KIAF: Breaking boundaries with art

DEC 09 -

The Kathmandu International Art Festival is kicking up a storm in the city with its second and what makes it a special treat is the space it is allowing for the unexpected! To most of us, ‘art’ remains a two or three dimensional work frozen in space, whose value should be judged primarily on aesthetic terms. This year’s theme, ‘Earth|Body|Mind’, is certainly breaking that mould with performances, video installations as well as talks, readings and screenings. So look up the festival schedule and catch the events as they unroll!

The inaugural event at Hotel Yak & Yeti on November 25 was replete with stunning performances. An invocation to Panchabuddha through charya and kathak dances set the ball rolling. This was followed by chanting of Vedic and Buddhist prayers. Fusion and traditional ensembles played by Bijaya Vaidya on the rock sitar added a contemporary edge to the event.   

The same evening, renowned US-based Nepali artist Jyoti Duwadi unveiled his Melting Ice at Naagbahal. An eclectic mix of installation and performance, Melting Ice riveted our attention to the pressing issue of fast-disappearing Himalayan glaciers. The multiple projections—especially of the polar meltdown on ice that was disintegrating right in front of our eyes—drove home the enormity of the threat we are under as we go about our daily routines, oblivious to the impacts of climate change.  

On a more generic note, the Mongolian Nomad Wave group put forth a number of performances during the first week of KIAF in venues spread across Kathmandu. The first one at Naagbahal introduced the theme that weaves their repertoire together—the eternal connections between earth, elements in nature and humankind. Lullaby to Mother Earth and Action Caused by Existence are part of a series that draws on the philosophy of Mongolian nomads—a philosophy reflecting those contiguities—and present them through the actions of the five group members. The sight of women in brilliant flowing gowns connected by long strips of cloth as they sway to an ancient rhythm or silently go about their ritual tasks dredge up memories from the collective unconscious and take us back to a time when the relationship between earth and humans was more harmonious. Though the visual narratives might come across as somewhat dense at times, Nomad Wave’s performances stirred up some positive energy for sure! The body in all its grace returned to us in another later performance as well, through the work of the Italian Valeria Germia. Her Dance Butoh performance was strangely frightening and evocative at the same time. The immediacy of her act threw into question our absurd urban lives, much like the installation called Forest Walk at NAFA. It is the essence that came through beyond the boundaries of language, and activated the pre- and post- linguistic in the viewers.

Cambodian Lean Seckong’s performance was, not surprisingly, based on the serpent—since it is he who has put up the giant Naga at the Jawalakhel Zoo from salvaged plastic bags. Almost like a dance, Seckong’s graceful performance led us through a community’s journey from heavy, laden materialism to a lighter state in sync with nature and the spirit, with a mythical serpent acting as a metaphor and guide. In stark contrast was the work put up by Austrian artist collective Assocreation called Moon Ride. Roland Graf represented Assocreation during KIAF and allowed an exuberant crowd to pedal on seven stationery cycles at Naagbahal to generate enough electricity to light up a massive, white balloon hovering overhead. Every step on the pedal generated electricity and the more you pedalled, the brighter the balloon got—it was indeed exhilarating to watch the childlike glee on people’s faces as they climbed off the cycles to make way for the next group of participants and the balloon glowed whiter and whiter—like a full moon come down to Patan in one of KIAF’s most enjoyable moments!

Light was also the theme with UK’s Gaynor O’Flynn. Her collective is tellingly called the ‘the being human collective’ and she has brought us an amazing cocktail of technology, art and spiritualism through performances and light installations, the second of which was held at the Boudha Stupa. The art-maker and the organisers somehow managed to acquire seven different licenses to be able to put up the ethereal laser show, pushing the limits of our perception to a different realm. As twelve Buddhist nuns from Nagi Gompa monastery chanted a prayer for the wellness of all beings on earth, the computers picked up the sound waves and transferred them into binary commands controlling the laser light. And whoa! We had sound being directly transmuted into concentric pools of light and shadow being cast on the white dome of the stupa. The adrenaline rush that hit the viewer is comparable only to what you would experience on witnessing a rare natural phenomenon. A new world truly opened up that evening for us, and continues to do so as I make the rounds of the awesome sixteen venues of KIAF. Hope to catch you there!

The festival will offer a guided tour of works at Patan Museum this Sunday at 11 am. Dasgupta is a

contemporary artist and writer

Posted on: 2012-12-09 10:00