Serendipity Arts Festival curators identify trends, challenges, and opportunities in the world of art
SAF 2022 showcases a dazzling variety of arts. In this photo essay, we feature more creative works and curator insights on shifts in the art ecosystem.
Launched in 2014, PhotoSparks is a weekly feature from YourStory, with photographs that celebrate the spirit of creativity and innovation. In the earlier 665 posts, we featured an art festival, cartoon gallery. world music festival, telecom expo, millets fair, climate change expo, wildlife conference, startup festival, Diwali rangoli, and jazz festival.
Back in full physical glory after a two-year pandemic break, the Serendipity Arts Festival (SAF) in Goa delights and inspires attendees while also providing valuable opportunities for artists. See Part I, Part II and Part III of my coverage, and my eight-part photo-essay series from the 2019 edition.
In this photo essay, we feature more artworks from the venues across the city, and curator insights on trends, challenges and opportunities in India’s art landscape.
SAF 2022 also featured the book launch of Imaginable Worlds: Art, Crisis and Global Futures. The collection of texts by artists and practitioners from around the world offers a creative look at crises and their impact. The publication is a collaboration by Serendipity Arts Foundation and the Smart Museum of Art, Chicago.
Multi-media works of eight artists from France were presented in the section, Terra Nullius/Nobody’s Land: Excavations from Image 3.0. The group show Somewhere Ethereal featured six NFT artworks from international artists.
Other showcases included Chilika Dialogues by Pinaki Ranjan Mohanty (from Lake Chilika, Odisha), Chameleon Land by photographer Sridhar Balasubramaniyan (drama production), and Rumiyana by Ishara Puppet Theatre (musical puppetry inspired by the works of Rumi).
A commendable feature of the festival is its continued commitment to accessibility features for people with special sensory needs. For example, Braille descriptors were added to many of the exhibition plaques.
Rediscovery and innovation are two distinct trends emerging in the Indian culinary scene, Prahlad Sukthankar, curator of the culinary arts section, explains in a chat with YourStory.
“Rediscovery of our heritage includes sourcing recipes from tribal and remote villages, rediscovering lost indigenous ingredients, or introducing unique dishes on the restaurant menus using this knowledge,” he explains.
“Innovation using regional indigenous ingredients helps create original flavours using a combination of traditional and modern cooking techniques,” Prahlad adds.
The pandemic has also impacted the world of dance. “With shorter performance slots online – even to a ridiculous minute or two – even artists who cannot sustain a full performance, got away with tech innovations and smart talk and rose to become influencers,” observes dance curator Geeta Chandran.
“While this was exciting during the pandemic, that trend continues post-pandemic. ‘Sweet rather than sweat’ seems to have become the new norm, and that truly worries a classical purist like me,” she laments.
Viewer behaviour has also been impacted. “The patterns of live audience have changed indelibly. Today, less and less people are getting motivated to return to the auditorium. They prefer to catch performances online, at their leisure and watching at will,” Geeta explains.
“This in turn will rupture our fabulous performance traditions and eventually our sacred pedagogy of teaching and learning. That should be of concern to all,” she cautions.
“On the one hand, I see a definitive move towards appropriation of craft and an engagement with an analogue approach to production,” sculptor and crafts curator Sudarshan Shetty explains.
“There is also a large number of artists who are engaged with the world of possibilities that is constantly being thrown at us from the digital arena,” he adds.
“I have a hunch that in the very near future, there are going to be major changes in the way the art is going to be made, disseminated and consumed. This will eventually topple institutional structures and the control and power of the few gatekeepers, and what is perceived by them as 'relevant',” Sudarshan predicts.
Opportunities and challenges
India’s growing art ecosystem opens up new opportunities for artists as well as those involved in art management, media, curation, education, promotion, capacity building, talent scouting, collaborative cocreation, and digital transformation.
“The versatility of Indian classical music artists, as well as their malleability, has allowed them to explore newer fields,” observes ace percussionist and music curator Bickram Ghosh.
“The classical music fraternity is historically the genesis of Indian fusion music,” he adds, citing as an example his own journey of composition and fusion from the 2000s onwards.
“Some jobs in the tech field have come in, but they are still unregulated and largely exploitative of the artists. So, unless the industry is fleshed out and protected, we will remain the step-child abandoned by the formal economy,” dance curator Geeta Chandran cautions.
“We are all lost solo artists who group together when the occasion demands. Here, artists do everything themselves: booking venues, creating the art to be showcased, publicity, creating the promotions, and even getting audiences to the theatre,” she says.
“Everything is on the shoulders of the artists,” Geeta sums up. There needs to be an interface for many of these tasks, and for leaving the artists with only the task of creative “doing.”
“The field cries for professional event managers,” Geeta signs off.
Now, what have you done today to pause in your busy schedule and find new avenues to apply your creativity?
(All photographs were taken by Madanmohan Rao on location at the festival venues.)