stock of the site and reported back to their Jesuit patrons. English explorers, preceding the Company, came and did not conquer. Bernard Picart never went but etched out the city for inclusion in the illustrious Ceremonies et Coutumes Religieuses de tous les Peuples do Monde,(Paris, 1783).

These divergent encounters which helped shaped the city, will be further explored on Tuesday 18th August 2015 at the third ETIC international workshop. Dr Rochelle Pinto (Research Fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library) delivers her paper, ‘Collective commerce – the city of Bombay, the village in Goa’ and Professor Jonathan Gil Harris (Ashoka University) speaks on the city’s sixteenth century Judeo-Muslim heritage.

For now, skipping these centuries, contemporary Goa is fostering a similar entanglement of perspectives. Rooms are being re-written at the Heritage Hotel. As the appropriated gothic red signage states, The Heritage Hotel, along Siolim’s major highway is an ’art space’. Up the double fronted villa stairs, past a mound of clay, through the lemony yellow Portuguese colonnaded porch, under the glass balloon of a light, shoes off to allow toes to touch the terracotta tiling, a series of doors are slightly ajar to reveal the inner workings of performance, sculpture, photographic and painterly practices.

IMG_4499

The Heritage Hotel: Art Spaces facade, August 2015

Playing on the grounds of a heady past, Heritage Hotel, established in October 2014 by Romain Loustau and Nikhil Chopra offers these rooms for month long residencies. Founded on a re-imaging of city life artists live, create, converse and collaborate in the former hotel. In and out of the rooms and pool, at the communal table under awnings which make amends for the current monsoon, the international selection of artists have been gathering.

Stepping in on Sunday 9th August, for the regular Get Naked evening performance, the situation is destabilising. A first encounter of an un-nerving kind. Romain’s stride with semi-confidence, his topless torso and face of intent crowned with ruffled blonde hair is the greeting. Children collect on the tiles and tear across the diaspora of artists. Running amok off-stage, on-stage and round about the turntable sound tests, it is clear the 7pm start is not to be met.

Time has a habit of dislocating in Goa. Some artists linger amongst the pre-ambling audience, others lean by the finely filled pearl windows and adjust and fiddle with the various artistic forms. The children have no care for the thin drying spirals of clay laid out to dry. 

This is certainly the ‘place of doing without question’ which Prashast Kachru an invited Kashmiri artist describes. A classical musician, relocated from Delhi, tonight incognito, recollects the jam last week. He sang and today he is here to spectate. His eyes brighten as he describes evenings of song and dance. His high praises for Goa’s cultural character are curtailed. The audience are summonsed with Violeta’s urgent strike, ‘We will start’, ‘We will start…sit on the floor’. A succession of eight performances unfurl.

Black face-paint is a common thread through the display. It starts in Nikhil Chopra and Madhavi Gore’s beguilling performance. The duet of elegant forms immediately connote the city’s attachment to the country’s colonial history. Smeared in white and dressed in Victorian frills expanding out of a velveteen dress, Chopra’s stately character reclines on a stool. A bright white limb is exposed. Salaciously subverting all Victorian moral codes, the leg’s bed of hair is made all the more prominent by this application of colour. It provokes. It pokes fun at the perceived constrictions of the body and morality during this period.

The androgyny of the characters further mocks gender conventions of the past. Nikhil’s accompaniment, a modestly dressed slender servant tends to his proprietary body. The blackened face, reminiscent of the dark Portuguese communities who tended Britain’s imperial project particularly in East India, displays ambivalence. Actions are clipped as a routine of hierarchical expectations are enacted.

The figure kneels. The eyes meet and emotions transcend any ascribed conservatism of the past. A sexualised touch leaves a track of black upon the dominant delicate leg. The contact is marked by ripples of pleasure across the white face. Eyes are open, wide and shut.

The servant stands to the face. But a breath is between them. This moment is distanced as a paint brush is soothed across the cheeks and down Chopra’s nose. Curls of his colonial costume lightly dance as thick black lines form. His eyes roll and delight in the paints’ application.

HHNCMPerformance

Nikhil Chopra and Madhavi Gore’s performance, 9th August 2015. Courtesy of HH

The positions switch. The roles reverse. The former subordinate glides into an elongated portrait pose. Rising high upon where Chopra left, luminescent white eyes beam across the audience. Waiting for a moment of memorialisation, the figure is still. The figure waits to be captured and to become a part of history’s documentation.

The expectations are not met. Black fabric is forced over the sitting form. With urgency the body is covered. With accelerating actions, sheets of silver foil unroll. They are forcibly crunched into the crevasses of the sitting, statuesque figure. The end of the paint brush pushes the foil and tightens it towards the patient form. A metallic rustle is left as the figure is risen and lead away in the wake of the train of the red velveteen dress.

Throughout the performance, the convergence of forms, the tension and re-conciliation of positions, infers the city’s cross-cultural past. The introduction of Catholicism in the region and the consequential reformation and adjusting of relationships is reflected in the cross over and cross back over of the two figures. The use of pigment resonating with Hindu practices combined with the covering of cloth emphasises the religious aspects of this encounter. Upon the body, as Chopra states, ‘the sharing of power gets played out’.

