June 13, 2021
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Bhubaneshwar Art Trail: 'Navigation Offline'

Bhubaneswar holds a one of a kind public art festival for the first time.

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Bhubaneshwar Art Trail: 'Navigation Offline'
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Bhubaneshwar Art Trail: 'Navigation Offline'

The most awaited art festival, the mega event of the debut edition of Bhubaneswar Art Trail, 2018 kicked off on the 18th of November. Aimed at helping to refurbish the art heritage and create a creative space of the capital city and its older counterpart, i.e the old town (which is often described as the ‘a treasure trove of time since 6th century CE’), the event will go on for a month, thus ending on the 18th of December. It is going to be for the first time that art will be represented on such a large scale, along a trail of 1.3 kms. BAT 2018 is going to be a groundbreaking event with several USP’s in the domain of art and culture.

The art trail was inaugurated by the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, in presence of the Tourism Minister Ashok Chandra Panda, Sports and Youth Services Minister Chandra Sarathi Behera, Commissioner – cum- Secretary, Tourism, Sports and Youth Services Vishal Kumar Dev, Vice Chairman, Bhubaneswar Development Authority Dr Krishnan Kumar, Managing Director, Odisha Mining Corporation Vineel Krishna, CMD Nalco Dr TK Chand, Jagannath Panda and Premjish Achari, curators of the event, at the Old Town area on Sunday.

With the theme being “Navigation offline”, curated by Jagannath Panda and Premjish Achari, is an attempt to unleash the inner inquisitiveness and bring back the mystery in not knowing what path lies ahead of us. In today’s age, technology has made our lives undoubtedly a thousand times easier, especially when it comes to technology like the GPS. You can easily navigate and go from any part of the world to any part, on your own, no matter how small or how long the distance is. But in using our smartphone to track our paths, even to our homes, we have lost the element of surprise, mystery and human touch. We have started looking at our world through cameras and 360 degrees and our world has reduced to 2D images which are uploaded, liked and shared in social media by people. And hence navigation offline will help look at the world from the physical perspective and not a virtual one.

The whole trail of 1.3 km is going to be the workplace to display the various forms of art where artists, masters, assistants, students, apprentices, all can work together to produce fine pieces of art. The canvas could be anything – a school building, a public wall, pavements, parapets, tufts, houses, youth club buildings, all coming alive, and taking a step ahead in promoting the smart city initiative.

Taking grassroot participation as its biggest weapon, this trail will include the street houses, medieval monuments, modern and contemporary architecture, schools, shops, and public institutions and will help in understanding the transformation that has taken place in the city, through personal interactions and the history, memories and various narratives of the Old Town. The artworks which would be showcased in BAT would reflect every artist’s visions, concerns and propositions for this city.

IAS Dr. Krishnan Kumar, Commissioner, Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation, and Vice Chairman, Bhubaneswar Development Authority, says, “Bhubaneswar had participated in the smart city contest in 2016, and had won that contest. Smart City Challenge required cities to come up with integrated plans, proposals for the development of the city. Bhubaneswar had proposed 3 projects, one was Bhubaneswar Art Trail, second was Project STAMP, i.e , Street Art and Murals Project, and third one was a Heritage Walk project. All the three projects are going on hand in hand now, and BAT will encourage local artists to come up and help in developing the already rich heritage of the city.”

The BAT is an initiative by Utsha Foundation for Contemporary Art in collaboration with Odisha Tourism, Bhubaneswar Development Authority, Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation, Bhubaneswar Urban Knowledge Centre (BUKC), Department of Sports and Youth Services, Department of Odia Language, Literature and Culture, and community associations like Kedargouri Club, Guajhara Association, institutions like Kedarnath Gaveshana Pratisthana, B K College of Art and Crafts, Utkal University of Culture, Orissa Dance Academy and Dhauli College of Art, who have come together to make this event a massive success.

