BENGALURU: There is history and there is a history of the other. The latter is usually ignored, silenced or erased. The India Foundation for the Arts is out to preserve this alternative history. “It is important to conserve these histories in a manner that is dictated not by bureaucrats or politicians but by people themselves,” believes IFA’s executive director Arundhathi Ghosh.
And, towards documenting history and reality as seen through art, the IFA is launching an archive — both physical and online — in October. The physical, temperature-controlled archive will be set up at RMV Stage II. A citybased digitisation company is working on the online interface. The project has received a fouryear-term funding of Rs 1 crore by the Lohia Foundation, which works in the areas of education, healthcare and conservation.
Over two decades, this Bengaluru-based nonprofit has provided grants to over 500 artists across the country. Those public projects will be the body and soul of their archive. “Over the years, we have seen focussed attempts to understand and reinterpret identity, otherness and community; to question issues around sexuality, gender and caste. All this is represented in different ways across mediums like paintings, text, films, theatre, installations and performances,” said Ghosh.
A play written by Sapan Saran, for instance, talks about gender testing in sports. Another project explores art forms of the minority Muslim community from Char Chapori, Assam, who often find themselves isolated in the larger Assamese identity.
Prajna Hegde’s work interprets government school syllabus through local Karnataka folk art form, particularly Sannaata while Anver Pariat’s project investigates the relationship tigers have shared with the Khasi ethnic group of Meghalaya.
The challenge for IFA was to track down the artists, who have copyrights of the work, and are spread across the country. In that sense, Ghosh said, this is a crowdsourced attempt of conserving art. The first phase of the archive will involve 50 art projects that were created in 2011 and 2012. IFA plans to add work from the past two decades in phases. Both the digital and physical archives will be accessible to the public.
Former IAS officer Sobha Nambisan, who has headed the National Gallery of Modern Art and the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, said: “It will be interesting to see how the same socio-political or cultural events are reflected upon and presented differently by artists working across mediums.”