A text accompanying the video materials, by Suresh Kumar Gopalreddy, February 2014. The videos are here: https://pad.ma/grid/title/project==Perfumes
This process of documenting artists presentations and work started in the Samuha days in 2009 (I cant get away from mentioning this personal history). As some of you know Samuha was a collective project in Bangalore, initiated by me, where a number of artists had slots for exhibitions in a space we collectively rented over a year. Once we had given a slot to Mysore artists- young students, but we together wanted to not be limited to the Samuha space. So we together went to the oldest government science college (after an arts college didnt give us permission) with an idea of a kind of intervention. This was a time (in 2009) when many established Bangalore artists were showing elsewhere, outside the country and in bombay, delhi. It was a good time in their careers, but these 5-6 years of their work was not shown or seen in Bangalore. We called our proposal Inter and asked 13 artists to present their work, over 13 days, in this science college auditorium. They were talking about things they had done outside, site-specific work, etc. Thus this became an example of a project born at Samuha but that took place outside.
The camera I used for most of the videos seen here was bought in November 2009, for these talks. I bought it by borrowing money from my parents, and so on. I didnt even have a proper tripod, and my computer did not even open the HD files I was shooting. At times I was recording on lower quality, because I was also scared that my hard drives were getting full. I documented these 13 talks, with decent sound quality and mostly driven by an enthusiasm for the work. I always wanted that this should continue somehow, especially in relation to art institutions and schools. Later on, as the Bangalore scene developed, I started recording things in Bar1, and in the state Kala Parishad events. Then Vasudev, a senior artist: who also had a slot in Samuha, and who had also been giving fellowships to young artists, came up with this idea of doing a series of artists talks in Bangalore, which were called Ananya Drushya.
By that time 1 Shanti Road was also active, the artist Pushpamala was doing invited series called Re:look, and Suman Gopinath was also doing her series at MMB, of art and architecture talks. People who couldn't host exhibitions and other events, could still do artists talks! And this was possible in Bangalore because there were all these spaces: Venkatappa Auditorium for example was 500 rupees for one evening, projector included. But many of these organisers were a) inviting people from outside, and b) did not properly record their events. They would put photos on facebook declaring it to be a succesful event! But they were not preserving this for future use. I remember at one talk I was prevented from filming because the organisers were also filming. So youll see this black video, because I just had turned the camera to the floor. I became quite conscious about these recordings, as I felt these moments were slipping away. Coming from my own practice, I always considered these as performances, people were performing these talks and that was precious in its own way. So I used to go with my camera everywhere… and when I would go without it, people would ask, where is your camera. In this way I became the unofficial recordist, people would just expect me to be recording.
At the time I was using facebook to put small clips of videos online. And I had started wanted to organise it a bit, and started calling it the Perfumes project. I was trying to present Bangalore artists and the scene online in a more organised way. The name Perfumes is a combination maybe of Performance and an idea of a bouquet… I wanted a funny name, after Samuha. Of course, Samuha was a very particular thing where Im treating it very differently from just being an organiser of it. It was my art work, although this is shared of course. For those 400 days I did nothing else, no studio work. The Perfumes project is also like my own work in a way, at the same time its not at all video art or a video practice. Even if I have been shooting continuously since 2009, I've never been tempted to make even one work of video art. Im not so keen on all this as material for artwork, this documentation is the final product. But ofcourse, it is material for me and all of us to think!
In the case of the live art lab project for example, where the artwork is being performed, often without much money or infrastructure, this is a different case of documentation. Most of the time artists are not able to afford a cameraman for 2000 rupees. So in this case I am documenting something that is actually the live artwork, and so here is the other side of the coin from artists lectures, but also something worth looking at and sharing with others.
Most of my documentation activity has been oriented towards younger aritsts, student work, their college shows at Chitrakala Parishad, and so on. Generally, local art and artists and things they might be interested in. But here, I dont have a position like the "marathi manoos". Or even something attached specifically to the language Kannada. My own mother tongue is Telugu, and I have always struggled with identity as related to language. My grandmother didnt speak a word of Kannada, although she lived here of course. Educated people around us growing up were speaking in Kannada and English, but we were speaking in Telugu, atleast at home. I think even good contemporary scholars are talking about Karnataka as a space, bounded by and near to Andhra and Tamil nadu etc. rather than Kannada language as the mark of identity. So my interest in the local is different. Even if I go to Delhi etc. I think anything I do there is much more symbolic, like most art of course. But here what im doing is something lived.
In all these videos I don't interview people, you dont hear my voice much in the videos… im observing and recording public events. Starting with Samuha, and Bar1 where I was an organiser also of the Karnataka-Karnataka residencies for example, this was the spirit of the idea not to document "invited artists" but a local scene.
Right now, I'm sad that the scene is worse than 2009- 2011 or so, when so much was happening in India, but Bangalore specifically had this energy of new things. Im really not attached to institutions, and it seems that a lot of the initiatives of a few years ago have become institutions of sorts. And so in order to survive they have to rent out space, and do things like that. Somebody knows somebody, some foreign artists are passing through, they get residencies, there is a lot of this kind of exchange and activity, but there are no real initiatives happening. In this sense im critical of what is going on. The original idea was also to provide an alternative for young artists and their work, to replace the gallery scene. The new galleries in Bangalore are not really succesful, they are not able to sell work. So now there is nothing going on, and the spaces are there but they are not used. Many young graduates of schools are sadly leaving, going back to native places after graduation. They just dont have opportunities to show their work in the city. And at the same time Venkatappa gallery, or Chitrakala Parishad's spaces are empty most of the year.
I think the newer initiatives in the city like Peaking Duck could act like an index, trying to bring together different types of activities in the city. It was interesting for example for me to see what was going on with contemporary dance, for example. And the related activities of groups like Maraa, and so on. I think there can be hope if we imagine it as a kind of barter system between all of us, rather than a project which has to be finished, and reported on, and so on.
One of the strategies of collective work has been just to call it something... to attract the attention of people. As we did with Samuha, it marks a new initiative. It then becomes possible to use other spaces, get audiences in and have something change. But this will seems to be lacking today. We have also tried to enter government spaces, but even with the NGMA for example, it is difficult and still expensive. They were giving me for example only their outdoor spaces: lawns only for Rs. 5000/- per evening, which was too much for me. Now their policy is that they dont give it to individual artists, but to institutions.
Recently there was a show of Bangalore artists at KNMA in Noida, organised by Akanksha Rastogi, which I would say is a kind of flip-side of what has been happening here. And im not saying this critically, since I really appreciate her work and enthusiasm and daring, and we are friends now. But in my case, things that I just handed over were placed in this museum with stickers of my full name, including my surname, stuck below. It was embarrassing for me, since my work is really not usually found in these contexts. The objects and videos were for me just part of the archive, and here they became my artworks in a way. Whereas for me they are material that came from others and that others can use.
See the entire collection of videos on pad.ma here