In December I was very busy with a project called Elements. Elements was an experimental art installation for children in Kolkata, the first of its kind in India, and for the kids it was a thrilling sensory experience. Created by Ruchira Das of ThinkArts, this multimedia project melded puppetry, motion-activated laser and sound, and clay. When I met Ruchira, she knew that she wanted to include clay in the project, but was still looking for ideas of what to do and for an artist to make it happen. After my months of observing the processes at Kumartuli, the maker in me leapt into action and I suggested that we draw upon Kumartuli for inspiration and create straw figures for the children to cover with clay. Ruchira agreed, and I happily became part of the project. I decided that these straw, jute, and bamboo figures would be life-sized children; my reasoning was that I wanted the children to be able to relate directly to the forms as reflections of themselves.
Working in straw is seriously fun! And the camaraderie of our diverse group made the experience even more enjoyable. Here are the figures the night before the installation opened, with just a hint of clay to get the children started.
The children at play, more than 150 kids participated!
And by the end of the event, the figures were transformed. For me there’s a poetry to these cracking layers of clay, unselfconsciously (maybe even gleefully?) slathered onto the straw forms. I love them.
Given the success of this installation, Ruchira Das plans to have another ELEMENTS event in Kolkata very soon, and is also working on taking the ThinkArts project to other cities such as Delhi and Bangalore.”