Arts Collaboration

Grant Period: Over two months

Visthar’s relationship with IFA began with the installation/performance project undertaken by C F John, Tripura Kashyap and T M Azis. C F John has been involved with Visthar since its inception, and is the senior Programme Associate and head of our Cultural Studies and Support unit. As a seed grant project, the three artists developed working sketches for the installation and choreography around an old disused well that is now part of the Visthar campus. Visthar is also the institutional grantee for the larger project. Registered as a Trust in 1989, Visthar has been consistently involved in exploring new dimensions in Gender Studies and Support, Cultural Studies and Support, and Development Studies and Support. It has been recognised as a non-formal academy for development studies, and a support organisation for NGOs and people’s movements in India and abroad. Visthar would be responsible for organising ‘New Connections, New Creativity’, a meeting of all the arts collaborations grantees in March 2002, in Bangalore.

IFA has, over the years, supported arts collaboration projects that comprise systematic interrogation and exchange within such disciplines as literature, music, dance, theatre, and the visual arts. Collaborating artists include photographers, poets/writers, actors, dancers/choreographers, graphic designers, installation artists, and so on. While some projects are interfaces between the traditional and the contemporary artist, others concern various ways of energising contemporary arts practice in the arts. ‘New Connections, New Creativity’ is an attempt to bring together all the IFA grantees and their collaborators to think about the value of collaboration as a form of arts practice. The meeting would comprise presentations by the grantees and their collaborators, followed by discussions on the issues addressed in the presentations. The larger group would then disperse into smaller breakaway groups, to discuss issues and concerns in more detail. The four-day meeting would conclude with a plenary. The plenary would be followed by reflections, a session where the participating members could bring any issues that were left unaddressed during the meeting, to the table. It could be a free-flowing session that the participants use to voice their experiences over the four days.

To ascertain the programme and its possible future direction, a review panel has been constituted. The panel would be participant-observers in the discussions, review specific projects and discuss the programme with advisory panel members who have helped IFA to evaluate proposals. The review would enable IFA to take a fresh look at the rationale for having a programme like arts collaboration. It is expected to address the following issues among others: Did IFA enter this area of grant-making prematurely, considering that a culture of dialogue among artists is almost non-existent in India? What impact has the programme had on the field? Has it succeeded in energising a more reflective practice in the arts? How much of interdisciplinary thinking has been stimulated by the programme? Does collaboration constitute an alternative arts practice? Since collaboration primarily addresses a modernist context of practice, can the scope of the programme be widened to allow space for more traditional methodologies and practices? How might it be altered or expanded to address emerging practices and newer areas of concerns in the arts? How could IFA build on the platform already created by three rounds of grant-making under this programme?

The review panel would be constituted keeping in mind the diversity of possible perspectives in the arts. The idea was to have a balance of practice and theory and a diversity of disciplinary expertise on the said panel. The four review panel members would be practitioners who are also interested in theorising consistently about arts practice. Their perspectives would be instrumental in imagining a future for the arts collaboration programme. Since documenting the discussion is crucial, five documentalists would record the discussions within the breakaway groups in addition to audio recording of all the sessions. The audio recording would also be transcribed and prepared as a document for IFA’s internal records. The documentalists would be either young artists or fresh graduates with a keen interest in artistic disciplines.