Nandita Kumar

Arts Practice

Grant Period: One year

Nandita Kumar is a new-media artist based in Goa. She has a joint Bachelor’s Degree in painting from MS University, Baroda and Elam School of the Arts, Auckland University, New Zealand. She completed her Masters in Experimental Animation and Filmmaking from California Institute of the Arts, Los Angeles, USA.  Her works have been shown in various festivals and exhibitions throughout the world including Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, REDCAT, ISEA International, Je de Paume, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Film Anthology Archive New York, The New Zealand International Film Festival, Sydney Underground, Rome International Film festival, Stuttgart Animation Festival, and The Academy of Television Art and Sciences in Los Angeles. Ghar Pe/At Home (2011-2012), a community art project she curated, has been documented online by the Asia Art Archive. She has also been a speaker at TEDx.

Nandita has been working with the five elements of nature for past six years. Her concerns revolve around a desirable vision of the future for the human race and the environment. She envisions a future where the use of natural resources meet the human needs without affecting ‘integrity, stability and beauty’ of nature. She explores the elements for their role in the construction of meaning in the human world. She creates sensory narratives using sound, video, animation and performance. New technologies like smartphones, sensors, customised software and hardware is featured heavily in her work. In the current project, tentatively titled, Nandita wants to bring public awareness about water as a natural resource in India. Through the duration of the project she is going to collect a wide range of information on water usage, scarcity and pollution from government agencies, web resources and published papers from research organisations. She will develop customised software with the help of coders that can sonify this information. Sonification is a process by which any scientific data can be turned into sounds. Instead of representing the data visually through charts and graphs, sonification creates a level of materiality to the representation, affecting the audience at a visceral level. Scientific agencies like NASA, as well as media artists all over the world are starting to use sound to translate complex scientific material for accessibility and understanding of the general people. Nandita’s project will use this process to create a graphical notation score from the gathered information. This composition will be placed in an interactive installation made of glass water sewage pipes. The pipes will be playing the composition and will respond to live audience interaction.

Water is perhaps the most precious resource in the near future for the human race. Various ecological experts have suggested that the next global conflict might be caused by scarcity of water. While there is a nascent perception of the problem among people, there is a dearth of deeper knowledge and understanding. Most of the information available on the subject is either in scientific or academic language which is inaccessible to general people, or at an experiential or empirical level among farmers and fishermen which is also not readily available to the public. The problem is compounded at multiple levels that include the politics and economy of usage, wastage and pollution of water. There are many individuals and organisations working to create mass awareness around the subject, however the problem is bigger than the efforts combined and is in continuous need of innovative understanding and representation. In the digital era, technology has enabled newer approaches to discuss and debate such issues that impact the public. Artists are taking advantage of digital tools to create artworks that encourage thinking and conversations around such complex issues that affect our lives in the present and future.

This project is pushing many boundaries in its approach and implementation. In India where literacy rates are low and awareness about such complex issues is scarce even among the highly educated, this project aims to impact audience perception without subjecting them to difficult scientific postulations. Sonification and sound related works are still emerging fields in India, so comprehensive artworks in the discipline are rare. Finally, in a digital era, many artists are embracing and grappling to work at the juncture of science and arts. IFA has been supportive of such efforts in the recent years. Therefore this project adequately addresses the mandate of the programme.

The outcome of the project will be an exhibition of a physical interactive sculpture through which the sound composition will be played. An E-book will be compiled with the information collected for the project. All the material gathered for the work, the E-book, images of the graphical notation score, photographs of the process and media reports of the exhibition will be deposited as deliverables to the IFA archive. Since the work needs more funds than IFA can support, IFA will be supporting a part of the project, and the rest will be funded by the artist or other funding sources. Given the complexity of the work the timeline and the budget seems well formulated.