The Telegraph
Sunday , January 6 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Art that is fun


The eccentric genius of Partha Pratim Deb comes into full play in his exhibition titled Play for Joy of Seeing on at Aakriti Art Gallery till January 12. It is a rare exhibition for it is great fun, to begin with. How many Indian artists would dare to be funny?

Most of the works are neither paintings nor sculptures that gallerists are eager to display, but are pieces composed of odds and ends, and things of everyday use in every middle class household that are discarded when they are too worn and old to serve their purpose any longer. Throughout his career as a teacher, who has among his former pupils some of the leading artists of Bengal today, Deb indefatigably made piles of these objects without any thought of ever exhibiting them.

Deb uses everything from bottlebrushes, kadhais, pressure cookers, hotwater bottles, bottles, bicycle seats and a urinal that had seen better days to create these objects with a playfulness that one associates with Abanindranath when he created kutum katam with driftwood and also his last book Khuddur Jatra. Marcel Duchamp also comes to mind but Deb has a subtle sense of humour that finds expression in bringing together the most unlikely of found objects. An earthenware pot spewing forth yards and yards of rope is placed on an old kerosene stove. The entire ensemble is painted a bright yellow with touches of red. The skull of a buffalo is devised with a bicycle seat.

Deb has also created an entire range of make-believe food items laid out on a large dining table like a huge banquet should be. There is an entire range of clothing fashioned out of canvas and multi-hued terracotta sea creatures as well. They come quite close to the real thing but are far removed from actuality for they do not serve their real-life function any longer. They are given a totally new look and function which make it difficult for them to be identified. He uses enamel paint, paper pulp and above all his own fertile imagination to transmogrify these objects.

Delightful as this exhibition is, most of these works are unlikely to attract buyers as they would be difficult to either preserve or restore. Credit goes to the gallerist for putting up this show at all. The excellent display by former pupil Jayashree Chakravarty and the profusely-illustrated catalogue with an essay by Pranabranjan Ray enhance the worth of this exhibition.

Film fest on violence

Swayam’s three-day film festival against gender violence, held in association with IAWRT India, at Rotary Sadan could not have been better timed. The festival started on Friday and will continue till Sunday.

A still from Mann Ki Manjeere, to be screened on Sunday

Organised as part of the International One Billion Rising Campaign (to stop domestic violence), the event features films from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal, Iran, the UK and the US, among others.

Day One started with the screening of the music video of the One Billion Rising Campaign. Among other films screened that day was one on the Nepal insurgency problem, The Sari Soldiers by Julie Bridgham.

Many films dealt with LGBT issues. The screenings were followed by a discussion on related topics.

On Sunday, the first film to be screened is Mann Ki Manjeere from India at noon. Some Afghan short films are also on the cards, like A Day in the Life of Rahela. The festival will close with a feature film from Iran, Closing Mirrors by Negar Azarbayjani.

There will also be a discussion on sex work as choice and the rights of sex workers.

Forced migration

The Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group is hosting the 14th Conference of the International Association for the Study of Forced Migration at Swabhumi from Sunday to Wednesday. This is the first time that this international conference is being held in South Asia.

Titled ‘Contested Spaces and Cartographic Challenges’, the conference will look at the homeless — people who have been displaced or forced to migrate, changing the world’s demographics and politics. In Bengal alone, forced migration is happening everywhere, from the Sunderbans, where “superstorms” are wiping out entire villages, to Malda and Murshidabad, where floods and the river regularly render thousands homeless, to Rajarhat, where the demands of construction are pushing people out of their homes and their livelihoods.

Attending the conference are activists and academicians from India and abroad, including Anisuzzaman, Chris Dolan, Walter Fernandes, Susan F. Martin, Ritu Menon, Bishnu N. Mohapatra, Ashis Nandy, I.A. Rehman and Ranabir Samaddar.

(Contributed by Soumitra Das and Chandreyee Ghose)