Ramakant Jena, a participant artist for the BAT 2018 says, “The heritage of our country and to be specific in Odisha is dying out. Once in the ekamra region, there was 700 temples, and now there are only 100 temples now. So this trail, is a very important, much needed step towards protecting our own culture. There are many people in Bhubaneswar still, who do not even know how many temples are there in Odisha. This will help in making people aware of everything that their heritage is of. One in all, in the 3-4 days that it has been on since, I have seen that the public is in general very interested to witness such things. It has become a selfie point for the public. The art that we have put up for the trail is part of the Project ROOM, a collection by 3 artists. We did our own research in the past 1 month, and we took out photographs as old as 1970, and we photographed the same places in 2018. We wanted to bring out the drastic change that has invisibly occurred over the past years, and make people aware about ow we are going away from our own heritage.”

The city has undergone huge amount of transformations owing to the BAT 2018. The BMC has done the de-weeding work of the historic Bindusagar Lake, with an aid of almost 6 lakhs. The BDA, BUKC and BMC team has mapped the infrastructure requirements with the help of 3D modelling of the entire trail and pinned specific requirements for streetlights, repair work, setting up of toilets, cleaning of streets, drainage repair, painting of wall. The city administration has started installing 17 free standing directional signage, 2 free standing old lane/locality signage, 3 free standing directional/ lane finding directional signage, 3 wall-hung signage, and 2-way finding wall mounted signage, exclusively for the event, along the 1.3 km stretch assigned for BAT. The old heritage map near the entrance to the 7th Century Parasurameswar temple has been revamped and a beautiful and a more accurate new map has been placed to help tourists find their location and other important monuments in the Old Town area.

The organisers, especially the Project Director, Sukanya Rath have done a excellent job in preparing the blueprint for the mega event and is leading the event from level zero, with a group of young and energetic volunteers. They are organising door-to-door campaigns, sensitizing local clubs and associations, and building stakeholder relationships.

The curators’ team includes Prem Jisk Achari, well-known artist Jagannath Panda and Prof Hannah Barnes. In all, 20 artists from India and abroad will be participating in this international event, including important contemporary artists like Gigi Scaria, Sudarshan Shetty, Sharmila Samant, Arunkumar H.G., Markus Baenziger, Cecile Beau, etc. Markus Baenziger, Sharmila Samant and Gigi Scaria are art educators who are teaching art in universities and they have been participating in the best biennales and exhibitions across the world. Others like Arunkumar HG, Cecile Beau, Sudarshan Shetty, etc. are also highly renowned artists who have made their mark in the international level. The participants in this exhibition also features architects such as Sayantan Maitra and Sibananda Bhol who are well known architects and designers who will present their creative architectural vision for the city. Other prominent artists include Teja Gavankar, a young sculptor, Pankaja Sethi, a very famous textile designer from Odisha and artists such as Pratul Dash, Niroj Satpathy, Subrat Kumar Behera, Suchismita Mohanty, Ramahari Jena, etc. who are some of the best artists who have come out of Odisha in the recent past.

Jagannath Panda, the curator for the trail says, “It is not an easy task to curate a public art exhibition. When you are working on a space like Old Town which has so many layers of history manifested through architecture, monuments, walls, ponds, lakes, gardens, residential areas, etc. it also becomes a responsibility. Our challenge was that how better could we represent and respond to this space and its community. But for us the biggest advantage was that the space and the community responded to us in an equally intense way. The way this Art Trail is emerging now, we cannot see it as individual artistic expression. Bhubaneswar Art Trail is an expression of the Old Town and its people. This is how each community based art project should evolve. It should be committed to excellent art making but it should also be dedicated to the possibilities of inspiring a vision for the community-It’s a vision to bring common people close to the art. That is why we are not limiting the Trail to an exhibition.”

With the event’s main vision being promoting Bhubaneswar as a heritage city, there will be several activities done, including a one-day colloquium with prominent artists, curators, art writers, film festival by National Film Archive of India, various talks by prominent film makers, writers, historians, etc., hands-on art workshop for children by Art 1st Foundation, eco-printing workshop, and various classical and folk performances. BAT 2018 is an attempt to involve artists both at local and international level to remember and celebrate the art and heritage of a city like Bhubaneswar, through memories, emotions and imaginations.

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