The Contemporary Arts Week returns for its third edition in Delhi, from October 3-10, 2015. The Goodwill Project spoke to Shohini Dutta, who along with Pankaj Bajaj, set up Friends of ART, the organisers of the festival. The event, which saw over 18,000 visitors in its last edition opens with an arts and food carnival in Nehru Park on October 3-4, followed by a week of performances in venues across Delhi.
What is Friends of Art and how was it set up?
Friends of ART is a charitable trust that has been actively engaged in promoting performing arts and artists since 2012. It has two overarching goals—to make good contemporary art accessible to the growing intelligent audiences of India and to showcase emerging and established Indian artists. Its biggest success so far has been Contemporary Arts Week hosted in New Delhi. Friends of ART also hosts regular performing arts events in Delhi and Gurgaon that are promoted nationally. These events have hosted over 500 performers across genres such as dance, music, theatre, stand-up comedy, puppetry, clowning, spoken word, slam poetry and mime.
This year, we have Bandish Projekt opening the weekend, along with Sadhya Dance Company & The Danceworx. The Temple of Drum percussion ensemble brings together a wide diversity of drums and percussion from different musical cultures into one comprehensive performance—from north and south India, Iran, Africa, the Middle East, Australia, France, Ireland, Spain and more! Temple of Drum also performs with electronic music, creating a stunning diversity of live percussion over groovy electronic music which is programmed in-house. Meanwhile, Vocal Rasta comprises of 15 performers singing Acapella (only voices). They have been performing since September and have done about 16 performances like the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival, Sounds of Freedom, Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards, Vayu Yoga evening and performed extensively in streets, malls and open spaces. We have a two-day street dance battle being judged by French House Dance Legend, Kundu. We also have Hari Sukhmani performing on Sunday, 4th Oct. During the rest of the week, there is puppetry by Anurupa Roy, stand-up by Nitin Mirani and Appurv Gupta, clowning by Sukhmani Kohli, one-act short plays by Stray Factory and Orchestrated Q’works, music artists like Suryaveer, DJ Su Real and the list goes on. (Scroll down for highlights.)
I realised that for most people art meant paintings, sculptures, mostly visual forms. Performing arts were not really seen as art. Coming from a performing arts background, this is something I want to facilitate, in spreading awareness for performimg arts. In the first year, most people would ask me about exibitions and gallery details. Over time, that has really changed. Also, it is simply about creating a culture of watching live performances. I want to ask people, why not watch a performance, be it dance, theatre, comedy? Let us have human interaction.
Can you tell us a little about your graph as a dancer? You’ve done stage shows as well as choreographed / performed for Bollywood films. How have styles evolved?
As a dancer, I started out early into classical (Bharatnatyam ) with my guru Smt Rupali Gokhlae, who was truly inspiring. Styles are always evolving and currently, there is a lot of emphaisis of hip hop/street-inspired compostion and chreography.
Over the three years, the line-up has grown from concentrating in dance, music, visual arts and photography to having theatre, puppetry, clowning, slam poetry, improve theatre, stand-up, street art, installations and more. The festival has seen a real expansion in sub-genres in each form and each year we have tried to include more.
Each year, we learn from our audience response and try to introduce interesting elements in the program. (The street dance battle this year in the opening was based on the tremendous response we had in ART STREET held in Feb 2015.)
The concept is multi-arts multi-venue and being a bridge for artists and the audience. However, the micro structure has been flexible. This year, it is much larger in terms of spread and scope. We have 45 performances, over eight days in eight locations with 300 artists. We have a grand opening weekend in Nehru Park, modelled as an Arts & Food Carnival, featuring three stages, 20 performances, 200 performers and several food stalls. The two days will feature multiple stages, a workshop corner, dedicated F&B section, DIY corners for graffiti and craft. The entire weekend is planned as an Arts carnival.
The audience response from the first year has been one of the most encouraging factors. It took us by surprise how welcoming and curious the audience has been. The number, of course, had almost doubled in the last two years and this year we project more that 30,000 people. We also plan on taking CAW to Bangalore next year (fingers crossed!).
