Three members of Clark House Initiative, Bombay - Sumesh Sharma, co-founder (with Zasha Colah), and artists Amol K. Patil and Prabhakar Pachpute - will be visiting London as part of a collaboration between Clark House and The Showroom. For this event they will share their work informally and our dialogues so far. They will be joined by David Dibosa, Emily Pethick and Grant Watson.
Sumesh Sharma writes: 'When British city planners conceived a city for the seven islands of Bombay, apart from the reclamation of land they began constructing edifices that would speak the grandeur of a colonial empire, and of a city that stood as an example of civilisation and trade after the Suez canal. Tired travellers would encounter the cosmopolitanism that defined the city within the island’s numerous hotels, stately mansions and municipal buildings. Though Calcutta is a more typical remnant of that age, the city of Bombay borrows its distribution of public utility from the city of London. The districts that make up that city, now renamed Mumbai, aptly or not, have histories that oscillate between fishing villages and Catholic communidades established after the Portuguese Inquisition and Occupation and those established by British reclamation and the trading history of the area.
The Showroom and Clark House led research into the imagining of affinities of these cities, which are reflected in the vocabulary of the practices of a group of artists and curators: Amol K Patil's practice that infers on the solidarity of Bombay's Sanitation Workers and avant-garde plays that are informed by Dalit Movements of consciousness, particularly the Dalit Panthers of India; Prabhakar Pachpute kneads materiality of objects to narrate the city's stories of abject and displacement, and histories of post-industrialisation; curator Grant Watson enters into a dialogue of performance and identity circumventing the ambitions of a discriminatory penal law that runs concurrent and in conflict with India's constitution. These resonances were furthered through the involvement of artist Wendelien van Oldenborgh and curator David Dibosa who unearth the politics of community explorations and through practice are seeking ways to overcome the limitations of representational aesthetics.
The connecting of geographies through this project extend between the coalfields of Wales and Pachpute’s village, London and Bombay, two cities of migrants. London is a city that does not manufacture and in Bombay manufacturing is becoming rare pushed out by middle classes and constricted by high rents. These are neighbourhoods that have historically been defined by peculiar migrant journeys, caste affiliation and association. The city's red light district is now much reduced and is shared with artisanal tradesmen who supply the city with its decoration. Decades ago Dalit Consciousness erupted in political formats that were inspired by the Dalit Panthers of India movement and in culture by that of the Harlem Renaissance, mimicking the municipal urbanism of New York and Bombay. Dalits inhabited in abject the remnants of red light district that once serviced sailors disembarking on Bombay's port. It is here we placed our project in Bombay and now find resonances in London that provide us with an equivocal voice that seeks a city of confluence rather than in its limitations of being mere interacting identities that constitute grand political objectives such as South Asia.'
This event forms part of a research and development phase of an exchange between The Showroom and Clark House Initiative, funded by Arts Council England/British Council’s Reimagine India project.