Goddess Saraswati descending on Rheinstein Castle, c. 1920s, background print- printed in Germany, figures cut out from an Indian print, Curated by Dr. Jyotindra Jain for SAF
Nothing has remained unaffected by the current pandemic. The world has been plunged into a situation so unusual, everyone is trying to desperately make sense of it and trying everything possible to survive. The world of art is not an exception either, especially since art festivals around the world have been or are getting cancelled due to the strict need for social distancing. We decided to get in touch with Smriti Rajgarhia, Director, Serendipity Arts Foundation and Festival, to know more how the world of art is adapting to our new circumstances.
How were you led towards the world of art and later the Serendipity Arts Festival?
I have always had an interest in the arts, but after completing my training as an architect, I began my career in the arts fourteen years ago working with a private archive in New Delhi, where we eventually created a museum space and archive for the collection. I wanted to bring my passion for art and design to the forefront by creating unique opportunities for creative individuals. During this stint, my interest expanded into bringing art to the public and contextualising art within the region through arts education and awareness. While I was working in this domain, I started working to archive Mr. Sunil Kant Munjal’s personal art collection. Post which he suggested that he wanted to start a foundation, and Serendipity Foundation came into being in 2014 and soon thereafter we started working on the Serendipity Arts Festival with the first edition of 2016. With these two platforms, we seek to explore newer forms of representation and re-contextualise the kind of programming institutions need to engage with to widen the demographic of the audience for the arts in India.
Smriti Rajgarhia, Director Serendipity Arts Foundation
What do you think the role of art is or should be during these extremely challenging times?
In my opinion, art has a very pivotal role in such times of crisis and it has done so in the past too, it will play a big role worldwide in shaping public mindset and perception of the world, through innovative ways of participation, archiving and collaboration. Art draws a lot of inspiration from the world around us and that is the point from where art begins to become an indispensable part of our legacy and being. Art will be a very powerful tool in the coming times that will not only foster unity of the global diaspora and also pave ways for enhanced creative partnerships throughout the world.
In what ways is Serendipity Arts Foundation and Festival coping with the pandemic? How is the Foundation keeping the community engaged at this time?
These are strange times indeed, but one needs to be prepared and pragmatic when approaching such situations. As humans, we have the great ability to adapt and make the most out of a situation, perhaps that circumstances at first may seem problematic, but every challenge comes with a hidden opportunity. We are trying to identify these opportunities and looking for means to stay connected with the world to reach out adequately.
Imagined Homelands by Sharbendu De - Imagined Documents -Curated by Ravi Agarwal for SAF2019
How do you think the world of art festivals will change or should change post the pandemic?
It is a very uncertain time as it is, but I think festivals around the world will and should refocus on addressing the environment and understand the impact it has on our lives, utilise local resources and focus on promoting more art and creative offerings from respective regions, globally. In my opinion, most entities will need to take a relook and change tracks to find innovative ways of outreach.
Lastly, post the pandemic, what will be the new normal for you?
As and when we step out of this crisis we will step out with a few doubts and it will take some time before we gain clarity on those. However, I will proceed as planned with contingency measures in place. I think I have already developed a renewed sense of appreciation of the community and the world around me. So perhaps, I will look forward to developing a deeper connection with the world and myself.
Text Nidhi Verma
Photo Credits Serendipity Arts Festival
A still from Tarapore Parsi sisters from the film Gauri Puja, 1956, Curated by Dr. Jyotindra Jain for SAF 2019