Creating a space called home in a world of boundaries

What is a homeland after all? Is it a sense of belonging to one’s very own or just a piece of land with a boundary line on all sides or a specific language, or is it ethnicity?
Many may mull over this moot point as a case of identity-study within a determined liminal area and further debate its existence in reality and think of it as a figment of human imagination only.
In search of satisfactory answers to the three interrogative pronouns — What, Where and Why — one of the year’s most anticipated exhibitions titled “Homelands” recently took off at the Harrington Street Arts Centre in the culture-capital to unveil its Kolkata chapter.
Travelling to four major metro-cities — New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Bengaluru — across India’s artscape in 2013, the inaugural edition of the exhibition had earlier opened its doors to the public at the national capital this January.
Curated by Latika Gupta, Homelands is the British Council’s flagship art-project of the current calendar year. What is even more exciting for art connoisseurs is that this diverse exposition introduces an array of over 80 thought-provoking works by 28 brilliant British artists to India, collected from the archives and studios of best contemporary art that prides in more than 8,500 works.
The international collaboration not only displays some of the most out-of-the-box audio-video footage, installation specimens, photographs, documented material, props, prints and a slew of quaint sights and sounds, but also offers a unique slant on the British art assemblage by a
well-researching Indian curator.
“Above all, this gallery show poses a couple of fundamental questions about a world that’s undergoing a sea-change every nanosecond in front of its inhabitants’ eyes, thereby throwing a big blanket of doubt over the enigma called modern life. It is bewildering as modernity still suffers from an identity-crisis and continues to grope for it in the dark. The society still doesn’t know which direction it is heading towards and what does it want from life. At this critical juncture, ‘Homelands’ emerges to help demonstrate a clear view about the world around us in order to dissipate the dilemma,” enlightens Rob Lynes, director, British Council India.
Treading on the terrain of three principal questions that surround the pillar of “homeland” as a concept in this creative cauldron, Gupta emphasises on the common fact that “modern-day lifestyles prompt men to migrate overseas in quest of a better economic life. At times, even a war-outbreak, a political conflict, clashes, riots, poverty, droughts, famine, floods, earthquakes or other devastating natural calamities force a populace to leave their birth-place and shift their bases to some other country. The new nation then becomes the adopted homeland for a cluster of immigrants after their exodus from their native soil on which their forefathers were born”.
Adding further, she says, “See, people may occupy multiple regions, both physically and metaphorically at the same time. So several geographical divisions and social borders cannot obstruct our mental-mapping. Our body may reside in a different area, while our hearts may dwell in a different zone. So, where is it that we’d actually like to return?”
Incidentally, a few good artists have been invited to visit the exhibition in India. Four of the showcased artists who are supposed to make it to the venue include Mona Hatoum, Anthony Haughey, Zineb Sedira and Suki Dhanda.
During their stay, the artists will engage with audiences, give public talks and conduct workshops in association with Outset India, a platform to support contemporary art in India. Eminent artist Anthony Haughey will grace the Kolkata show.
Cutting to the heart of 21st century’s cultural relations, ‘Homelands’ grapples with the relationship between self and place in a world of transitory identities and contested demarcations or fenced LOCs.
Culled from the rare and prestigious art collection of British Council, the avant-garde pieces range from the vintage 1930s’ era to the abstract compositions with a convergence technology, till date.
The galaxy of leading multi-faceted artists features some top-league names from the Brit art-world on the list. From belonging to alienation; history to memories, ‘Homelands’ attempts to excavate a tapestry of ideas, thus revealing a rich plurality of meanings. Rolling out a multi-layered roster of programmes that highlights artist talks, seminars, curator-led walks, outreach activities and a row of fascinating workshops, this touring exhibition will next stop at Mumbai on April 28 on the premises of Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum before moving on to Bengaluru in the last week of June.
Focusing on private-public partnership, the exhibition also endeavours to fathom the importance of institutional art, which is both conserved for posterity and undertaken by a central government as an enterprise.
“This forum could necessarily inspire a productive critique on a state’s definitive identity through its comprehensive accumulation of art,” endorses Latika. Do indulge in a dekko!

For more information, log on to the Homelands website which is a detailed on-line resource to learn more vividly about the artists on view www.homelandsindia.com

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