The fourth edition of the Serendipity Arts Festival (SAF) is being held at various locations across Panjim, Goa until December 22. Since its inception, the festival has brought together five key creative disciplines; visual arts, crafts, music, theatre and dance, and culinary arts. Each section is curated by seasoned practitioners. Curators include those who base their work on art history and research, as well as those who have been artists, designers, and craftspeople themselves. This allows for diversity in the selection and presentation of the works and exhibitions. However, it may have been interesting to see the entire festival woven together with a unifying theme. An exploration of a single idea in multitude of creative fields, variety of formats, and assortment of media would certainly make for a potent presentation.
Here is a walkthrough of this edition
Visual arts and photography exhibitions are spread across three key venues, offering a wide spectrum of presentations ranging from archives and historical works, image and lese-based art, street art and intimate displays. Innovation, invention, and counter culture are key philosophies for some of the major exhibitions here. Through the exhibition titled Image Journeys: The Conquest of the World as Picture, Dr. Jyotindra Jain offers critical viewing of popular Indian imagery at the turn of the twentieth century in the construction of its social and national identities. “The exhibition’s underlying concept demonstrates how the printing and mass circulation of images widely influenced the nature of belief and worship in India and eventually even acted as a powerful vehicle in shaping the independence movement and the ideologies of patriotism,” he says.
The other curator for the visual arts discipline is Sudarshan Shetty, whose project aims to present indigenous inventions and informal industries that have origins in catering to real-life circumstantial needs with lasting social impact on communities. While the exhibition highlights the need to support and nurture various indigenous approaches for the production of knowledge that sits outside the framework of mainstream institutions and brings forth the organic evolution, it is not immediately evident as to why this section is presented at what is an ‘art’ festival. From an aesthetics standpoint and practical application context, an art event seems a misfit for this powerful collection.
In the photography discipline, Ravi Agarwal explores the concept of staged photography with an exhibition titled Imagined Documents that fits between reality and fiction focusing on works that employ various sorts of strategies and techniques to tell a story. Rahaab Allana’s trans-media curatorial project titled Look, Stranger! drew on the aesthetic ideologies and approaches to image-making and materiality as cultivated by the Bauhaus, which celebrates 100 years in 2019. The creators of the project travelled across South Asia (and its diaspora) in search of emerging lens-based practitioners working with photography and new media to explore questions of community and detachment, belonging and place.
As part of the Special Projects, Nancy Adajania has curated an exhibition titled Counter Canons and Counter Culture: Alternate Histories of Indian Art that demonstrates the rich, living heritage of art-making in postcolonial India that had little or nothing to do with this dominant narrative.
Pramod Kumar KG and Kristine Michael have curated the craft discipline at SAF. Pramod’s project titled Weftcapes examines the creation and making of Jamdani fabrics, both in its weaving, choice of raw materials, patterns, designs and the end-product. Pramod says,“My work at the festival is of fundamentally bringing textile traditions from India’s east coast to the west coast. The exhibition is therefore as much an exploration of the medium of textile as it is of the importance of continued intra-material cultural dialogues within the country”. Through Kindling Change: Fired Material Design Interventions in Ceramics and Glass for Living Sustainable Craft, Kristine Michael attempts to uncover a hidden narrative of transnational modernism in ceramics within a national art history, which negotiates the modern with the indigenous or traditional through a vast and varied terrain of aesthetic production in post-independent India. “This exhibition discusses artistic modernism in contemporary ceramic and glass in India in response to the reimagining of past traditions through intense collaborations between passionate individual artist/designers over a sustained period of time with particular craft cluster communities or who have created new craft communities through NGO interventions in sustainability, enhancing creativity and economic independence,” she explains.
The music programme, curated by Aneesh Pradhan and Sneha Khanwalkar, explores a range ofHindustani and folk music traditions, in addition to Hindi poetry and the art-rock genre. This includes visual and aural installations, offering visitors a unique sound experience that showcases the synergy between sound, visuals and technology. Highlights of this year’s music projects included Sadaarang, a concert underlining the melodic, rhythmic and poetic variety of compositions; Bandish Antaakshari, a performance-based game, portraying compositions from the Hindustani art music tradition through antaakshari; Dhun Mela, a folk song extravaganza bringing together groups of musicians and dancers from various states. Performances included an evening of jazz with Louiz Banks and Braz Gonzalves.
Theatre and Dance
Arundhati Nag has curated the festival’s theatre discipline along with Atul Kumar. The programming in theatre aims to push beyond defined boundaries by moving away from the proscenium. The performances explore fresh avenues to showcase traditional forms with a contemporary twist, continuing with theatre for early years, which introduces children to the importance of theatre and highlights the creative presence of marginal communities, emerging practices and experiments with style.
Curated by Rahul Akerkar and entrepreneur Prahlad Sukhtankar, the Culinary Arts discipline programming this year aims to provide a unique food experience through curated workshops, talks and tastings with a focus on local produce and regional flavours. The festival moves away from the idea of food being purely a means to sustenance, and instead focuses on the sustainability aspect of what and how we eat.