A social initiative in collaboration with a city’s public transport, Art in Transit has been a one-of-a-kind artist-meets-authority project since its inception in 2014. A series of public art projects across Bengaluru by students of Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology turned into a collaborative effort upon invitation by the city’s Metro Rail Corporation. ‘We began with the 2014 graduation batch of Srishti in the Peenya Metro Station and are currently active at the Cubbon Park Metro Station and the Chickpeet Metro Station,’ adds the educational undertaking.
Art in Motion by Saksham Verma; Photograph by Art in Transit
Today, teams from the design institute have drastically transformed these spaces into cultural hubs dedicated to several forms of art, which are expressed through or in the form of installations, workshops, art walks, performances and collaborations with the sister city of San Francisco, to name a few. And major part of this initiative is the Festival of Stories, a series of events instrumental in bringing together such varied artistic expressions and taking place once every two months in the hopes of consistently updating Bangalore’s imagination of itself. Art in Transit Research Assistant, Natasha Sharma sheds light on what went into realising this hugely involving series.
‘Through our student research, which included interviews with stakeholders of the city- poets,academics,artists, activists, government bodies and architects, it emerged that a large part of how Bangalore was imagined was either through a sense of past nostalgia (Garden City, Lake City, Pensioners paradise etc.) or the impending future (dotcom city, startup capital). There was very little by way of an understanding that evoked the present moment that the city inhabited. This led us to conceive a program that could use art and design practices to evoke Bangalore's presence. And so the Festival of Stories was born.’
This year marks the sixth installment of the Festival of Stories, completing the annual calendar for this cycle. Spread over a period of three days, the 6th Festival of Stories was hosted at the Cubbon Park Metro Station this Diwali weekend. ‘Through this year-long engagement we’ve had erasures, accretion and residues that allow us to understand place with more nuance. This festival reflects on those practices and marks the beginning of a process where we invite participation in response to both place and process. We have audio visual performances, workshops, installations, murals, augmented reality and of course, comix.’
Speaking of, such a range of interactive art and design experiences wouldn’t have been possible without certain collaborations with artists well defined in their respective fields. These include comic artists Madhav Nair and George Mathen of the Brainded India fame, music/ visual project Aerate Sound and Anand Shenoy from the zine-making collective PagalCanvas. A huge aspect of the Festival of Stories is its silent zine and comix fair that hopes to break through barriers of language and make zines for all and by all, possible through a free-for-all workshop that enables fresh new creative voices to be brought into the mix. So far, students and collaborators have produced and distributed more than ten thousand copies of site specific silent comix and zines within and around the Metro station. Natasha further elaborates the reasons behind choosing the particular theme for the fair.
‘Bangalore, mirroring the cultural landscape of the country, is a cultural melting pot with a wide range of linguistic diversity . In a scenario like this, text is more of an exclusionary tool. Someone who reads Kannada and not English would have the same limitations as the Telugu reader who doesn't read Kannada. In an attempt to negotiate with this linguistic conundrum, we have set out on an agenda to tell stories simply and in a manner that could create a wide public for itself. Also, in a cultural scenario that is all to shrill with noise from all sides, perhaps silence is the way to go.'
Art in Transit connects Bangalore to its tens of thousands of commuting citizens in a way no other public transportation establishment has. Through a curated nexus of event-based performances, art, design and technology, the public art initiaive hopes to continue the noble task of provoking isolated moments of thought towards its many installations by the otherwise busy and transient lives of its observers.
Text Shristi Singh