In Need of Imagination — Kala Ghoda Arts Festival
Design Log 10 Feb, Mumbai
On the first Sunday of February, Design Fabric visited Rampart Row at the Kala Ghoda Art District, to explore the 6th edition of the art fair. For the visual arts section of the festival, a score of installations popped up at every corner of the walkway, inspired by the annual theme: Hara Ghoda. This year, the festival celebrates the one thing that sustains life itself: nature. A vapid walk around the compound, however, hardly managed to hold one’s attention, let alone leave an onlooker inspired. The curation was one-dimensional, and the placement of the installations were arbitrary at best.
With multiple installations centered around mundane, stereotypical concepts to exhibits from previous editions re-emerging, an unshakable note of mediocrity hangs in the air. Pancha Mahabhuta or the five elements of nature was another recurring theme, being interpreted into a handful of installations which barely challenged one another. A stark dissonance made itself palpable amidst the installation by artists, and tired renditions of the theme by consumer brands that single-handedly diffused the power of an art festival like Kala Ghoda.
The assemblage hinted at a certain lack of courage from both the artistic interpretations to the line of curation. Hara Ghoda, or Nature as a theme calls for a whole new vocabulary of creativity and imagination, ideally veering away from the age-old concrete-jungle-killing-nature narrative. Wandering around the space, one couldn’t help but wonder: at the supposed hub of contemporary art amidst Mumbai, don’t we deserve better? Art that challenges us, makes us uncomfortable, asks questions that we desperately need answers to. As novelist Jerzy Kosiński once said, ‘The nature of true art is not to portray, but to evoke.’ Maybe next time, we think, as we walk away.