Indian heart meets Italian art: Upcoming documentary on art and culture of the two countries
An upcoming documentary on the art and culture landscapes of the two countries sheds light on the signs and symbols surrounding them
What connects the following? Chemical-free block printing process of Ajrakh, Kashmiri Pashmina shawl-making, papier-mâché creations in Bengal and the living artefacts in Villa Panza, a heritage mansion in Varese, Italy. An upcoming documentary that explores contemporary art in India and Italy to understand the signs and symbols surrounding them in history and culture.
At the helm of this artistic affair is Myna Mukherjee of EnGendered, a New York/Delhi-based arts organisation. She is excited about co-curating a documentary project that has brought Indian and Italian filmmakers together. The 120-minute film is being shot across India, including Kashmir, Rann of Kutch, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Kochi and Spiti. Made in collaboration with art enthusiast Davide Quadrio from Italy, the shooting is being helmed by award-winning directors Onir (India) and Alessandra Galletta (Italy).
“Everything surrounding us human beings today, including our own identities, is moulded and manipulated by signs, words, images and our visual language. The study will serve as an exciting digital reference for cross-cultural explorations, exhibition making, knowledge generation, and entertainment. It will look at both origins and departures from academic and pedagogic lineages, and simultaneously offer an insight into contemporary art practices of diverse artists,” says Mukherjee.
The team shot at Nrityagram Dance School in Bengaluru in March and will also be filming at Shantiniketan in West Bengal and MS University, Baroda. But why art schools? “We also look at how our heritage arts have now transformed into contemporary art and living traditions and these campuses are great places to study them,” explains Mukherjee.
The idea to bring Italian and Indian artists struck her when she curated a project during the India Art Fair two years ago where they had three Indian and three Italian women artists. “I could feel their collective resonance and decided to bring them together for a project like this.” A film, rather than an art exhibition, she thinks, is easier to decode the signages and their role in present-day art.
Where it’s been shot
Kashmir, Rann of Kutch, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Kochi, Spiti, Dolomiti Contemporanee, Arte Sella, Il Posto Danza Verticale, Villa Panza, Museo Casa Mollino
“The idea is to hear the artists speak a language that can be understood by viewers brought up in different cultures. The film will be screened at Artissima, Italy’s most important contemporary art fair in Torino, in November 2021, as part of India Hub, which will be one of the first-ever outings of Indian Art in Italy’s most pivotal art fair along with a museum exhibition,” she adds. More about the Italian bits once filming begins later this year, she says.
“We are looking at different ways to perceive architecture, patterns, and symbols used in heritage art. What’s the geometry that dictates the weaves of the Gujarati artisans? How do the carpet makers abstract from the landscape around them? The artsy movie will also touch upon the tempera paintings in Ajanta and Ellora and the terracotta art in Bengal.”
Mukherjee reveals a fun fact: There are 22 processes in which Ajrakh style creates colours using natural products from turmeric to iron. “Western art reflects a lot of abstract, but in contemporary Indian art a stone is not just stone, but a resonance of Shiva Ling. We are trying to take a snapshot of such artistic realism in India and of course in Italy,’ she adds. A high-five to such hybrid projects.