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A winning entry for Project 560 public art grant to celebrate found spaces in Bengaluru.

Project Proposal for Project 560

Prepared for: India Foundation for the Arts

Prepared by: Klatsch (https://www.facebook.com/klatschkafe)

Myself Mohan. 1909

AN INTRODUCTION

Bengaluru is full of found spaces and places, sights and sounds, smells and tastes, surfaces and textures.Unseen by the ordinary, the city walks with pockets of muted corners, rings of scented roads, and spells of thirsty lakes. Chasing the winds of society, the Bangalorean has wandered far from the sensitivity of her host ,Bengaluru; pushing her further into the muted and the unseen. Her trees, her air, her water are all enduring the nomenclature of civilization, and in the exploration of her phenomenology, we began to uncover the living fossils of her natural and built past.It was a coincidence to acquaint a swallowed pocket of history in Chickpet. Living the everyday Bangalorean lifestyle invites the threat of contextual blindness, ignoring the sights and sounds of a rich past silently echoing on the dusty walls and colonial doors. Upon entering into this pocket, we were immediately enchanted to an invisible dialogue amongst the lonely and reminiscing walls and doors and floors, and rooms, rooms who have been the host of much occasion and uninformed personalities. Amid the presence of space abandonment we could envisage a time where this edifice was once alive. Within these abandoned, yet undemolished pockets of Bengaluru are the stories that reveal the lost identity of a culturally forlorn mother. Through recreating this history of this space, we will take the Chickpet natives and Bengalurians-at-large to a time where Bengaluru was alive.

WHO WE ARE: Klatsch is a collective of artists, designers and innovators, with a passion for creative thinking and public engagement through art. Over the past year, it has grown from being a small group of a dozen odd performers, to a community of more than a hundred creators from various disciplines ranging from architectureto engineering. Working off Cobalt BLR on Church Street, the collective mainly operates through its closed Facebook group and Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/klatschkafe).While the members of Klatsch have no specific criteria for the kind of projects they involve themselves with,emphasis  is laid on keeping its work interactive and inclusive to the general public. 

OUR OBJECTIVE:  Spaces are negotiated constantly by human (e)motions. They are a product of numerous poignant conversations, traversed by the histories of both its inhabitants and its transient dwellers. Public spaces in particular, bear within them an abundance of multi-layered urban emotions, personal/ communal stories and fictional scripting. Bangalore, a fast transforming urbanscape of numerous dualities, embodies several untold tales, memoirs and narratives. Composite, yet constantly changing, the city forms a rich montage of visual, aural and tactile mishmashes – some remain, some have changed and then there are some that have completely vanished over the years.

Through Project 560, Klatsch endeavours to capture all of this and more. The project attempts to bring to life (virtually) snippets of a few Bangaloreans transiently based at the Mohan Building in Chickpet. Creating a timeline of fictional and factual histories, the endeavor is to reconnect present day Bangaloreans, and peoplewho may have recently made Bangalore their home, with the city’s lesser-known, un-glorified past. Klatsch aspires to uncover the hidden identities of Bangalore and hear out the unheard, the mundane, and the forgotten.

The built heritage of the city has been a bystander to numerous life histories, it has played host to celebrations galore and has painfully witnessed a few catastrophes too. Through Klatsch this built heritage comes alive, it becomes the Protagonist and not a mere onlooker. What happens when Mohan building is treated as the living; the breathing? What happens when the building starts to narrate stories and incidences? Stories of labourers who built the place, of the old lady who sat quietly through a panchayat session, stories of the common man who spent a night at the Bombay Anand Bhavan Ashram?

These everyday stories are what we are looking to narrate, taking the Mohan Building as a constant, and the people around as the mobile, transitory passersby. The project looks to convert this found space into a heterogeneous mix of spatial art works, which act directly on the physical spaces present within the Mohan Building. Transforming the internal spaces into active, significant elements, able to transmit emotions and tell stories contextually located within the structure.

