BANGALORE: For multi-media artist and film-maker Bhavani G S, water has been a muse and a subject of much creative exploration. Water for her is river Cauvery that she has travelled with across coasts, a silent, co-companion, a witness to human life rushing by, a symbol of faith, a generator of livelihoods, a memory, a habitat, a violated living entity choking with waste.
This concern for water and what becomes of it in an urban context was ignited in 2009 and her mixed media show (2012) Journey with River Cauvery was just a beginning of her constant interaction with rivers and water.
Bhavani had stated then, "I am exploring the most contested water resource, the river Cauvery till it reaches the Bay of Bengal though traditional spaces of worship, contamination, rituals of bathing, washing and other communal activities."
All along, Bhavani was struck by the mythical stories about the river and the tributaries. The fact that Indian rivers are named after women and originate not so much in geography but in Pauranic legends and how so many rivers and their tributaries – Harangi, Hemavathi, Laxmantheertha, Kapila, Suvarnavathy, Chikhole, Shimsha, Kanva, Arkavathi of Karnataka- Lokapavani, Bhavani, Noyil and Amaravathy of Tamil Nadu meld into Cauvery and lose their identities. But Cauvery continues her journey as herself. As she is from Kodagu, Bhavani grew up worshipping the river. Photographing and filming it was like. "taking a picture with a celebrity!" But what affected her was the pollution, sand mining, plastic waste, the way water is controlled for political gains.
Bhavani has been creating site specific works and 'environmental art,' where she says, "I rearrange nature’s own materials in a new way in their own “territory.” I attempt to experience the landscape, observe and feel it physically and evoke that in my work."
Through this work, she wants to propose new ways to co-exist with environment and create awareness about ecological and sustainable living."
From such concerns have emerged two more films, Hanging Sword and Embedded Water. The first is about the far-reaching human issues connected with Genetically Modified foods and the second is about the way water is used in production and consumed or wasted by us.
About Hanging Sword, she says, "Farmers play the most important part in our life and patented seeds will control them and change our agricultural practices. The seed which does not germinate is not natural and every time the farmer has to sow, he has to buy seeds from corporates. Fertility of the soil keeps deteriorating and genetically modified crops can contaminate other crops simply by pollen being blown by wind from one field to another. New viruses could evolve from the mass production of GM crops."
She adds, "The more gene technology is used, the worse the environment will become. Pests may develop resistance to GM crops that have been designed to kill them. Then stronger pesticides will have to be sprayed. Most food manufacturers are unable or unwilling to provide information on whether or not their products contain genetically modified ingredients.”
Her take is that world starvation has more to do with wealth distribution rather than the inadequate production of foods. “A person who produces or grows more food does not distribute it. We also need to look at population issues because demand creates production and waste is generated every time we produce something," argues Bhavani.
Embedded Water, the other film, mourns hundreds of dried up or polluted lakes. She says, “water is used in the production of most of the things we consume. For instance, to get 1 litre of cola, seven litres of water are used and if we were to measure how much water is invested in every thing we consume, it would come to about 3,500 litres per day."
She talks about the Bidadi cola plant that usurped the water meant once for villagers. She asks, "How is it that natural resources meant for local population are given away to corporates who move on once they have exhausted everything?” The Avalahalli lake near her house was once the mainstay of the local inhabitants and then borewells were installed, apartments came up and now sewage has ruined the waters and blame games are going on. She says, “Through my work, I want people to start looking at these issues. To question why we consume things we don't need and waste our resources. Am also painting a lot more though my themes still revolve around water and nature."