Sensorium 2018: A feast for the senses in Goa
The start of the new year is a propitious time to reflect on beginnings and endings—and what better occasion to do so than at a cultural event?
On 19 January, the annual Sensorium festival, hosted by Sunaparanta (a Goa-based arts initiative by Dattaraj V. Salgaocar, which also runs other programmes through the year), will open its latest edition in Panaji, themed: “The End Is Only The Beginning”.
Anyone with a passing acquaintance with T.S. Eliot’s poetry will hear echoes of the great opening lines of East Coker there. But Sensorium, as it promised in its previous edition’s manifesto, aims “to rescue the bloodless clichés” that have become associated with its themes. It was “Love” last year, and this time the challenge is to wrest fresh meanings out of the life-death-rebirth continuum.
On the opening night of Sensorium 2018, the first of the collateral events, titled An Homage To Omar Khayyam, will see performances by artists from across the world: Surya Demah (Iran), a practitioner in the Darvesh tradition; Uğur Önür (Turkey), who plays the Iranian string-and-bow instrument kamancheh; Anello Capuano (Italy), a multifaceted musical genius; and Peter Pannke (Germany), a singer and storyteller. On the wings of these melodies, the festival will commence with its agenda, which opens up a world of possibilities.
“What appears as a wall can turn also into a threshold—and beyond it unseen worlds await, even death loses its finality,” the concept note by co-founders Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi and Dattaraj V. Salgaocar elaborates.
Taking a cue from this formulation, a dozen-odd participating galleries from India and abroad have sent in work by about 30 artists, who grapple with the subject through a range of registers.
At the outset is the most brutal possibility: of death and the ultimate annihilation of all mortal traces. In fact, for Shanghvi, who lost his father last year, the idea took root there. “As a family, my sisters and I were devastated. Yet, we had been relieved he was put out of his suffering, and his loneliness—that peculiar loneliness of age, of time,” he says. “Our grief was consoled by our relief, and this made me think more clearly about how such things are endings and beginnings rolled into one.”
Riyas Komu’s My Father’s Balcony, a sprawling installation made of recycled wood and metal, is also an ode to a parent. Combining personal memory with family history, it bears affinity with the work of several of his colleagues.
Desmond Lazaro’s Cini Films, a series of 16 paintings imitating polaroid photographs, is a meditation on migration. “I wanted to celebrate the immigrant experience,” he says. “To explore what happens to people when they move, like my parents did from India to Burma to England in the 1950s.”
In Sohrab Hura’s Sweet Life, a composite of two bodies of still and moving images, his tortured yet tender relationship with his schizophrenic mother unfolds through the better part of a decade. In the interstices of their lives, we glimpse Hura’s own encounters with love, friendship and travel.
Dhruvi Acharya’s graphic paintings offer a counterpoint to Hura’s inward-looking visual language. In Yamini Nayar’s photo-based work, On Form And Growth, architectural still life combines with abstraction and design to create poetry. “I wanted to see how space can be altered through time,” she says, “how it opens up ways in which one can talk about the idea of transience.”
In Julien Segard’s installations, the flavour of the local persists in found objects—gathered from walks around Panaji, from scrap dealers, beaches and neighbours. “I wanted to express the duality between body and soul, and explore the idea that objects, especially in India, are often reused and transformed, not lost,” he says.
In spite of their appeal as standalone pieces, the works at Sensorium come alive also through the synergy they spark in a shared space. “Sunaparanta offers a lovely opportunity to take artists out of the gallery and to a completely new audience,” says Roshini Vadehra of Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi. “It’s also pleasing to see the work of different artists curated outside booths that are usually part of the festival model.”
The closing gambit of the festival, on 2 March, is going to provide one such surprise, where artist Mithu Sen will present a special musical performance.
Sensorium will be hosted from 19 January to 2 March by Sunaparanta, Goa Centre for the Arts, 63/C-8, Near Army House, Altinho Panaji, Goa. For more information, visit here