When you walk through the art installation ‘Garden of Heterotopia: a conversation in nature,’ you find wooden logs, broken windows, dried plants, metals items, and a lot of discarded materials, and you wonder what exactly it is all about! But, as soon as you begin to pay close attention to every aspect of it, you notice things that are often overlooked.
About the installation
The ‘Garden of Heterotopia: a conversation in nature’ is a maze-like structure, put together with material such as processed wood, metals and glass. With these materials interacting with each other, you can now find live organisms living, and thriving, on them.
You can see how natural and industrial materials engage in the process of co-existence and morph into each other and become natural progression of decay and regeneration. Specimens like termites, fungi, mushroom and algae sprout into the site of observation and turn into actors, weavers of their own path and progression. “Visitors can walk through the inside and encounter and engage with the invisible agents of nature and understand the web of cycles like life and death, endings and beginnings,” says artist Maksud Ali Mondal.
Thus, the artwork is an intersection of visual art, science, agriculture and gardening.
Inspiration for art
Introducing Maksud’s project, curator at Sunaparanta Goa Centre for the Arts, Panjim, Leandre D’Souza, said that Maksud had visited Sunaparanta last year, and there was an existing installation called ‘DOOSRA, The Other (2020) by an artist from Santiniketan, Sanchayan Ghosh.
The concept of his installation was to allow viewers to walk through the ‘others’ which were letters created from discarded material like metal, wood, industrial waste, etc. As one walked through the ‘other’, they were able to confront the ‘otherness’.
But, when Maksud saw the work, he found it in a state of erosion and decay. This got him to pay more attention to the elements like fungus, microorganism, moulds, termites, etc. that are not often looked into.
He went on to create a sort of garden that would bring these elements to life. “As part of his research, he visited several villages, and at that time, there was harvesting of rice going on. Therefore, he collected rice husk, mud, sawdust, etc. He brought all these local elements to the site, and once they started to interact with each other, you could see the microorganism coming to life,” adds Leandre.
The interaction led to mushrooms growing, termites and maggots emerging, and various other elements of nature coming to the fore.
Learning and discoveries
Maksud also said that during his village walks, he came across fascinating and interesting facts. “I saw a burnt site, where there was ample plastic waste and other discarded material. And, I noticed that there were mushrooms sprouting, not on the plastic or the other waste, but on the burnt material, which I found interesting,” explains Maksud.
He also added that these organisms had the tendency to thrive even under toxic circumstances, which is unique and intriguing. “The site itself begins to respond to you, and you are able to understand how nature works.”
He gave the example of a mushroom, and said that though a mushroom can be poisonous, it can also be an important part of the ecology which many fail to understand. Therefore, an inclusive environment is what is needed for the survival of both.
“When something decays and dies, it also gives life to something new by going back into the soil. Therefore, the decay and regeneration process go hand-in-hand. And, that is where the conversation needs to start,” Maksud adds.
The conversation that he wants to bring out through his work is for mankind to co-exist with nature and other organisms and to understand the importance of both. At the same time, he wants people to be simply aware of these phenomena of nature, which end up benefiting both.
Artist-In-Residence Lab (AIR-L) by Sunaparanta
As Maksud’s work is the first project of the ‘Artist-In-Residence Lab (AIR-L)’ programme, Leandre explained that this project touches upon various disciplines like art, science, agriculture, gardening, etc. “He has used all these themes to create an understanding of our relationship with these microorganisms in nature and how that relates to the relationship with ourselves,” says she.
Talking about the residency progamme, Leandre said that this progamme was started last year to create a space or a sort of laboratory, where artists or creative practitioners could come and spend time at Sunaparanta, and create a sort of research-oriented work. “We want to start a conversation that could provide an insight into our existence and make us understand our role in, and with, nature. And, how we could create an inclusive society, re-imagine and re-dream our relationship with nature,” she adds.
For the residency progamme, the artists send in their proposals through e-mail. Once the work is examined and it aligns with the ideas of the progamme, the artists are then invited to showcase their work.
Artist-In-Residence Lab provides the space and resources for artists to develop concepts dedicated to the interaction of the local social, cultural and economic morphology and contemporary art practices.
Visitors can go to Sunaparanta and experience for themselves this installation which has been put up in the lawn area.
Where: Sunaparanta Goa Centre For The Arts, Near Army House, Altinho, Panaji
When: Till February 12, 2022
Entry fee: Nil