Manufacturing Purana, on the Blackboard: London, UK, 2016

A blackboard in the foyer space of Delfina Foundation was filled everyday with money that Deepa Bhasthi encountered, both spent and received, during her three month long residency there. By writing them in no particular order, and by removing all contexts as to what these amounts were used for, a scope was created for viewers to imagine their own stories as to what the numbers might have meant.

002a

002b

002b

002c

002d

011

011a

012b

015

Manufacturing Purana, on the Blackboard: London, UK, 2016

Manufacturing Purana: London, UK, 2016

In the summer of 2016, Deepa Bhasthi, one of the founding members of the Forager Collective, participated in a three month long residency on behalf of the Collective at Delfina Foundation, London under their Politics of Food programme. The project Manufacturing Purana has developed into an ongoing longer term one, and is expected to produce a long form essay, apart from other outcomes in the coming months. 

The residency was supported by Charles Wallace India Trust and Inlaks Shivdasani Foundation.

A note on the project from a mini issue of The Forager magazine that was being updated during the residency: 

The very initial idea sprung from recollecting an old book read a decade and a half ago. But that the recollection happened on a road trip to somewhere is a story for elsewhere, not here.

Myths are all around us. In a book written half a century ago, myth is called a language. Barthes is of course as right today as he was in the 1950s. Myth is what sells everything from shampoo to the bowl of berries that makes a snack on a summer day.

If something is organic, handmade, handcrafted, cruelty free, ethically sourced, fair trade, free range and sustainable – sometimes all at the same time – isn’t it a myth that you are buying? Being the sort of person who buys all of the above, even if such a thing has travelled halfway across the world and is laden with immense embodied energy, and thus, excess carbon footprint, is a lifestyle you buy into. Lifestyle itself is a myth that is perpetuated in the pursuit of pure consumerism.

All hail the manufacturing of consent!

Manufacturing Purana is a three-month long project where I try to look into the many myths I consume and encounter during this period, from news – prosaic or breaking – to food to things, objects, products that serve the omnipresent gods of the modern markets. In this miniscule cross section of things and ideas, the mirror is upon events and things and histories everywhere in the world. A “farmer’s market” in India is not too different from the “farmer’s market” in London.

The quote marks are deliberate.

Incidentally, this is the 25th year anniversary of India’s shining new liberalization policy, almost to the date. In the 1990s, there was a utopia that was just on the other side of laissez-faire. These many years later, that is clearly not the case. All too clearly.

There is no utopia. There never was.

Yet, we buy it, all these ideas and isms and lifestyles. We never stop buying. At some point we buy only the idea, and the product becomes irrelevant. The idea is what shapes the markets and our reactions to it and its reactions to what we want to see, and so on.

This idea is the purana, an old Sanskrit word that means a myth, oral, written or both.

Let’s make up some stories now.

 

Manufacturing Purana: London, UK, 2016

Text work: Performed at New Delhi, India, 2015

This text was performed by Meenakshi Thirukode, and accompanied the installation Form 2 from Form 1, exhibited at Exhibit320, New Delhi.

Let us begin with a story.

It shall begin the way all good stories ought to begin. (Do not contend that I am presumptuous, for once.)

Thus it shall begin once upon a time, long, long ago. We will talk about the fluidity of time today. So long ago might just as well be yesterday. Or the week before, in this hurried zip-zip-zipping carousel of time we never get off from. How flimsy and clumsy it is. Space, that vague idea that we carry around, ever pushing, ever morphing into things and people, ideas, restrictions and prisons, open air and what nots, that space is fluid too. So this mystical space we seek and demand and carve out and keep undefined, hence subjecting it to instant, constant change, can be that room of my own in the upstairs, with the window lined in rosewood, or that vast, fountain ink coloured expanse that I call the mid-April sky. With fireflies competing from the ground up, perched all over the mango tree that has never borne fruit in all the thirty one years that I have lived.