The body covered and its religious connotations re-emerges in Sajan Mani’s performance. Following a serene ending to Romain’s piece where a sea lapped at the sand, the audience are hustled into the hotel’s hall. The narrow space is silent.

Shrouded in black, from one of the hall’s beams Mani hangs. The noose earlier being preened is active. Sharp short thoughts strike. The piece progresses and as statement after statement after statement is repeated, giggles flutter through the pauses. ‘I eat, I watch. I read’.

With each slight of Mani’s body fear is enforced. Whether a personal act or from the position of victim, the performance is potent given the current political context in both India and Syria. Watching and reading, the actions aligned with indoctrination fill the form. Whose material we are left to wonder. Whose rhetoric has led to this voluntary or involuntary rebuttal of the world?

A perfectly placed spritely form emerges to offer light relief. With a turban of metallic fabric, the fantasy figure continues to take the audience for a spin through this claustrophobic amalgam of dialogues. The construct of Sahej Rahal swathes and with musical instrument calms and enraptures the audience.

The evening ends. ‘Thank you for getting naked’ and the room disperses. Thank you for exposing something of the entrails of this perverse hotel. Dinner is served and across silver paper plates cubes of cucumber slide as audience and performers discuss, critique and provide food for future developments. The atmosphere is convivial, analytical and emphatically supportive. Leaving with fleeting references to Eyal Wiseman’s forensic architecture, questions of state censorship and a questions surrounding Agnes Martin’s text introduced through Kachru’s profound match-stike performance, the night is out.

The days at the Hotel are long. Living and working in situ necessarily blurs time and intensifies relationships. The group make group decisions, they joke about a proverbial Heritage Hotel bus, they have regular badminton matches following their 2pm lunch. The promotional material being made for tonights Friday formal opening is testimony to the tightness. One face is formed from splices of each artist’s black and white portrait.

HHflyer

In pre-dystopian fashion, consultation is an important part of the running of the space. The long wooden table, under the awning bordering the garden beyond which is the pool, fosters these exchanges. Through this common part bustle bikinis, back bustle refreshed artists, in meanders a curious tourist inquiring about architectural history. The pages of Glamour magazine flick along with communal cigarettes into disused coffee cups. This showreel of activity is littered with quips of opinions. For everyone has an opinion.

Everyone has a hand or costume or contact or concept to offer. As Roma states the venture is about interaction within the hotel and with the local culture. There is a will for inclusivity and being positioned at Goa’s intersection of East, West, North and South puts it in a prime position. It is, as the former port town was, a place of continual transference and similarly a nexus for Goa’s expanding community of expats and tourists attracted by the emergence of Dubai-esq resorts.

As the city accumulates its four and five stars, Chopra is more than aware of the fragile nature of this space. ‘We are a dis-organisation’ he affirms, ‘literally running on its own’. This aspiration to transience is proving unattainable. Having been invited to inaugurate the Museum of Goa, with interest self-generating (the group have never written a press release) and with a roll of rotating artists of high provenance, the Hotel sounds solid.

This is, on further probing, Chopra’s intention. He recognises that in India ‘things are fads’. Repeatedly the Bollywoodisation of the art world is discussed. The appetite for inflated statements, for rapidly arriving and with this same velocity, disappearing concerns Chopra. He picks up on elements of recent opinion voiced by Professor Vishakha N.Desai in The Hindu, that there is an appetite being unmet.

Reminiscing on time spent devouring the Smithsonian collections, trundling on a $5 dollar train from Maryland University to take in the world’s material culture, he explains that a counterpoint does not exist in India. Whilst it is valid that aesthetics are independent of these places Chopra is sensitive to the situation and determined that India requires more places like Heritage Hotel; it requires cultural policy.  If the country is going to set a standard and fulfil its contemporary art potential, ‘It needs a voice’.

In this moment, the voice is his. The Hotel’s guests have coagullated. New arrival Uriel Barthelemi sits intently taking things in. Munir Kabani engages from behind the shield of his laptop. Chopra whilst standing, whilst gesticulating with vigour, whilst moving around the table to make sure lunch will comprise fish to accompany the roti glistening with ghee, whilst checking the white board plans for Friday, is impassioned. He breaks to take time to point out that the view of Sahej Rahal must be captured. Through the wooden shutters of an internal window, following the black room lined with a wooden pin-board and empty fire place, Rahal is framed.

IMG_4517

Industrious work through old and new frames.

Content with his process of creation he is in blissful oblivion. He wraps, he pats, he moulds to make what will consume the room tonight when this artistic colony will put on its great exhibition. Exiting via Shivani Gupta’s isolated Cuttack costume stills, the former decor of carvings of colonial ships on waves of wood collide. Back down the steps, past the balustrade marked with mould, away from the traditional tiling the subtle traces of former legacies are helping The Heritage Hotel create its own.

