Continental Shift: Contemporary Art and South Asia presents the work of 14 Australian and Internationally based artists who were either born in, descended from or have an on-going connection to South Asia. Some of these artists form part of a diaspora that has taken people from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan to all corners of the globe. Others have been lured to South Asia to explore their personal connections with people, culture and place.
A range of ideas and themes are considered in this exhibition including social and cultural displacement, multi-racial identities, the importance of family and place in the creative process, and how collaborative ways of working can effect political change.
Featured artists include Khadim Ali, Kate Beynon, Michael Candy, Peter Drew, Richard Goodwin, Trent Jansen & Ishan Khosla, Reena Saini Kallat, Shivanjani Lal, Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran; Nusra Latif Qureshi, Sangeeta Sandrasegar, Adeela Suleman and TextaQueen.
I am interested in the Australian philosophy of make do – to do your best with what you have. Jugaad is the Indian make do, with a slight twist. Jugaad is doing just enough with what you have, and it is also figuring it out as you go ~ improvising, rather than planning the direction forward. You can see this philosophy in action everywhere in India: From the way that people cross the street ~ stepping off the footpath and meandering through the traffic in whichever direction provides a free path; to high-rise construction ~ steel reinforcement protrudes from half built skyscrapers all over this country. It seems that these projects will be finished when there is the time and/or money to do so.
For me, the Chor Bazaar and Porosity Kabari are all about jugaad, and this has made me a little nervous. I am used to researching projects thoroughly and working through production processes in a very controlled manner, but with the design and production for Porosity Kabari happening in just three weeks, who has time for planning or control. Most days during this project we would head into the bazaar or Dharavi and observe the makers who work in these hubs of industry. We observed and then we reacted, generating ideas by improvising forms based on those that were possible, using the techniques and/or materials that we saw. We also improvised our way through the making process, as options, problems or questions arose, we suggested the best immediate solution that came to mind.
Dropping a Kumhar Wala Mudka
This project pays homage to Ai WeiWei’s controversial and innovative work ~ Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn. By destroying an object that physically embodies two thousand years of Chinese tradition, culture and history, WeiWei openly denounces the conventions that are used to legitimise centuries of indoctrination and malevolent actions, perpetrated by the Chinese establishment.
Dropping a Kumhar Wala Mudka offers a similar critique of the traditions and history that underpin Indian social conventions. In India, the Kumhar Wala (potter) is among the lower castes, meaning that these craftspeople, who make functional objects serving millions of Indians on a daily basis, do not earn the respect that they deserve for their role within Indian society. Kumhar Walas work extremely long hours, making thousands of thrown objects every day, and the remuneration received for their many hours of toil is no where near that of higher, more traditionally educated castes. The Kumhar Walas working in India are some of the most skilful clay throwers in the world, but they are not recognised for their skill and they do not receive the reverence that they deserve.
In this work, Abbas Galwani, a Kumhar Wala living and working in Dharavi, drops a traditional Indian Mudka. With this act, Abbas denounces the cultural structures that restrict his social mobility, impede his ability to gain renown for his unquestionable skill, and hinder his capacity to provide for his family.
If India (The Emerging Giant) is to reach its full potential, the working classes must be afforded a place of pride and equality within Indian society. A rising super-power, built on a foundation of resentment, inequality and exclusivity, will be forever undermined by unrest and discontent.
Only ten of these pieces were made, each coming with three framed black and white photographs of Abbas Galwani dropping his matka.
Jugaad with Car Parts
Jugaad With Car Parts began on one of our first days in the Chor Bazaar, when we came across groups of men completely disassembling cars. Embracing the spirit of jugaad, we asked some of those men if they would separate some of the car panels for us, and paid way too much for them to do so. Regardless, we left this corner of the bazaar with our first car panel, taking it across the Chor Bazaar to a small metal workshop that we had hoped would be interested in working with us.
As it turns out, the guys that we had in mind couldn’t have been less interested in experimenting with our ideas, and so we walked from workshop to workshop until we found someone who was willing to work with our simple cardboard model and cracked, old car panel.
Juzer and Abbas worked quickly and we soon jugaaded through a few different joining methods. The hand riveting used to make cookers in the Chor Bazaar turned out to be a beautifully unrefined option, and within a day we had our first set of prototypes.
A chance glimpse of some copper in one of the other workshops provided a new material to experiment with, and my favourite Jugaad With Car Parts combines a beautifully warn white car bonnet with copper panels and copper rivets.
2 Patrick Northeast Drive,
Narre Warren, VIC
22 June – 22 September 2019
UNSW Art & Design
Columbia University – Studio X
Image Credit – Neville Sukhia