Goutam Ghosh

Arts Research

Grant Period: One year and six months

Goutam Ghosh is a visual artist based in Nabadwip. He has completed his Master of Fine Arts from Oslo Academy of Fine Arts, Norway. He has held his solo shows in India and Norway, and group shows in New Delhi, London and USA. He has participated in workshops in Germany, Poland, Norway and India. He has received grants from KHOJ India, Akademie Schloss Solitude, Germany, Norske Billedkunstnere, Norway, Summer School Documenta 13, Kassel, Germany and the City as Studio programme in Sarai, New Delhi. He has also published his work in various anthologies in India and abroad.

This grant will enable Goutam and his collaborator, anthropologist and academic, Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay to study the interlinked imaginaries of time – geological, mythological, and science fictional - as they are expressed in the desert landscape of the Rann of the Kutch. They will investigate how the geological and the mythological shape and alter the geographies of the science fictional future. As a site of flora and fauna that predates the emergence of the human species, this region is also the location of one of the cities of the Indus Valley Civilisation. Over the many centuries of settlement, by other living forms since prehistoric times and by humans since the Bronze Age, the site has come to accrue layers upon layers of intertwined geological, cultural and mythopoeic activities, whose imprints are borne in various elements of this regions - from fossil records to a yet to be deciphered language. At the same time, it is the site of vibrant cultural confluence and religious exchange with rich mythological significance, revered by Sufis, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists alike. As a desert, it is also the signs of an impending future - one where freshwater scarcity and resource mismanagement will render much of the planet barren.

Through an in-depth study of different mythological and religious sites scattered in the region, Goutam and Bodhisattva will examine the unique geologies and how they have shaped the specific kinds of beliefs and practices in the region. They will analyse and cast them into artistic science fictional form to present possible futures. They aim to map the general domain of the mythological references in the Kutch and develop a navigation map as to how they are connected historically, in terms of chronology; narratively in terms of thematic similarities and influences; and visually in terms of stylistic or pictorial affinities and differences. In addition, they will investigate the various narratives of time, especially future time, as they are used by the local people. They will enquire into the imaginations of the people here of their futures in terms of demographic and ecological change and their own cultural reference points drawn from local mythologies.

Goutam and Bodhisattva will divide their key focus area for research into two parts. Each part will focus on specific questions. They will begin with asking what kinds of futures – global, local and planetary – are possible to imagine from the perspective of the mythopoeic past.

The first part of their enquiries will be specific to artistic practice: How can a combination of geology and mythology activate artistic speculation about the desert? How can the Rann of Kutch be understood as a possible future in the light of scientific and geological speculation about the desertification of India? What kind of artistic interventions can we make to inspire change, halt or reverse the process, and also push a more positive view of coexistence on a harsh landscape?

The second part will contain questions about survival and coexistence within the realm of our possible futures: What roles can mythology, especially entangled mythologies from different faiths, play in fostering positive understandings of possible futures? Since positive visions depend upon coexistence - between humans, between humans and other species, between species and their landscapes - how can a more layered perception of historical and mythical past help us prepare for possible futures?

In the first phase of the project, Goutam and Bodhisattva will conduct site visits with the help of two assistants and gather research data. They will travel in the region and collect mythological and geological stories from different sites of worship, and undertake extensive visual documentation and conduct in-depth interviews with the local communities. In the second phase, they will work intensively on the gathered material towards the project outcomes. In the end, they will work with a web designer to develop an open platform for the presentation of all the research data, artwork and animation work and release the book.

The outcomes of this project will be a physical and digital book with text containing photographs and artworks, two short educational animated films depicting the fictional landscape of the Rann of Kutch and a website that will host the research data. The Grantee’s deliverables to IFA with the final reports will be the two books, the two short films and the website. The budget is commensurate with the proposal.

This grant is made possible with support from Titan Company Limited.