Art in education and Art in the neighborhood are both endeavors of Friends of ART, which run through the year with educational institutions and RWA communities. For Art in Education, the objective is to introduce a creative approach to education and learning, using theatre, music, dance, etc, to develop children’s creativity, logic, individuality and opinion.
Art in the Neighborhood is aimed at takings arts into a a geographical community and promoting artists from within that area, almost like a know the artist in your community. We have done two successful events, where the community centers are turned into mini festival venues.
We also do another version of Art in the Neighborhood called ART STREET, which is held in public spaces like malls or open-air amphi-theaters.
Tell us about CoLab and its function.
Collective Laboratory is a one-of-its-kind event that takes the artist through the journey of creation, where perfection is not the destination. Artists are given a platform and they then create magic in their own way through improvisation.
Indian artists, I feel, have a lot to offer and we feature prominentley on the visual arts front. However, we can have a larger presence in the field of performing arts; theatre, dance, films are a small minority compared to the size and scale of our nation. I do feel Indian artists aborad get a lot of attention, in India, their work is not as keenly appreciated in terms of support and aid offered.
And, finally, how difficult is it to get funding for events that focus on the arts?
It is difficult no doubt and we still have not figured it out (far from it), but we see that people and corporates are warming up and hopefully we will see their active support in the commig years.
Highlights of the Contemporary Arts Week:
▪ Opening Weekend at Nehru Park: The opening weekend has been planned as an arts and food carnival which will feature multiple stages, a workshop corner, a dedicated F&B section, DIY corners for Graffiti and Craft. The Indo-Electro band Bandish Projekt will open the weekend along with dance performances by Sadhya Dance Company & The Danceworx. There will also be a two-day street dance battle that will be judged by French house dance legend – Kundu. The next day will include a performance by Punjabi folktronica duo, Hari and Sukhmani; stand-up comedy and puppetry shows as well as workshops for visitors with different art forms which will run through the day.
▪ Amaara: Aa contemporary dance production, it is presented by Navdhara India Dance Company (a repertory company of The Danceworx), choreographed by Ashley Lobo. It is in its first season and will be travelling around the world. The troupe has performed in four cities in USA and will perform at the Contemporary Arts Week closing weekend at the Little Theatre Group auditorium on 9th October 2015. From New Delhi, they will take the show to Israel at the end of October.
▪ Chrysalis Project: This is a choreography residency for professional choreographers which was started by Shohini Dutta in 2010. It was the catalyst that led to the inception of Contemporary Arts Week and Friends of ART. They will perform two shows at Little Theatre Group auditorium on 10th October 2015.
▪ Bands: Some of the other artists who will performing through the duration of festival include Delhi-based duo, Basanti aur Woah; Delhi-based alternative rock band, Chaos in the Capital; Delhi-based acoustic duo, The Yellow Bucket; artist Nikhil Mawkin and many others.
▪ √2: A play based on Harold Pinter’s The Lover, it is directed by Sangeet Natak Akademi award winner Aditee Biswas. Aditee is a part of the faculty and is an alumni of National School of Drama. She has also trained in Warwick and Amsterdam. The play has been scheduled for 8th October 2015 at Little Theatre Group auditorium.
▪ Under the Poplars: This is an Indo-Spanish collaboration between Instituto Cervantes and Friends of Art, devised by Ashish Paliwal (Actor) and Deepa Bajaj (Dance artist/Poet & Director, Friends of Art). It is a premiering production of poetry, theatre and dance based on the works of Cesar Vallejo – the prolific Peruvian poet. It will take place on 9th October 2015 at Instituto Cervantes auditorium.
▪ Solo Series: Instituto Cervantes will also host a solo series on 8th October 2015 at the Instituto Cervantes auditorium where senior artists from various genres will come together to showcase a short excerpt of their performances. Some of the performers include Yuko Harada (Dance), Happy Ranjit (Theatre), Varoon P Anand (Improv Theatre), Nikolina Nikoneski (Dance), Saif Ali (Theatre).
▪ Other events to look forward to include a puppetry production by the world-renowned Anurupa Roy puppeteer and puppet designer on 10th October 2015 at Instituto Cervantes. A stand-up comedy show by comedian Appurv Gupta; dance performances by Big Dance Centre, The Danceworx and Sadhya Dance Company; poetry slams; site specific works; street plays and much more.