I consider myself as a self-reliant artist operating from within Bangalore. My immediate seniors were inspirational because they chose to 'live' and 'practice' in Bangalore at a certain time when the art scene was nascent. There were a negligible number of galleries and no established gallery system as such that were able to make an impact in the art world. These senior artists exhibited on their own, in hired or personalised spaces.
However, I was surprised at the lack of this inventiveness amongst the next generation of artists. I realized that they were withdrawn if galleries did not select them. They were dependent on galleries for everything: (a) infrastructure, (b) assistance; and (c) facilitators. But with only a hand-full of galleries in the city, these spaces couldn’t be held responsible or expected to launch every new artist from every type of discipline within visual culture. I felt that there was a gap between the artists and gallery pathways. We needed a bridge between the ending of art school and the point at which an artist is prepared to be picked up by a gallery.
We needed a self-sustaining system that would take you in, encourage you, enable you and deliver you to an audience. Young artists need to engage in this process to grow and explore their practices so that they would mature into proficient practitioner.
Slowly an idea of a system that is inclusive and empowering began to form in my mind. An artist new to the art world can be engaged and included in the exhibition process from the start, rather than just told what is to be done, or have everything laid out and readied for them. This experience of putting up their own show or assisting another artists’ show would lead them to work in alternative spaces in the city and to think beyond what already exists.
I wondered if as a community we could help each other. Perhaps agreements that hours of labour could be bartered to help at each others shows could work. But, I soon realized that sometimes artists may not want to lend their time to this barter system. So the idea that we hire people who would help with putting up shows came about. As a community we required systems and facilitators that would enable our shows, but this would be too expensive on an individual level.
I dreamt of an Autonomous Community where we would pool in our money in a chit fund style. This means that every month a group of artists would contribute a specified amount to the fund for a period of time. This would then enable members of the group to have a rotation of exhibitions amongst them, with each member benefiting of one months’ total fund collection for his or her show.
I shared these thoughts with my peers, seniors and juniors in the art community. Everyone felt the necessity of such an intervention. Some felt that if started they would join. This decided me to try this experiment, that this would be a time-limited effort for me.
It was firmly in my mind that this is not going to be an institute – it would be a concept. It would not be an institution, it would be an experience that by existing for only a limited period will allow other ideas and experiences to grow and flourish based on this learning.
It was not about building huge forts with stone and mortar but about building sand castles. This would allow me to play. To not feel that every action is carved into stone. When I build something in sand it becomes accessible. It can be broken and re-modeled by anyone, everyone. The same sand can be re-used in another form of play afterwards too. It its time-bound. I can look back and say it was part of my evolution, of the evolution of the city and its artists.
This is my art-work! The activism is my art. It is my body and my mind. By body I mean my presence and interaction with others through my own abilities of persuasion and as a labourer towards its realization. By mind I mean my thought processes and visualisations. The process and what is activated in me and in the community is the art.
I decided to start approaching artists to join me in my idea. These were people that I knew personally from juniors to peers and senior artists. I wanted to have a mix of performance, visual, literary and new media artists. In reality, it is not about the discipline but really about forming a collective of people who have a real concern for the community and are also self-motivated and responsible artists.
My plan was that I would run this collective for 1 year with 20 artists. I approached more than 60 artists. I went door-to-door – I had become a salesman. The benefit I reaped was that Samuha’s ideologies evolved and were further strengthened with their thoughts and ideas. I apologize that I didn’t approach more than these 60, I was limited by who I knew. I had to restrict the invitation to join the collective to the artists I knew personally because it is a trust issue – they would have to know and trust their money and time with me and vice-versa.
My experience with activism at CKP as a student, Samudaya, Bar1 and my teaching interaction with students in Bangalore were very useful in giving me the courage and continued my interest to pursue this idea.
Suresh Kumar G
Initiator & Facilitator