Cultural Re-Imaginations Series II
The second stage of the unique Public Art / Social Sculpture / Site-Specific Installation: Cultural Re-Imaginations will be formally launched on April 21 with the inaugural journey of the custom-designed meleng (bamboo raft) named ‘Amphibian’ on the Brahmaputra from Uzanbazar ghat.

 Cultural Re-imaginations is a series of interventions conceived as an ongoing experiment in challenging the traditional boundaries between art and architecture, artist and artisan, crafts and arts and towards developing a new, critically engaged hybrid practice that integrates cultural history, architectural traditions and current environmental concerns of the northeast India and beyond, along with creating provocative art that leads to unanticipated interdisciplinary convergence.

 Talking about the project, Indrani Baruah, the creative director, says, “The imminent shortages of land, water and energy continue to increase the pressure to find innovative solutions, especially in communities that live in close proximity to the natural environment. Employing a raft structure and a series of ‘unscripted’ performative journeys on one of Asia’s major rivers – Brahmaputra, Cultural Re-imaginations II will explore creative approaches with which communities can coexist with natural environments. During Cultural Re-imaginations II, a floating-habitable raft (Ambhibian) has been developed based on the sustainable principles of the itinerant vernacular bamboo rafts (melengs) used in this region on the river Brahmaputra. This is a latent, but extraordinary mode of transporting bamboo all year round by indigenous communities on the river Brahmaputra by using only the power of the river. The new experimental raft has been conceptualized as a potential ‘sustainable habitat’ that can be anchored like a boat or a ferry.”

The construction of the raft structure involved collaborative work between bamboo artisans, boat-builders, raft workers and artists. “This cultural intervention is intentionally ephemeral and is intended to evoke universal, temporary, mobile, vernacular habitats with minimal environmental impacts as well as cultural forms inherent to this region,” says Baruah.

The raft structure and the performative journeys, which exemplify community engagement, will become cultural interventions in public domain – attempting to blur the boundaries between art and life. In Baruah’s words, “The crucial concept is to re-imagine the ‘Ambhibian’ as a ‘vessel’ or a ‘receptacle’ for ideas, processes and innovations, and in the Imageend as a site for creative introspections and collective cultural experiences. The ‘Amphibian’ will be symbolically re-imagined as an ‘itinerant bard’ of the river – a jajabor evoking the ‘wanderer’ in each one of us. It will personify the storyteller of important narratives of the two banks of the river Brahmaputra, of the maritime history of this region, the everyday lives of the people and their transforming relationship with the river.”

Cultural Re-imaginations – II will explore the transformative potential of collective cultural journeys utilizing this experimental raft structure. The project re-imagines the vernacular bamboo raft as ‘social sculpture’ and the riparian journey  as ‘performance’.During the journey, the raft will become ‘an arena’ for impromptu cultural exchanges by the performers onboard.The ‘unpredictability’ built into the process of raft creation and the subsequent journeys lends itself to ‘creating circumstances for unanticipated convergence of disciplines, ideas and people’. By opening up different ways of encountering / experiencing the ‘environment’ which in this case is the riverfront and the River, the floating raft structure together with the journeys seek to become catalysts for triggering a network of ideas and positive transformations, the creative director of the project feels.

Artist, Architect, Cultural Researcher and Creative Director: Indrani Baruah

Artisanal Team / Bamboo Craftsmen – Biplab Goswami, Alak Bharali and team

Rafting Crew: Manoj Das and team of boatmen from North Guwahati

Artistic Advisors: Rashmi Sawhney (IFA), Dilip Tamuly, Desire Machine Collective

Local Advisors: Sanjib Sabhapandit and Aiyushman Dutta

Project Supported by India Foundation for the Arts (IFA) Bangalore


Performers on-board during Collective Cultural Journey on the Brahmaputra: Aiyushman Dutta (journalist-critic-cultural activist), Bhaskar Barua (architect-designer), Biplab Goswami (bamboo artisan), Dilip Tamuly (teacher – installation artist – folklorist), Indrani Baruah (visual artist-architect-cultural researcher), Jyoti Prasad Das (North Guwahati resident and advisor), Manoj Das (travel guide and bhot-bhoti driver), Masfique Hazarika (environmental researcher-activist), Ranel Das (architect-designer), Ratnadip Choudhury (journalist), Sanjib Sabhapandit (engineer, environmentalist, film-maker), Shilpika Bordoloi (movement artist), Sonal Jain and Mriganka Madhukallya (media practitioners), Tanima Das (film-maker), Uday Kumar (designer and typo-graphist) and visiting  fiction writer and art critic, Moushumi Kandali.


About Aiyushman Dutta

Who am I? Yet to find the answer. For the time being, u can call me a writer, maybe a journalist and a music entrepreneur or an errand boy! Whatever suits your fancy!

Posted on April 16, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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