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Giant ants, melting carpets

Performance pieces, creation in real time, erasurethe forthcoming India Art Fair will showcase all this, and more

With 50 metallic ants crawling over walls and across the grounds, Paresh Maity’s Procession is a provocative installation. The 36x56x24-inch ants are made with parts scavenged from Enfield motorcycles, and their march is among 22 Art Projects that will be on show at the seventh edition of the India Art Fair in the Capital.

Starting Thursday, the fair will display 3,500 works by 1,200 artists across 90 booths.

The Art Projects are often among the most memorable entries at the annual event. Last year, Chintan Upadhyay’s Iconic Shrine “Lost Soul", a gigantic fibreglass head of a baby in bright colours, became the face of the fair—it was one of 24 projects in the curated section that included works by artists like L.N. Tallur, Riyas Komu, Reena Kallat, Subodh Gupta and Sheba Chhachhi.

Girish Shahane, artistic director of the fair, says the projects in this year’s line-up were selected under three broad heads.

Site-specificity, where the work is made for, or customized to, the particular venue and event, is the first. “In its particularity, it (this kind of artwork) is only geared to that venue and that gives it a specialness," says Shahane. An example of this is street artist Daku’s text-based work which, Shahane says, will be customized for the 100m stretch of road leading up to the hall at the NSIC Exhibition Ground. “The message is also specific to the art fair; I want it to be a surprise," he says.

The second is the idea of interactivity: This category has both digital and analogue works designed to encourage viewers to participate in creating the work or actively engage with it. While artist Smriti Dixit will ask visitors to leave behind objects which she will then weave into her spider web-like Memory Of Red, Sanjay Theodore’s Artificial Participation is a micro-site that viewers can download on their smartphones and tablets for art advice—the website uses artificial intelligence to critique art when viewers photograph a work.

Temporality, or a time-based artistic execution, is the third broad principle. Some works will be created in real time, others will be performed, yet others will be erased, over the four days of the festival. What makes this interesting, says Shahane, is that the artwork is constantly changing over the duration of the fair—what you see on Day 1 and Day 3 won’t be the same.

“Chitra Ganesh and Dhruvi Acharya are collaborating on a canvas which will showcase painting as performance, bringing their private studio practice into public view. Conversely, Muhammad Zeeshan places
his canvases within tanks that slowly fill up with ink, occluding the image; in one case, temporality involves the creation of the image; in the other, its destruction," he says.

Some works in the Art Projects line-up incorporate a live performance. Priyanka Choudhary, who studied at the Delhi College of Art, will chew the bitter leaves of a citrus plant at the venue in The Art Of Papilio Demoleus (Or How To Become The Lemon Butterfly).

Choudhary, who is interested in exploring the “subliminal violence that exists everywhere", wanted to look at the idea of destruction in everyday life. “The lemon butterfly is common and widespread. An interesting characteristic of this insect is that it lays its eggs on citrus plants. The caterpillars can destroy entire plantations before turning into something beautiful," explains Choudhary on phone.  

The leaves are “horribly bitter", she admits. Choudhary says that fact only adds another dimension to the work: exploring the violence she will inflict on herself in the act of eating something distasteful, and thorny.

Hetain Patel’s work, in some ways, provides a counterbalance to Choudhary’s performance piece. The UK-based artist uses archival footage of a performance by tabla maestro Swapan Chaudhari, juxtaposed with shots taken at his own home. Patel explains in an email interview: “When using documentation of the performing arts within the visual arts, I feel it is less about making the original performance available to a larger audience but rather as a way of engaging with the documentation. As an artist I see my work as a creative engagement with this to make something specifically in a different medium, to be shared in a different context."

Installation placements will keep in mind these objectives. After all, Shahane adds, the three ideas are meant to help viewers “engage with the art, and encourage them to return to see how a work has grown".

The Art Projects will be on display at the India Art Fair from 29 January-1 February, at the NSIC Exhibition Ground, Okhla Phase III. Timings vary. Entry on 29 January is by invitation only. For other days, tickets, 400, and 250 for students, are available on in.bookmyshow.com and at the venue. For details, visit www.indiaartfair.in

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