Akar Prakar Gallery, Kolkata, 2010

Transition Collective (Magda Fabianczyk, Tilly Fowler, Niels Staats and Arunas Survila) curated an exhibition of works developed in collaboration with Patachitra folk artists from West Bengal. The exhibition took place at Akar Prakar Gallery in Kolkata in India.

The project began a year earlier as Transit 2009, when UK based artists first met Patachitra artists during almost a month long exchange in Kolkata. After returning to the UK the four of them continued developing the second part of the project designing the programme they were hoping to activate in April 2010. However soon after they arrival to Kolkata, with the ready made plan, they realised that the fact that it was designed without the presence of Patachitra artists and being displaced from India could only work if they treated the Patachitra as the subject of their work and not as an equal parter in the project. To break with that a long process of dismantling the programme began, where both groups struggled to find a common ground and understand each others perception of art. Patachitra’s poetic way of describing the art was often confusing to the Western artists, who learned to talk and think about it through terms borrowed from the Western art history. Also Patachitra found it hard to allocate meanings in their dialect for some of the Western words. Patachitra spoke dialect that first translated to Bengali was then translated to English, therefore meanings often got mixed up. Mistranslations led both groups to work along each other but with a different interpretation of the final outcome.‘Premise...’ the film presented during the  exhibition reflected that process of mistranslations.

During the curatorial process Western artists also tried to challenge the uncomfortable hierarchy, which saw them as ‘teachers’ and leaders of the project. Prior to the opening night, they gallery was used as a dining room, where Transition artists hosted Patachitra artists, as a gesture of gratitude for their earlier hospitality. The dinner, however, led to another discomfort, as some of the Patachitra artists felt uneasy in a passive role of a guest, who was unable to help. The awkwardness involved in participation in a dinner cooked to foreign taste and served in a style that Patachitras (of lower cast) had no access to, reflected the clumsiness Transition artists struggled with when asked to perform to camera local Bengali dances or participate in village rituals.

The exhibition display, spread across three rooms and a garden surrounding the gallery, consisted of short film Premise..‘  and drawings and objects produced during the three week process that lead to its making. 

Project advisors and translators: Manas Acharya and Sumona Chakravarty

Supported by Banglanatak dot com and EU Art For Livelihood

Magdalena Fabianczyk works \ contact \ bio