The main reason we are in India is to continue “following the box” wherever it may take us. The last post celebrated the opening of the exhibit at the Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts in Delhi. With Craig Dicker Minister Counsel for Public Affairs at the US Embassy officiating and representatives from the American Center, IGNCA staff, Fulbright Commission, press, friends and others, we took this ever-expanding project forward.
But this blog also chronicles the other experiences that occur while we are pursuing our project. While a bit out of sequence, here are a few highlights from our 3 weeks in Kolkata, before we moved the show to Delhi. I’m covering a month of experiences after the fact, admittedly not as compelling as writing as things happen, but it will soon become clear what occupied our time. This is the first of several catch-up posts:
26 December: Alaka, one of the participating artists in FTB, posted on Facebook that Balmiki Protibha a play by Rabinadrath Tagore, the first non-European to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, was going to be performed that evening. Directed by Alakananda Roy, it was set in a nearby park, as originally intended. A classic tale of a criminal redeemed…performed by inmates of a local prison. Even after being in incomprehensible situations for years, I still find it amazing to be so clueless, with no idea of the meaning of the words spoken, yet still, somehow, understanding their substance. The stage lighting was bizarre, with a giant LED bank aimed at the audience, a serious photographic challenge.
But the air was thick with the spirit of Tagore who is as much a part of Bengal as the water. Crowds of people were transfixed by the performance, the lighting casting great tree shadows that enhanced the mood. Tagore’s writing inspired the creation of my 2 pieces in our exhibit (“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high,” and “The Ruined Temple.”) I am eager to experience as much of his work as possible—even if I can’t understand a word.
31 Dec: Three of our FTB artists had work in a show ‘Soft City’ at Range Gallery, a new space. It is astonishing to find first-rate spaces sandwiched between old buildings, chai wallahs, fabric shops, sleeping dogs and the general chaos of street life. But these spaces abound, along with the talent and creativity to fill them. For some reason, we find ourselves enjoying and included in the art world here, while we are uncomfortable with that world at home. It is ironic to feel as though we are outsiders where we live, yet accepted—even honored—9,000 mile away.