The Promising Artist Award Show at the Visual Arts Gallery in New Delhi has works by Chinmoy Pramanick and Baptist Coelho on display. Titled “You can’t afford to have emotions out there…", a set of installations, video, video installation, digital prints and photographs by Coelho attempt to capture the life of the soldier stationed at the inhospitable Siachen glacier, the highest battlefield on earth, where the temperature dips to -60 Celsius.

I was not born for the Three-Point Contact

Do you feel you were able to capture some of the reality of the conflict in the Siachen region without being there?

There were too many constraints in trying to reach Siachen. As an artist it is very important to experience your subject. So I try and travel the space via someone else. I went as far as I could go—to Panamik, the last point for civilians. I experienced altitude sickness, a common affliction at Siachen. I ‘experienced’ things that had been physically present in Siachen—these were objects and articles from there that I acquired. For me, research has to be experienced and it has to be validated (i.e. verified by people on the ground).

Installations, videos, digital prints, photographs—you have chosen a range of mediums to express yourself.

I am not sure if I will return

What would you like the viewer to take away from the show? Do you have any expectations or a message for them?

I would like them to experience the show. There are clues and layers in my works; and I am not here to spoon-feed viewers. The soldiers are human beings first; they are not machines of war. They are flesh and blood, crying, laughing, longing for their family. Yes, they are superheroes in a sense, but they are not tools of war.

Your sources knew that you are an artist. What was their reaction?

They were helpful. For photos they said no, because of security reasons. Some thought my bottle project (where I ask people to seal air of a place in a bottle and put leaves or other objects from there in it) was “foolish", but no one refused.

If it would only end

Everyone has their own way. For me it is necessary to experience things; someone else would stay at home and do the research; someone else might not even research. I need to be connected; to breathe and experience. At Khardungla, the world’s highest motorable road, I made it a point to use the toilet there—to get some idea of the human conditions.

The Promising Artist Award Show will show at the Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi till 13 June.

himanshu.b@livemint.com

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