The Story of Light Festival, 2015
Jaya Ramchandani and Deshna Mehta met in 2014 after Deshna sent in an application for the first edition of The Story Of. “Deshna was literally the first application we got and I went, ‘OMG! I can’t believe it’s going to happen,’ says Jaya who ran to meet her. The two women, one armed with a degree in physics from St. Xaviers, Mumbai (Jaya) and the other with a degree in applied art from Sir JJ Institute of Applied Arts and a Master’s degree in Communication Design from the Royal College of Art (Deshna) got together with a core team to work on The Story Of, a festival that has “restored their faith in humanity”.
Design Fabric: What is the story of The Story Of?
Jaya Ramchandani: When I moved back to India from the Netherlands where I was studying astronomy, I came to Goa and stayed with my friend Nash (the Creative Director at The Story Of). One day we were just hanging around his house and decided to convert the whole place into a digestive system. The concept was ‘Where has my pao gone?’. The first room was the stomach, and there was Coca Cola to signify the acids and you go through the house like this and end via the bathroom. It was just one day and it ended with a storytelling session and about 40 people. That’s what got us thinking.
Initially, for The Story Of we wanted to make activity boxes that we could use to teach quantum physics in schools. Physics has some beautiful stories but no one really talks about them. However, the schools weren’t welcoming because we didn’t come from a background in education. So, we thought let’s forget children’s education, let’s do something fun for adults.
Our concept was to turn Nashville (Nash’s house!) into The Story of Light experience. We made a random presentation and put it on the internet and a gentleman named Madhavan from CAP-Goa approached us and asked us to take it to Panjim. That’s how the idea started in January 2014.
By June 2015, it became a festival occupying 3 sites across Panjim – Miramar beach, the old GMC building, and Panjim church square.
DF: Who is it for?
JR: The Story Of has something for everyone. Since we’re situated in Goa, a big part of our TG is the local population, especially the kind of people who are not exposed to learning in an innovative way. But other than that, our broad group is 10-year-olds to people on their deathbed.
When we started we didn’t have a specific audience in mind. Most of the people who came were friends and friends of friends and friends of friends of friends. Although they’re still a part, we are here for the 21st-century inquirer. We’re for the curious minds.
DF: What’s the thought behind picking themes for each edition?
JR: The Story of Light was the intersection of science and philosophy through art and design. 2015 was the UN’s International Year of Light and so it was an excellent way for us to approach people. With The Story of Space it is meant to be an interdisciplinary, informal learning project. Our guideline is to pick something that is equally everyone’s and topics that are obviously connected to everything.
Deshna Mehta: I think, it is also at the core of the foundation, to get ideas from multi-perspective thinking and to see the inter-connectivity between everything. That’s the undercurrent that passes through the selection process. One of the things we noticed with The Story of Space is that people have this notion about space being outer space. So we realised that we needed to come up with sub-topics that encompass all the perspectives of space such as inner space, mental space and so on.
DF: What was your experience at 2015’s The Story of Light?
DM: I played a lot of different roles at the first festival. I started off as a very excited entrant to the festival space to becoming a part of the team that curated connections with design schools and also working on the documentation side of things. So, as an artist, curator and documentor, the experience was very overwhelming. For everyone, the motivation was the work or theme or concept itself, as opposed to the money or showcase opportunity. Therefore it was true to its core which in itself sparked conversations and collaborations.
The Story of Light Festival, 2015
JR: As a festival experience, it was a blur. But post the festival, it was extremely encouraging to see the kind of barriers it broke, the doors it opened. It was kind of like I had my faith in humanity restored. The people were so great, the kind of people the festival attracted was a very special, very compassionate, open and tolerant bunch. It was like you were in college but everyone’s now 35.
Following the festival, Nash and I were invited to the International Year of Light Conference in Mexico. And that was like a reality check, because you’ve done your work and you go there and you meet nobel laureates and people from the UN and it’s all extremely overwhelming.
DR: To add to what she’s said, there are very few spaces that allow you to feel safe. I had that experience at the Royal College of Art where you’re made to feel okay to fail. I had the same feeling at The Story of Light. There was so much experimentation and no rigidity. If things went wrong, it was a step in the direction to get things right and it’s important to have that.
The Story of Light Festival, 2015
DF: If you had a must-see, must-do list for this year’s festival, what would be on it?
DM: I feel like there will be a lot of personal biases. The first one would be by S. Bhuvaneshwari, a philosopher who has studied the vedantic philosophy, so she brings together concepts of time and space through the study of vedas. The second one is by this student-duo Alex and Jackie.
JR: Yes, Alex and Jackie’s work is very interesting. Essentially, every element has a wave equation associated with it. What they’ve done is, they’ve taken this data and will represent it using multiple senses. This gives you a chance to interact with the elements and build a relationship with them.
DM: This is the stuff that constitutes us. It’s a lot about going beyond what you see.
(L-R) Carbon Thick Lines and Oxygen Glow by Alex & Jackie
JR: I have a few. One is by Instytut B61, a Polish group that I’d seen at a conference in Poland in 2013 and I was blown away. The two of them are focused on making metaphors. It’s a 10-room experience called Evolution Of Stars and each room has a different metaphor that follows the formation of stars and flows into the dying of the star.
Evolution of Stars by Instytut B61
The other one is by Johnny Miller. He does drone photography in different areas and captures things like slums next to mansions, and so on. I like that kind of look where I can see things next to each other. And I’m interested to see what he will do in Goa, the unexplored spaces that he will explore.
Unequal Scenes by Johnny Miller
That last one – I don’t know how it will turn out – is by Claudia and Ran who teach math through juggling and physics through the mind. They have a room where you have to keep solving a lot of puzzles until you get out of it. And they’re making one at the festival, called Exnihilo.
DF: Lastly, what’s the one thing to remember while you’re at The Story of Space?
DM: Some of the stuff may be programmed in a way that you don’t go to it, you bump into it.
They will happen to you and will become entry points to you experiencing more.
(L) Migratory Cultures by Craig Hobbs & Robin Lasser (R) In Spaces at NID
The Story of Space will be held in Goa between 10th-19th November 2017. You can learn more about it here.
You can also contribute to their fundraising campaign and help propel the festival, and future editions of the festival by clicking here.
Design Log is a weekly design document logging every relevant art and design occurrence in India.
Image source: The Story Of