Curators note by Ushmita Sahu: Somewhere in the near future, when we have found our way out of this unending, nightmarishly absurd situation and are assimilating and arguing over the consequences of the disruption, loss, anger, pain, horror, mendacity, apathy, dissonance and more, that we continue to witness, we will all agree on one fact – that our collective consciousness has been deeply impacted by the lack of physical contact. To quote Aristotle, Man is by nature a social animal, and a situation that denies us our sociability has meant that we have had to adapt ways to connect. In this epoch-defining moment, we are exploring ways of touching each other’s lives, even if remotely, exemplified by a steep rise in digital networks of collective sharing, co-operation, motivation, support and communication. The Artworld too has responded resoundingly, so-much-so that this era might just be remembered as that of a virtual deluge that democratized the playing fields, so to speak.
One of the virtues of the virtual is its ability to connect beyond human-made, political, social, geographical boundaries, thus making it possible for us artists, to listen to artists or attend museum programmes, art fairs across the world without leaving our homes. We can be part of digital exhibitions that are seen, accessed and shared ad infinitum. I must emphasize here that I am not suggesting that the virtual is a substitute for the real, what I propose is that it can help keep alive our desire to engage creatively with art in these trying times. This has inspired me to curate a series of web-based art programmes for Emami Art over the past months, including the Open Call Mentorship and Exhibition Programme 2020 which was conceived as an extension to Emami Art’s ongoing active commitment to methodologies that forward the discourse of art within the region and beyond. The open call invited entries from individuals working on/with paper to provide talented artists with a platform to exhibit their works, as well as support in the form of mentorship and advisory.
The jury hand-picked twelve artists from over two-hundred entries. The selected participants received a one-on-one mentorship session plus portfolio review from our five mentors, eminent art practitioners Adip Dutta, Jagannath Panda, Praneet Soi, Prasanta Sahu, TV Santhosh as well as Emami Art CEO Richa Agarwal and project curator. Our mentors (a word that can be traced back to the Greek mythology of Ulysses trusting his son Telemachus to his old friend, Mentor, before setting out to fight in the Trojan war) provided invaluable insight and constructive criticism for improvement, and generously guided and challenged the mentees to think laterally. They will also be reviewing their mentee’s progress after a few months.
Āroh is the online exhibition segment within the project. It illustrates the exciting range of practices and languages exploring diverse concerns such as – recording the ongoing pandemic as an artists book (Anirban Saha), loneliness and depression (Arindam Sinha), migration as a lens weaving together past and present events (Arpita Akhanda), exploration of female sexuality (Daina Mohapatra), inhabiting space as a memory (David Malaker), coming to terms with queer identity (Debashish Paul), connecting mycelium networks as a metaphor of human existence (Dhara Mehrotra), struggling to find an inner voice in the face of hearing disability (Janhavi Khemka), exploring the silent mysteries of nature (Kalpana Vishwas), self-taught practice as a commentary on the banal (Kumar Ranjan), environmental awareness in the face of rampant urbanisation (Manisha Agrawal) and the psychological and emotional connections in a middle-class household (Neelesh Yogi).
I congratulate all the artists and wish them the very best in times to come. I also thank Richa Agarwal, CEO Emami Art & KCC for her unflinching support and belief.