Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Swiss Carnival and Indian Rituals

Under the title “Performing Masks”, two mask collections are now being exhibited at the Museum Rietberg : ritual masks from southern India and carnival masks from Switzerland.

A presentation of two mask collections that could not be more different 

The Museum Rietberg is famous for its collection of rare and valuable masks from all over the world. Under the title “Performing Masks”, two mask collections are now being exhibited: ritual masks from southern India and Carnival masks from Switzerland. 

The latter are part of one of the oldest collections in the museum. It is more than forty years since all the Swiss masks were exhibited together and now this important part of the museum’s permanent collection is on display again. The Indian ritual masks, on the other hand, have only been acquired recently. In a special exhibition they are being shown to the public for the first time.

When masks dance
Novartis Gallery / 17 May until 18 October 2009 

In Tulunadu, a rural coastal region in southern India which encompasses parts of the states of Karnataka and Kerala, people have been worshipping Butas, local gods, protective spirits and heroes for many centuries. 

In 2007 the Museum Rietberg received a gift of more than fifty Buta masks and sculptures from Heidi and Hans Kaufmann. Thanks to this gift a special exhibition can be dedicated to the underexplored theme of “folk art“. The artefacts which represent Butas are produced to this day and still used in rituals. None of those on display are more than a hundred years old. 

These Buta masks belong to the Hindu folk religion which differs from Brahmin Hinduism in its gods and practices. Particularly spectacular are the large Buta animal masks such as the mask of the buffalo demon Maisandaye, the tiger Pillichamundi or the wild boar Panjurli. The exhibition also shows the complete "costume" of a performer: the huge, elaborate headgear, often several metres in height, attached to the performer’s back, the symbols of the god such as a bell or sword, and the beautiful decorations on the head and arms. Fascinating field photos and a documentary film trace the production and use of the masks and convey a powerful impression of this ritual theatre tradition which has remained alive in southern India to this day.

Carnival masks from Switzerland
Villa Wesendonck /  from 17 May 2009 

The Museum Rietberg possesses the most important collection of old Swiss masks in the world. All of the masks here have been much used and they thus provide a valuable testimony to Swiss folk traditions. Part of the museum’s permanent collection, but not on display for some time, the masks are now being exhibited again. Among the most important places in Switzerland for carnivals are Sarganserland in the Canton of St Gallen, Central Switzerland, and the Lötsch Valley in the Canton of Wallis. They all have their own mask traditions. 

This extraordinary collection of masks has not been on display in its entirety for more than 40 years. Now it is an integral part of the permanent collection.  

Château de Lavigny International Writers' Residence

Usha Rajagopalan was invited to The Château de Lavigny International Writers' Residence. Usha used the residency to translate a selection of Tamil poems by Subramania Bharati into English.

The Château de Lavigny International Writers' Residence was founded by the late Jane Rowohlt in memory of her husband, the German publisher, Heinrich Maria Ledig-Rowohlt. After a long successful career as a leading publisher of several renowned twentieth century writers, Ledig-Rowohlt and his wife settled in their newly acquired Château at Lavigny, a small village between Geneva and Lausanne. It was their home from 1972 till their demise. The International Writers’ Residence was set up in 1996 to honour her wish to bequeath their home, the Château de Lavigny, to foster “a spirit of international community and creativity.”  

As one of the five writers invited to attend the first session from 2nd to 22nd June 2009, Usha Rajagopalan was a part of a truly international community for the other writers were from South Africa, Russia, Spain and the U.S.A.  Rachelle Greeff wrote in Afrikaans, Alan Cherchersov in Russian and Ossetian, José Luis de Juan in Spanish and Catalan while Allen Hibbard from US was translating from Arabic to English. Usha was there in the capacity of a translator from Tamil to English. She used this residency to finalize her manuscript, Selected Poems of Subramania Bharati, translations from Tamil to English during the three weeks.  

For the public reading Usha Rajagopalan had written a short biographical note on the Mahakavi. She read a short poem “False? Or True?” Subramania Bharati had set many of his poems to music so, instead of reciting, she chose to sing the Tamil original.  

