THRESHOLDS OF INDIA
The key architectural design feature of T2, CSMIA is the ‘Slot Wall’ which runs like a curvilinear spine through the airport terminal building and stands like an edifice that holds the extensive Jaya He Museum Art Program, where the wall itself becomes the artwork. One of the important curatorial themes of this art program is the “Thresholds of India” portraying an immense canvas of India’s plural cultural legacy, living traditions and contemporary artistic expression showcased through its various artefacts and art installations.
‘Thresholds of India’ – is an enormous sculptural tableau replete with art elements which generally occupy ‘transition spaces’ in Indian traditional homes, havelis, private or community courtyards.
Ranging from the carved facades of mansions to bullock carts, temple chariots which carry processional idols to toy cars, the collection spans from grand palatial home curios to humble everyday objects. These objects, invested with spiritual meaning, are the symbols of identity, welcome, protection and auspiciousness based on Indian traditional way of living.
Over 5500 artefacts were sourced from across the country – from junkyards, curio shops, homes of craftspeople, roadside vendors and private collections. Each artefact takes the viewer back into that period, that particular place to make one wonder about the people who created such objects of beauty by using their skills passed on over generations. Each artifact, like an alphabet, when placed with others, creates meaning and begins to read like a sentence and eventually into stories.
In ‘Thresholds of India’ theme the traditional Indian objects are very strategically juxtaposed with the works of some of the finest of India’s contemporary artists and emerging creative professionals. This serves as a unique platform for artisans working in traditional idioms to receive a contemporary relevance through such design-led interventions. The scenography, thus created, tells a story of a country that lives in multiple centuries at once.
These narratives are further explored and reinterpreted through the following six thematic compositions:
Ancient Indian philosophy imagined all of creation, both living and non-living as composites of five fundamental elements, the panchamahabhuta. At the dawn of the Universe, the Creator made Space, an endless expanse in which the primordial word ‘Om’ reverberated, creating movement and by extension, Air. Particles collided with particles, and friction generated sparked fire. The heat precipitated to create water, binding the elements together to create Earth. Each of the five elements is associated with one of the five senses and acts as the medium for the experience of sensations. Space is a medium of Sound; Air is associated with Touch; Fire with Sight; Water with Taste; and Earth with Scent.
As a homage to the five elements, ‘India Elemental’ opens with an installation on space, with multiple stone niches, generally used for lighting oil lamps in mansions and havelis of Rajasthan. They are arranged in clusters on a wall representing the vast expanse of the sky with constellations.
Aurelio, a musician-composer-and sound healer, interprets Space or aakasham, the highest element, in ‘Sound Wings’, an installation of tubular bells made in anodised aluminium. The element Air is represented by jaalis or latticed screens, their intricate carvings creating delicate patterns of shadows. Fire, represented by Vintage brass lamps from Kerala and Tamil Nadu are encased, fossil-like, in Patel’s monumental glass cubes textured to resemble melting ice. The work is a metaphor of time, ‘freezing’ the glimmer of the lamps and their fiery essence for eternity while giving the illusion of the ephemeral.
Water was conceptualised by Rajeev Sethi and Shekhar Kapur as a multi-sensory wall that evokes the element visually as through sound and touch. The wall itself is a site-specific installation created by the ceramic artists BR Pandit and his son Abhay in their signature turquoise glaze. Featuring deeply symbolic elements such as the lingam and the yoni, the male and female principles, the work is a meditation on the fertile and life-giving abilities of water.
Earth, as an element, is invoked through a celebration of the rural heartlands of the subcontinent – adobe walls, renewed each year with fresh applications, anointed with symbols inviting fertility and prosperity into the home and family.
‘India Silent Sentinels'
Throughout the Indian subcontinent, thresholds are invested with special meaning. They are spaces of transition between the public and the private, the sacred and the secular, connecting the external world with the realm within.
‘Silent Sentinels’ is composed of various architectural and sculptural elements traditionally featured in thresholds of homes, step wells and religious architecture. Toranas, arches, pillars mark the entrance, marking a space of transition, defining the line between entrance and exit. Totems, brackets, deities, guardian figures and angels carved on the façade or placed near the doorway serve as declarations of identity and belonging, as well as symbolically guard the entrance.
Silent Sentinels is an amalgamation of such architectural and sculptural metaphors encoded into the vocabulary of the Indian threshold, be it a grand entryway into a town, the markers that define the boundaries of a village, the gateways of a sacred building, or the humble doorways of a home.
Long before the age of globalisation and the internet, India was an axial point for international trade through which the East-West commerce in aromatics, spices, textiles, and other luxuries passed. This position allowed for not just the creation of wealthy economies and trade networks but also for active exchanges of ideologies, artistic traditions, traditional knowledge systems and practices.
‘India Global’ represents an India, especially post Independence, where new forms, materials, ideas and ways of being coalesce, the old and new coexisting side by side, sparring with one another and more often than not, erupting into fantastic hybrids, at once global and local.
In this dialogue, cities become an important stage where a vast human drama constantly unfolds, constantly in a state of flux, adapting to innumerable forces influencing its act. ‘India Global’ is conceptualised as a window that opens for the visitor to access this humanscape within the urban landscape.
‘India Greets’ is designed as a tableau of India as one of the first installations which visitors encounter as a welcoming gesture to Jaya He Museum is a densely populated vista of diverse traditional doorways, facades, faces and fascias
Sourced from across the country, they are a language of motifs, designs, and traditional crafts skills. They together offer a testament to cultural diversity of India as well as the often intangible commonalities that transcend ethnicity, religious affiliations, and geography. These are replete with symbols of welcome and protection – lotuses, sacred geometries, angels, ancestral figures, and celestial guardian figures.
Dwelling on the idea of tradition and transition as a cultural continuity, ‘India Seamless’ creates visual connections between temporally and geographically disparate Indias. Thus, history, living myths and popular perceptions are jumbled together to showcase India’s changing vocabulary of architecture and design elements in all their diversity across regions, climates and communities.
This section was conceptualised as four talismanic panoramas, each an artistic rendition of the four regions of India – the north, south, east and west. When seen together, they become one, the story of India. These works through the creative collaborations between artists, designers and traditional craftspeople position cultural artefacts and legacy skills with the contemporary.
Pays homage to both the journeys of the earthly body and the transcendental soul. This idea is articulated in various ways in India’s material culture and represents a larger philosophy of ever changing nature of man’s existence, one in constant state of flux, subject to the cyclical motions of kala or time.
‘India Moves’ is a scenographic portrayal of both the physical voyages that have charted India’s history and the concept of symbolic journey of the soul. These two ideas,over a period of time have become integral elements of Indian Culture and are practiced in its traditions and expressed in its arts and crafts. Thus, the age-old modes of transport like antique boats, bullock carts, elephant howdahs, wedding litters and palanquins, temple chariots and padukas that speak of modes of transport both mundane and festive, find expression as part of installations where boat heads and boats serenely float amid anachronistic schools of scrap-metal fish, and fantastical flying locomotives and mythical creatures are suspended in mid-flight from the ceiling above. A large stone relief depicts large ships bearing monks, merchants, and goods across tumultuous seas. The scenes and the style of the carving follow that of the 9 th century carvings of the Borobadur Temple in Java, the architecture and sculptural program of which reveal a strong Indian influence. This then pays homage to the concept of a Greater India and the shared histories with the rest of Asia.