BENGALURU: An LED display at Venkatappa Art Gallery flashes ‘Entschlossenheit’. It’s German for determination, a word that describes the artist collective’s fight against privatisation of the art space.
About 20 artists of Save Venkatappa Art Gallery Forum have come up with Private Collections Public Museum, a three-day exhibition they have literally brought from home.
“We have each brought our collections — works of other artists, keepsakes and found articles — from our houses to create a museum of sorts,” says Surekha, artist and former curator of Rangoli Metro Art Centre.
The blue LED contraption is part of her collection, spread on the floor and over two suitcases she used to pack it all in. Among them are a box of paints, ‘too beautiful to open’, stationery, trinkets from Brazil and sculptures she made as a student at Shantiniketan.
Across the hall another artist’s corner reminds you of the struggle to ‘keep the gallery democratic’. Lalitha Shankar’s Collector’s Box, however, takes a more direct approach. An open trunk that belonged to her mother nearly overflows with enlarged print-outs of stories on the subject.
“I think they will be a part of history soon enough, whichever way the balance swings,” she says. She has included stories published over a year.
She also plans to pin up a note, telling visitors to contribute. “They can edit or delete anything they feel like it, or even write something,” says the artist. “So I have also kept some blank paper in the trunk.”
Detritus Emeritus’s collection — of newspaper clippings — like Lalitha’s, looks at collectibles beyond art. “I have been collecting articles that fall under the head ‘Skandalons of daily life’, like the beggar colony scams, since the 1990s,” he says.
Under the display table are huge plastic bags he puts these cuttings away in, perhaps to retrieve months or years later. “But such occasions are very rare,” he says.
Smitha Cariappa, who specialises in live art, has brought with her a collection of documents she bought from Kochi’s roadside vendors — stamps, yellowing rolls of parchment, a partially burnt tiny notebook.
“They concern trade between India and Burma, where my mother was born,” she says, as she sets up her display. “I spun a story around it about a Kochi merchant whose ships sink. He mixes up with the bad lot, commits a murder and even gets away with it.”
Anjana Kothamachu shares Smitha’s fascination for stories. She settles down near her cartons after a round of dabbing white paint on the walls where they have been stained by cellophane tape residue.
“I found these transparent sheets when I was travelling abroad, and I couldn’t tell if they were made by some child or were Rorschach Inkblot Test cards,” she says.
Subjects are psychologically evaluated on the test based on stories they come up with spontaneously, looking at inkblot patterns. “I come up with a different story every time I look at them,” she says. Now, images of an aerial view of a river fill her mind.
Objects others have brought include an old camera, a typewriter and, of course, drawings and paintings.
Dissent Through Art
The exhibition is part of a series of events artists from across the state are hosting here to claim the space while they can. The Department of Archeology has entered into an MoU with Abhishek Poddar Tasveer Foundation, which intends to take the gallery for adoption. The Save Venkatappa Art Gallery Forum has sent three letters to the Minister of Tourism, the last of which was submitted on Tuesday.