Surajit Sarkar

Arts Research and Documentation

Grant Period: Over one year

Surajit Sarkar is a Delhi-based filmmaker and founder of the Catapult Arts Caravan––a travelling political performance group of artists and community workers. This IFA Arts Research and Documentation grant will enable Surajit to study the impact of digital technology on the folk arts, especially the resistance arts, drawn from the Bundeli folk tradition.

In the eighties, Samta Sangathan, based in Pipariya of the Narmada region in Madhya Pradesh, worked on issues like the environment, livelihoods and ecology, and became a centre for cultural activism with a focus on community mobilisation, information sharing, and awareness and identity building. This cultural activism gained momentum and came to be known as ‘resistance arts’.

Due to the increasing availability of new technology in rural India in the last twenty years, these resistance arts have widened their reach. Surajit will try to uncover the changing contours of resistance arts and its relation to the widespread technological changes that are taking place across the Narmada region. One of the central questions for Surajit is how the creators of these digital arts harness elements of folk traditions as a vehicle for resistance and invest them with contemporary meaning.

In order to address these concerns, Surajit will map the political and artistic careers of the pre-digital age artists who initiated the resistance arts in and around Pipariya two decades ago. As part of the research, he will interview writers and the cultural activists and folk singers. He will also document the dance-drama performers of the Narmada Bachao Andolan. Furthermore, Surajit will follow local groups like the Catapult Arts Caravan, who combine the folk arts and digital technology as a medium for public engagement.

Surajit will document resistance artists at work from the conception of a performance to its final staging. A DVD of the interviews and performances will be one of the outcomes of this project. An interactive website with performance clips, interviews, notes and comments will also be created to encourage discourse around the ‘digital folk arts’.