Vasudha Thozhur

Arts Collaboration

Grant Period: Over four months

This seed grant supports visual artist Vasudha Thozhur and social activist Bina Srinivasan to work together for four months to test possible ways in which they could begin to create a visual language that would best address their common concerns. They are keen to build and enlarge a visual vocabulary that might address both chronic and urgent social issues. In turn they expect their work to contribute effectively to political and social activism in this country. This demands that the artworks be flexible, and lend themselves to different forms of circulation. In the first instance, the collaborators will address a context defined by the recent communal riots in Gujarat, and its impact on women's lives.

Ms Thozhur is a painter who has lived and worked in Baroda since I997. In addition, she writes, teaches and conducts art workshops on a freelance basis. While her work has a limited reach, she feels that it is not any less political for it. Increasingly, though, (and especially in the wake of the recent communal conflagrations in Gujarat) Ms Thozhur has felt the need to engage directly with her immediate social context, without completely abandoning her vocation. She expects this collaboration to point towards the many ways in which activists could incorporate the ‘visual’ more seriously into their framework. Ms Srinivasan is a writer-researcher who has been very closely involved with the women’s movement in India. She has, for close to two decades, been working on issues pertaining to displacement and communalism and its implications for women. Currently, she is part of a team working with Aman Samudaya, an NGO based in Ahmedabad, which is involved in addressing relief and rehabilitation issues among the women in the relief camps that have been set up in the aftermath of the riots. Her work entails meeting with women, providing trauma counselling and facilitating the establishment of a system of long-term rehabilitation. Ms Srinivasan’s participation in the project will facilitate access to the studies and experience of other activists working with NGOs. This will be a valuable resource for this project.

The collaborators will begin by studying the existing documentation on the Gujarat riots. While Ms. Srinivasan will source and research the documents, Ms Thozhur will explore ways of transforming the information contained in the documents into creative material that could be circulated immediately. The team will also travel together and interact extensively with organisations/individuals with whom Ms Srinivasan has been in touch with over the years. They envisage the project developing in response to changing needs, and while their current focus is on communalism, they feel that the project “need not confine itself to the riots, but could flow with events, and with our own capacity to be in a position to comment on the fallout of such events.”

Ms Thozhur is keen to explore ways of combining text and image such that the two could perhaps reverse the roles that they normally play. Alongside, she is also interested in mapping the history of works that are a product of the ‘artist’s more directly interventionist role’ in society. She will also keep a journal and a sketchbook, and collect a wide range of materials that will be edited later. Towards the latter stages of their collaboration, the team hopes to create a three-way communication process involving the women survivors of the riots and themselves. For the initial four-month phase of the project, the team will concentrate on producing posters and banners. Apart from comprising a body of work, these could form pan of a larger exhibit, supplemented by text and written information. They also plan to use existing video and photo documentation, and edit and compose it along with other inputs (voice, music, text) into a series of works. Should they eventually embark on a full-fledged project, the team will venture into working with different media more intensively.