Envisioning the Indian City: People, Places, Plans
UGC-UKIERI International Workshop
Centre of Advanced Study, Department of English, Jadavpur University
Monday 17th – Tuesday 18th August 2015
HL Roy Memorial Auditorium, near Gate No. 3, Jadavpur University, Kolkata

etic_conference_poster

Day 1: Monday, 17 August 2015

9.30 am: Registration

10 am: Inauguration by Professor Suranjan Das, Vice-Chancellor Jadavpur University

10.15 am – 11. 45 am Session 1: Chair: Professor Sukanta Chaudhuri
Narayani Gupta (Formerly Professor, Department of History and Culture, Jamia Millia Islamia): The Denial of History
Monideep Chattopadhyay (Formerly Professor, Department of Architecture, Jadavpur University): Calcutta Planning: Its European Connections
Sujata Patel (Department of Sociology, School of Social Sciences, University of Hyderabad): Are smart cities smart solutions for the Indian context?

11.45 am – 12 noon: COFFEE

12 noon – 1 pm Session 2: Chair: Professor Iain Jackson
Madhavi and Miki Desai (Faculty of Architecture, CEPT Ahmedabad): The Bungalow in Indian Cities: Colonial Urban Legacy and Post-Colonial Impact
Anne-Katrin Fenk (MOD Institute Berlin/ Bengaluru) and Rachel Lee (Institute for Architecture, TU Berlin): Learning from Bangalore: From princely visions to urban resilience

LUNCH: 1 pm – 2 pm: University Guest House

2 pm – 3.30 pm: Session 3: Chair: Dr Nilanjana Deb
Parjanya Sen (Assistant Professor, Sonada Degree College, Darjeeling): Reviving a Lost Trace: the Buddhist Revival movement in the 19th century and its Calcutta Chapter
Mohit Ray (Environmental Activist and Consultant Engineer, Kolkata): Kolkata: water bodies, people and history
Cleo Roberts (PhD Scholar, ETIC Project, University of Liverpool): The River Ganges and Intellectual Exchange: A Liverpool-Calcutta Connection

3.30-3.45: TEA

3.45 – 5.15 Session 4: Chair: Professor Ananda Lal
Sujaan Mukherjee (PhD Scholar, Department of English/ Research Assistant, ETIC Project, Jadavpur University): A Second Look at the Calcutta High Court Capitals
Anubha Fatehpuria (Visiting Faculty, Department of Architecture, Jadavpur University): TBA
Shubhrajit Das (Professor, Department of Architecture, Jadavpur University): Spatial Vibrations in an Indian City

[Provisional]: Screening of Quarter No. 4/11 (Documentary Film by Ranu Ghosh,1 hr 46 mins), followed by Conference Dinner (for all speakers and chairs)

Day 2: Tuesday, 18 August 2015

10 am – 11.00 am: Session 1: Chair: Professor Shubhrajit Das
Iain Jackson (Professor, School of Architecture, University of Liverpool): Chandigarh Dwellings: Ghastly Good Taste or Flamboyant Modernism?
Melissa Smith (Banduksmith Studio/ Visiting Faculty, CEPT Ahmedabad): Chandigarh plans unplanned

 11 am – 11.15 am: COFFEE

11.15 am – 12.45 pm: Session 2: Chair: Professor Supriya Chaudhuri
Jonathan Gil Harris (Professor of English, Ashoka University): Goa and the Sixteenth-Century Judaeo-Muslim Nexus
Rochelle Pinto (Research Fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Delhi): Collective commerce – the city of Bombay, the village in Goa
Animesh Rai (Alliance Française de Pondicherry): To be, or not to be, French: the balancing act of Pondicherry

LUNCH: 1 pm – 2 pm: University Guest House

2 pm – 3.30 pm Session 3: Chair: Dr Samantak Das
Dhrubajyoti Ghosh (Special Advisor, Agricultural Ecosystems, Commission on Ecosystem Management, IUCN): My Tryst with Trash: A Community of the ‘Vandals’
Aditi Mukherjee (PhD Scholar, Leiden Institute for Area Studies (LIAS), Leiden University): Space, Place and Image: A Refugee Locality in Suburban Calcutta
Durgesh Solanki (M.Phil Scholar, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai): Cast(e)ing life: The Experience of Staying in a Caste Quarters

3.30 pm – 3.45 pm: TEA

3.45 pm – 4.45 pm: Session 4: Chair: Professor Amlan Das Gupta
Sarover Zaidi (PhD Scholar, Max Planck Institute, Department of Religious Diversity, Göttingen): Religious Moderns: architecture and selfhood in Bohra Shias of Bombay
Dalia Chakraborty, Anushka Sen, Nilanjana Gupta (Department of Sociology/ Department of English/ Acropolis Project, Jadavpur University): “Live in New York in New Town”: Kolkata’s own Global City 

4.45 pm – 6 pm: Session 5: Chair: Dr Abhijit Gupta
Abhishek Sarkar (Assistant Professor, Department of English, Jadavpur University): Crime and the City: Two Detective Officers in Nineteenth-Century Kolkata
Somak Mukherjee (PhD Scholar, Department of English/ Project Assistant, Project E-QUAL, Jadavpur University): Infernal Encounters: Streets and (Non)-Interpretation in Mrinal Sen’s Calcutta Quartet