Indrani Baruah

Extending Arts Practice

Grant Period: Over six months

An architect and visual artist, Indrani Baruah, has been teaching cultural studies for the last few years. Having felt constrained by disciplinary boundaries, Indrani is keen to develop an arts practice which will enable her to work in a truly interdisciplinary way. In a previous residency with The Desire Machine Collective in Guwahati, Indrani developed a project titled ‘Cultural Re-imaginations-I’ where she worked with bamboo artisans to sculpt a public installation on the Periferry site (which was originally an abandoned ferry, restored as an arts space on the banks of the Brahmaputra). The project led Indrani in her search for an interdisciplinary practice. Building upon this work, Indrani will work on the second phase —‘Cultural Re-imaginations-II’—which she envisages as “a series of projects conceived as an ongoing experiment in challenging the traditional boundaries between art and architecture, artist and artisan, crafts and arts, and towards developing a new, critically engaged hybrid practice that integrates cultural history, architectural traditions and current environmental concerns, along with creating art that leads to unanticipated interdisciplinary convergence”.

Much of Indrani’s earlier practice related to sustainability. Drawing upon her early years in Assam, she stresses that the imminent shortages of land, water and energy continue to increase the pressure to find innovative solutions in the North-East. In ‘Cultural Re-imaginations-II’, Indrani proposes to build a raft based on the sustainable principles of the itinerant vernacular bamboo rafts of the region, conceptualised as a ‘sustainable habitat’, which will sustain up to five individuals at a time over a series of riparian journeys. Indrani will visualise the raft structure functioning as a ‘vessel’ or a ‘receptacle’ for ideas, processes and innovations, and ultimately as a site for creative introspections and collective cultural experiences. The raft structure will be a poetic antidote to the motorised ferryboats and water taxis that are most conspicuous, currently. The design will explore sustainable opportunities for foraging, cooking, living, sleeping, composting as well as energy, food, art, music, crafts and cloth production.

As a collaborative endeavour, Indrani will involve bamboo artisans, boat-makers, and artists from the region. The grant will support Indrani to carry out the preliminary research to conduct workshops with the wider communities involved in this project. Based on these workshops, Indrani and her collaborators will determine the raft design and put together a work-plan for the construction of the raft. The grant will also support an exploratory two-week journey along the Brahmaputra, including costs for overnight stay where necessary documentation and dissemination of materials as determined appropriate by the communities involved in the project.