Rai & Savyasachi Anju Prabir
You come from different artistic backgrounds and practices - how do you bring your experiences and knowledge together to work as a duo?
Although we come from different backgrounds and practices, we are driven by similar themes in our works. Especially since we have a diverse formal approach, there was a lot of learning for us to develop new skills and perspectives from each other. Both of us like to move around and see places, workshops, unfamiliar spaces - which made working together really enjoyable. Our trips often began without any pre-decided set route and we chanced upon situations. Sometimes we were able to follow up on them and sometimes it did not work out. Riding around and strolling has been the main approach for us to find materials, meet people and to think about the terrain. In the work, we have been able to apply our approaches collectively and play with the form. Bringing different elements together like interactivity through shadows and landscape through materials.
What is the project that you worked on for the CATALYST art grant?
We worked on a project that we are now calling Altodi Paltodi (This shore that shore) with the support of the Catalyst art grant.
The installation is a cluster of four islands and their reflected shadow world. The audience can move around them in a circular path - metaphorically put in the shoes of rakhondars circumambulating peripheries of villages. As they build or break structures with materials available across these islands and keep altering the landscape - shadows of these activities will be casted on four walls of the gallery space.
Altodi Paltodi thinks through aspects of permeability and preservation, provoking an imagination of shadowy protector figures. How do they interact with a landscape, what could they want to protect and where do they draw the line of their threshold. Drawing from the stories of guardian myths of Rakhondars, this collaborative process addresses the current context of insider-outsider negotiations in Goa. The installation will explore and address aspects of permeability and preservation.
What is the role of storytelling in your practice?
Our work has evolved with or as a storytelling form. Our strolls and walks have led us to places that we wouldn’t have encountered otherwise. We stumbled upon people and conversations that triggered narratives that were not part of our “plan”.
We were thinking about origin myths connected to Goa - why/how they are formed and why Parashuram's arrow has taken all the credit away from people who actually built all the bunds and created the khazans. In the case of Rakhondar - a mythical figure which has been shaped by collective storytelling, gossip and whispers - we wanted to understand what they are trying to protect? While we met some people that were skeptical of it, others were staunch believers. In some places the temples are built around them and in others it has been reduced to just another shrine next to larger temples.
The final installation is also (in a way) a storytelling exercise where the audience becomes a live participant in the work. Their interaction with the space will create parallel stories through reflections within the exhibition space.
What was the process of research for this project? What were some of the most surprising/curious things you discovered along the way?
We began our research about the Rakhondars by speaking with people we already knew or interacted with regularly. They shared stories from their experiences that led us to a couple of Rakhno shrines in the vicinity. This provoked us to visit shrines across Goa and observe their peculiarities. In the south, the shrines were full of shawls, leather shoes and metal weapons, masks that symbolizes the Rakhno’s attire.
While we approached people to find out about the Rakhondar, we learnt other things about their lives and beliefs. In Succoro, we spent time with a couple of women working the field, planting chillies and beans, and saw the way they created narrow channels and allowed the water to flow into their fields. This resonated with similar practices we’d seen in Mandrem or around North Goa. We met a carpenter in Brittona who repairs the sluice gates and got to see him at work when he and his team were replacing the doors. Or finding tiny crabs in crevices high up on the plateau.
What is the afterlife of an installation based artwork like this? How do you imagine an audience to continue engaging with the ideas you have presented?
I think we can definitely pitch this to Rohan Khaunte to install the work in the Art Park in Porvorim. It’s a public park with a lot of people visiting, especially around dusk when it gets dark and the lights come on. The work will also evolve with people’s interaction as well as natural interactions like rain, dust, wind, etc. It has the potential to either become part of the park and get lost in its wilderness, transform itself into a little shrine or a play arena for young people.
However, more realistically, all the materials can be returned to the places we sourced them from. Some can be given as a keepsake.
Has living/working in Goa affected your practice? Are there any specific ways you are hoping to develop your work in the local context?
Goa has been an interesting mix of urban and rural spaces, both functioning at a pace that is both leisurely and yet hurried. It has also demonstrated the importance of physical closeness with our context and our work. In this global move towards the digital, Goa has been a constant reminder of all that is haptic, physical, corporeal and the necessity to engage with that.
How does the work on display consider/ create sensorial experiences for the audience?
The work on display invites the audience to enter a space and engage with it. They are invited to touch and play with the materials to feel its effect on the space and the reflections. Especially because it isn’t about the individual forms or materials as much as it is about how it is shaped by everyone. The shadows of these forms engulf us and immediately puts us face to face with their shadowy reflection.
Who is the audience for your work?
Anyone. We wanted to create an inviting, comfortable space. In a gallery, you are often not allowed to touch objects or scared that you might interrupt or break something. Touch is very calculated. We wanted the work to be built with materials that we encounter here in Goa regularly. So there is a sort of pre-established familiarity for most people with the space. And they can fiddle with them, as children play with building blocks. That aspect was important for us since the beginning. The readings of the work will depend upon the person. What we have here is a framework where different intentions can be played out.
What role do the community and collaborative experience play in your practice?
We spoke to our friends, acquaintances and those that we chanced upon. These dialogues have informed the work greatly and glimpses of it would be shared in our talk/presentation on the 2nd of April.
As we intended to continue this dialogue and not attempt to reach an ‘end’, we have created an installation where the experience of the space is controlled and altered by the audience members themselves. If we want to go as far to claim that the work is in itself forming a perception of or rather giving form to the perspective of the community that visits it.