Maybe it is phantom expecting, this tree. It is a thing, this phantom thing. Really. That huge belly that women sprout and describe it weirdly like bun in the oven, stork above the house or eating for two, that belly, once the bundle pops out, it must just lose steam and deflate and fall back, folding skin upon skin. No? Does the space that was earlier there and is now no longer left feel empty or non-existent or just… Nothing at all? Would that be a void or something unthought of? There might not be that time to think about silly things like this. Perhaps the memory of what the old space was is a natural state to revert to. Perhaps the space is inconsequential, irrelevant when a new being, that bundling of supposed joy creates new spaces, taking away all concepts of spaces you had in your previous form. I cannot imagine answers to concerns that concern the spaces of the body this way, for can you tell I have not baked any buns or biscuits?

They say that when something is there for a long time and then suddenly is not there, you can still feel it there, like a phantom. Like an old grand love affair, often illicit, that is buried in the backyards of selective memories. I read a story that went like that once, about phantoms and lots of other imaginary things that the brain makes you think you have or feel or be.

This time and space business is…like the idea of god that parents employ to teach their children to be good and kind….omnipresent, omnipotent, omni- other stuff. Can’t escape these damned ideas. From negotiating with a lover or spouse or child or boss or both, or either, to those damned conflicts they pose in the recesses of the unfocussable busy busy busy mind, time and space are…huh…what…who goes there? Damn damn damn. Terming it fluid is giving it leeway, giving yourself leeway to make it what it is, what it can be, or letting it be the way it damned well wants to be.

Sigh.

Can’t escape these things, accursed that we of this two-legged mammal species are, with our elaborate rituals and routines and practices that we repeat and repeat and call our space or tradition. Strip all this society and evolved and intelligent crap away and like DNA, it simmers down at the bottom of the darkened pan to this: you start from here and end there, in every second of everything you do. In the interlude, the droplet of water that drips to the edge of a hair strand after a hot shower in Delhi’s wicked winters has the ambition, the potential to be a mighty river. Cauvery with a K or a C or Nila or Yamuna. The river always, somewhere, joins the sea. All along its turns and tricks, you and I and that one over there, and you too, will end up designing rituals, for, the sturdy, dependable mountains, the contemplative rivers and elastic blue skies rake up the primeval.

Don’t call ritual religion please. In the manner of an ideal separation of state and religion hoped for, yearned for, ritual is not dharma. I hear stories of your visits back home, when every evening my rival river draws you in to watch the sunset together. To be that plum hued sky over dimming shimmery liquidy gold, emerald fields and thatched huts like some cluster ring setting, that is your ritual. Mine? Mine is to do with the mountains that bend over and hush and whisper indulgingly over my backyard. We are mountain people. Our ritual making is like that.

In my head or in the words that bleed out of it, in the physicality of a movement, in the practice of constant transportation, in the micro space allowed for a water-drop to flow from just here to just there, in every dreaded change, just before the actual physical shift or the mental rebalance, there comes an interlude, a suspension, a freedom, a potentiality that has the markings of a great beyond.

Now these interludes: spaces between the words as I type these words out, spaces between where something starts and just before the something that has started ends up in another space, these suspended, unnamed events, occurrences, times, let’s talk about those. We can conduct the ritual of coming back to other things later. There might be time. We will make space. We can employ fluidity.

Let’s mull over for now, or meditate, if that’s your thing, on this in-between when anything is possible, when that thing, whatever it is, is suspended in freedom and unrestrained by properties inherent in it when resting and stationary. It is free from the spot where it is born, it is not yet chained to where it will be placed before it is born again and chained elsewhere and so on and so on. In this freedom, in this third space of dissent, in the taverns and watering holes and the L-shaped corners of meat markets or road bends before steeple/spire/gopura/domed institutions, in here is where probably lies the magical, elusive potion of grand ambition.

Where a drop of water can be a river. Where a word can become a masterpiece, or a swift slaying sword. Where a summer leaf can become the azure tropics. Where a kiss, flimsy and like cinnamon dust on a cookie, can be the entirety of a sordid affair. Where in a grain of sand is a whole city built.

