Landscape architect and origami artist Ankon Mitra created The Song of the Earth and the Sky, a copper-and-stone wonder combining Eastern elements of origami and ying & yang with Mughal arches and jaali. Unveiled on February 5, the standalone 4mx14mx4m pleated pavilion sits pretty around a lone tree at Sunder Nursery. And Feroze Gujral, who co-runs The Gujral Foundation with husband Mohit, is the force behind commissioning Mitra, simultaneously hosting multi-disciplinary artist Remen Chopra W Van Der Vaart at her art space 24 Jor Bagh, and over the last decade, supporting over 100 artists and 50 exhibitions, including the Indo-Pak collateral My East is Your West at the 56th Venice Biennale. Excerpts from an interview with the arts patron:
Why did you chose Ankon Mitra for this project?
I wanted to do something that came organically from the idea of nature. His practice is origami, and ‘folding’, comes from nature. You do this [balling her hand into a fist]…. our bones have different folds.
The first time I got Ankon to Sunder Nursery, I told him to be mindful of the Mughal monuments... to not create something awkward, like it has landed from the moon. They have to talk to each other.
And how does Mitra’s installation talk to the Mughal architecture?
All Islamic architecture is in the square format, which is the exact proportion and replication of the other. This comes from the idea of paradise, which in turn, comes from the mind. The brain is completely symmetrical when you look at it from the outside. That kind of perfection is what the emperors tried to get in all the Mughal gardens.
But the square doesn’t exist in nature. So my point was to do something round that’s ‘nature’, that repeats itself many many times, like origami, and also talk to the monuments. [In this installation] we have the arches, the jaali, round vs square, the idea of different sides, an entrance and exit.
Ankon had a very beautiful idea of earth and sky, where the colour white is the sky, red copper is the earth, and the tree [in the middle], the wind, which is also the moving element. Origami brings in the zen philosophy, the contemplative idea of a garden, quiet like a courtyard. I think he’s managed to do it very nicely, with yin & yang, the stone, marble and earth... the idea of rotation that’s almost like a parikrama, going from the outside into the inside. I’m hoping people bother to go in and go around.
Who will oversee the maintenance of the installation?
The foundation will. It’s just aluminium which requires very low maintenance. Aluminium weathers well, and it’s good weather, which is why we chose this time. I hope all lots of people see it and enjoy it.
Your upcoming projects?
We are showing Remen Chopra W Van Der Vaart at 24 Jor Bagh, and on March 6, 7, 8, we will have a performance by Revanta Sarabhai that’s site-specific to the house, with moving audience, etc. Then, there’s Sea Change, a project on the oceans that comes from our funding of Colomboscope [an interdisciplinary arts festival] in Sri Lanka. We will bring a part of this project, but our conversation will change with climate change in it now. So, from April end onwards, we will go into an entire year of looking at the environment. Then, there’s our six-year program with Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology [CEPT] with its awards, winter and summer schools, new sculptures to invigorate the campus with new ideas and thoughts, and artists visiting. But all the architecture here specifically was because my husband who turned 60 this year is an architect who went to CEPT.
In September, we’re showing at Gwangju Biennale in South Korea, something on Shaman religions, on how we are forgetting where we get our theories and traditional religious practices from. It’s really to go back because Korea is more forward-thinking. We’re waiting for our curator Natasha Ginwala to finalise the works.
Does the foundation’s projects comment on today’s political situation?
We are more culture-based. We try to be current, but not political. And we program a year in advance… This (Ankon’s installation) was programmed two years ago! Also, India is not really creating that kind of political art. We are making a lot of socially political statements, but not in art and culture like parts of South America, Mexico, China and Korea. Our art is decorative, conceptual, we have different psychology of how we look at the arts and what we do. Maybe it’s our education, but we are not taught political art.
Pavilion on view till: April 26