 

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THE CHOSEN SPACE:  Built up in 1909, Mohan Building has had a multitude of functions to play. Sometimes called as Bangalore’s first commercial mall, the building started out as a Taluka Kacheri when it was constructed. Viewing galleries around the main courtyard, as well as the main hall on the first floor, make it easy to imagine heated discussions taking places in the space below. Around this time the building also housed a police station inside its walls. After the Kacheri was shifted, the building took on a commercial hue with cotton and silk shops occupying the rooms around the courtyard. Some of these shops still exist today and are being evicted by the building’s new owners. This combination of colourful shops inside the courtyard and food stalls just outside the compound wall have earned the building the tag of ‘Bangalore’s first mall’.

About 45 years after the building was constructed the first floor area was taken up by the Bombay Anand Bhavan Hotel. Climbing up the staircase into the reception area of the hotel throws you into a space brimming with stories, stuck in time. Well-preserved artifacts, like a numbered key holder at the reception and a board asking guests to dutifully pay their dues still adorn the walls of the space. Walking through the main functioning areas of the hotel, it’s easy to see that the rooms were really retrofitted into the big halls, one of the many transformations Mohan Building has seen.

OUTCOMES:  We seek inspiration from spaces that we see around us, sounds that we hear and the people that aspire to surround us with their complex simplicities. When the aforementioned are picked proportionately and woven together with hints of imagination and creative flare, a beautiful tale resounds. We are here to capture that tale and present it to the people of Bangalore in three ways:

A. Ephemeral Spatial works: Using the already existing, fast dilapidating space of the Bombay Anand Bhavan aka Mohan Building; Klatsch will look at reimagining and trying to recreate certain experiences of a bygone era in cohesion with the historical representation and recollection of the former glory of this iconic establishment. This would be in terms of:

  1.  Reconstructing a life story from the era that saw the construction of this architectural masterpiece, representative of the colonial period (1909).
  2. An artistic representation of a fictional scenario of the Taluka Kacheri (panchayat) with live performances and audiovisual installations.
  3. A spatial Illustration characterising a narrative taken from the official records of the Police station that was once housed in the Mohan building.
  4. Reimagining and renovating the lodging space to recreate an atmosphere of relevance to the perceived inhabitants and functioning of the Bombay Anand Bhavan Ashram.
  5. Collaborating with local traders in and around the vicinity of the building, engaging and ideating with them to recreate certain scenarios from the time of their forefathers who came to Bangalore and set up shop generations before.
  6. Collaborating with the local food and chai walas in the vicinity and help them set up shop in the compound of the Mohan building during the exhibition so as to engage the audience with an overall experience and give them a true feeling of stepping back in time.

B. Documentation: We wish to inculcate different documentation and communication mediums to share our work and experience with our audience as well as the general public of the digitalised world.Our aim is to establish 5 different storylines based on the 5 spatial establishments of the Mohan Building in its many avatars over the years. These stories will be brought to life by performances, projection and audio mapping which will be visually documented and edited into a multimedia deliverable which we hope to publish.

C. Community activation: Through this project we aspire to work with the local community who have been trading their goods for generations in the same space. We will collaborate with them for the research and implementation process.We hope to bring this older part of the city back into the limelight and create curiosity about this fascinating locality amongst the new Bangaloreans. This would also be a great opportunity for the local traders and shop owners to captivate the influx of people who visit the exhibition and interest them in their items of trade.

 

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS and CREDITS

SPECIAL THANKS: Indian Foundation for the Arts (IFA), Project 560, Rajesh Exports, Kena, and Deccan Herald. 

Klatsch Collective:

Akshaya Narsimhan | Arvind Prasad | Divya Ramachandran | Jeffrey Butts Jr. | Koyal Chengappa | Kyzeen Lala | Leona D’souza | Prithivi Raj | Rahul Gudipudi | Rahul KP | Rucha Dhayarkar | Saranya Gopinath | Shashank Satish | Shaunak Mahbubani | Ullas Hydoor | Vineet Kumar | Vishnu Kumar.

[Shashank Satish] Role played in the project:

  • Engaged in making public art accessible to the local community through active engagement.
  • Personally involved in the collective from applying for the grant, group discussions on conceptualization, ideation,                      iteration, sourcing, curation to execution of installations on the ground.
  • Content creation:  Posters, Graphics for social media, 3D modeling of the space for print material and handouts.
  • Photographic documentation of the project.

 

 

 

 

Image Gallery Below: Photographs of the 3-day 'IFA Project 560' public art event in December 2015 at Mohan Building, Chickpete, Bengaluru.