 “I was within and without. Simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”

 

 

Text work: Performed at New Delhi, India, 2015

THE FOREST DOES NOT EMPLOY ME ANY MORE

Lantana Camara is one of the great threats to wildlife and farming across India. Brought from America to Europe by the Dutch, and then transferred to India by the East India Company, the plant serves as an ornamental hedge and butterfly-attractor. Lantana arrived at the Calcutta Botanical Garden in 1807, and today occupies more than 13 million hectares in India alone. The plant has impacted coffee plantations in Coorg, threatened forests around Mysore and Madras, and has rendered the subsistence foraging of many scheduled tribes inadequate. The equivalent of millions of pounds have been spent unsuccessfully to eradicate the plant, but the methods for doing so are expensive and inefficient. As an alternative strategy, some of the tribal communities affected by Lantana’s devastation have begun making furniture from its branches to put it to use and control its spread.The Soligas are an indigenous people living in the Malé Mahadeshwara Reserve Forest (MM Hills) of Karnataka. Dependent on foraged forest produce, subsistence and bamboo crafts, they have been severely marginalised by the 1980 Forest Conservation Act, which prevented them from using the resources they had relied on for centuries. In a new workshop in the MM Hills, the Soligas now produce Lantana furniture using traditional bamboo craft techniques. The Forest Does Not Employ Me Any More is a new collaboration between the Lantana Crafts Centre at MM Hills, Forager Collective and Cooking Sections. The project is set to develop new pieces that take advantage of the flexibility and durability of Lantana to improve material understanding and develop new pieces that better match the pliability of the material.

The project was part of the Empire Remains Shop, curated by Cooking Sections.

Empire Shops were first developed in London in the 1920s to teach the British how to consume foodstuffs from the colonies and overseas territories. Although none of the stores ever opened, they intended to make foods such as sultanas from Australia, oranges from Palestine, cloves from Zanzibar, and rum from Jamaica available and familiar in the British Isles.

The Empire Remains Shop speculates on the possibility and implications of selling back the remains of the British Empire in London today. A public installation by London-based duo Cooking Sections, it hosts a critical programme of discussions, performances, dinners, installations and screenings.

001

002

007

006

008

005

004

003

THE FOREST DOES NOT EMPLOY ME ANY MORE

FORM 3 FROM FORM 2 : MADRID, SPAIN, 2015

Form 3 from Form 2 continues with Forager Collective’s preoccupation with space and forms.

In the process of constructing, forming or building something, tangible or otherwise, there is a constant compromise of ideas. In the spaces – and in its many definitions – that result, there is thus a compromise that prevails.

Space – lived, perceived or imagined – is, in many ways, constantly being formed and unformed, built and built.

final 4

final 5

final 3

final 1

final 2

Form 2 from Form 1: New Delhi, India, 2015

Form 2 from Form 1, an installation, accompanied by reading of a text developed by Forager Collective, performed by Meenakshi Thirukode.

 

In the process of building something, anything, there is an element of displacement. With the removal of sand, rock, mud or some other material from one place, there is a construction of a vacuum, even as a form of some sort is created in another place. Weight is depleted from one place and added elsewhere. Thus there is constant shifting of vacuum, mass, form, weight, thoughts, etc., at the same time constructing a void in the place it used to be.

This placement itself is a construction of a form. Sand bags are ubiquitous, familiar fixtures in all spaces that are being constructed, personal, public, urban or otherwise. We do not seek to change the object, but in the process of sand being packaged so, we recognize the displacement that is being created, from the river bed, into the sack. Likewise, when the bags are transported elsewhere and moved, there again is a construction of a form, in what is removed and what is left behind. The space and its meanings in architecture are constantly shifting. When something is removed, there is a building of something else elsewhere and the building of something where the displacement occurs. This building and building continues in the stacking, storing, transporting and use of sand bags.

1

2

3

4

5

6

Form 2 from Form 1: New Delhi, India, 2015