"I am delighted that the public presentation of my work at the Chateau de Lavigny went off extremely well. It was well attended. I used this residency to translate a selection of Tamil poems by the national poet, Subramania Bharati. Therefore, at the public presentation, I read out my translation of a short poem and, instead of reading the original, sang the Tamil song. It was for the first time that the audience were hearing Tamil and I had to take an encore bow!! I truly appreciated the opportunity I got to introduce Subramani Bharati to the Swiss audience."
-- Usha Rajagopalan    
A show by Nanaiah Chettira and Rahel Hegnauer

Indian artist Nanaiah Chettira and Swiss artist Rahel Hegnauer, both supported by Pro Helvetia New Delhi present a joint show at Forum Schlossplatz , Aarau

Indian artist Nanaiah Chettira from Bangalore presents work (installations), which he compiled during his six month's residency in the guest studio at Aarau. Nanaiah's residency has been supported by Pro Helvetia New Delhi. He has been on the residency since January 2009. The show marks the conclusion of his six month's residency.  The developed installations are in the form of lock rubber strips.

 Work of Swiss artist Rahel Hegnauer is exhibited opposite the installations by Chettiras. The artist from Zürich visited and worked in Nanaiha Chettiras' hometown Bangalore.
Rahel Hegnauer from Zurich shows documentations of her site specific work, which she created during her stay in India as an artist-in-residence at BAR1 and Khoj (Bangalore and Delhi) in 2008/09. Rahel's residency too was supported by Pro Helvetia. 

From 6 - 21 June 2009

Wed / Fri / Sat 12.00-17.00 
Thurs  12.00-20.00 
Sun 11.00-17.00   

Lokalität  Forum Schlossplatz Laurenzenvorstadt 3 5000 Aarau    
Organised by: Forum Schlossplatz   
More information: www.forumschlossplatz.ch    
Marc Lee presents '18 pairs and 4questions'

Bar1 presents a show by Marc Lee, developed and realised during his 6 months residency in Bengaluru.

Bar1 presents 
18 pairs and 4 questions
a show by Marc Lee, developed and realised during his 6 months residency in Bengaluru.

On Saturday, 13th June at 7 PM at Samuha
Ada Ranga Mandira, Opposite Ravindra Kalashetra, J C Road, Bangalore
18 pairs & 4 questions

Born in 1969, Marc Lee is a Swiss artist experienced in the field of new technologies who discusses in his works the impact of media and technological instruments on the vision of every day life.

Since his beginnings in 1999, he took part in major new media exhibitions including: ZKM, Karlsruhe, New Museum, New York, Media Art Biennale, Seoul, Transmediale ‘02 and ‘04, Berlin, Viper ‘01, ‘03, ‘04 and ‘05, Basel, Ars Electronica, Linz, Read_Me Festival, Moscow and ICC, Tokyo. 
He was awarded a grant by the Swiss Arts Council pro Helvetia to take part in the Artist Residency Program Bar1 in Bangalore for a period of six months. His first months in the city led to the construction of a pyramid dedicated to meditation and resting. This structure made of recycled material was erected near Banaswadi Railway Station. http://www.1go1.net/index.php/Main/Pyramid

The actual show composed of a 10 minute video, titled “4 Questions” and a photomontage, called “18 Pairs” represents a synthesis of his experiences in Bangalore and of his recent travel to the Himalayas.

“4 Questions” is a montage of interviews whereby 68 people from unprivileged areas of Bangalore are asked to answer four simple questions in front of their house. The three first ones  - “What is your name?” “How old are you?” and “ What is your mother tongue?” - lead the subjects to ‘define’ themselves through parameters they have ‘inherited’ by birth. The last question, however, “What is important in your life?” – is more introspective and addresses the notions of choice and values.
It brings to light the aspirations of the younger generation to get a better live through education.

“18 Pairs”, on the other hand, is an album made of pairs of photographs of the same scene shot at a few seconds of interval. The images are cropped randomly by a software the artist wrote for this project and only five percent of these high-resolution photographs are shown each time. Every viewing being different, it draws the attention of the viewer to a different detail of the same photograph.

The random framing allows to break away from the usual boundaries of the memory set by photography. By deliberately recording a moment with a camera, one associates a fixed image to the moment and usually sticks to it in a definite way. Marc Lee allows himself to rediscover some forgotten or unnoticed parts of his souvenirs. Thus, he re-opens the crystallization mechanism of memory and even creates a stimulus for the outside viewer, who is invited to associate with these “impressions” to rediscover other facets of his own memories. 

Through this album, the artist suppresses the chosen aesthetic value given by contemporary society to photography by reclaiming and extending its function of aide-memoire. At the same time, he changes the power that images have on our minds by using them as partial sources of information, which allows a subjective reconstruction of a souvenir. 

Marc Lee delivers an unstructured and multifaceted vision of India and of his own experience here.

-Sophie Hamel