The Search for Space

When I heard of this idea from Suresh. I had some previous concerns. As an upcoming artist I was facing this problem – where should I expose myself, where do I evolve my ideologies. To me, Samuha is not just for me or a particular community. It is a system that enables me to contribute ideas that would perpetuate beyond me and my means.

Meetha Jain’s Residence
MJ1.jpg Being a Bangalore-wide community we thought the physical space for Samuha should be centrally located. Initially we started to look for a small space based on our budget. This included private residences and commercial properties. The first space was an architects house that was designed to enable small discussions and presentations. Initially we thought this might be our choice, but rejected it on the grounds that it was a personal residence and not centrally located to enable all the artists access.
Bangalore School of Music
BSM.jpg Based on feedback from the art community, we started to look at institutions instead. Our first attempt was with the Bangalore School of Music. It was special as we believed it would enable the performing art communities to interact more closely with the Samuha group that was largely a visual art circle at that time. This space was interesting on multiple fronts. We imagined an ‘adda’. It would be a space where the artists could meet and hang-out, apart from the exhibition space itself. We could have access to a cafeteria, a garden and outdoor amphitheater and indoor auditorium here. And most importantly it would enable a real connection between performance and visual artists. Unfortunately, rent again was an issue here as the School needed the money to support its own programs. Additionally, we felt that the physical space that they wanted to give us was too restricted as an exhibition space.
Chitrakala Parishath
CKP.JPG Learning from our previous experiences in the money issue, we felt that we needed to tie up with institutions that had similar goals as us and would be motivated to subsidize the rent amount in support of our activities. Chitrakala Parishath stood out because of its ties to the student art community. This was the incentive for our decision to respond to their invitation to make a proposal. We imagined that this space would enable the students to gain a real connection to practicing artists. It would help bridge the gap between the senior practitioners and aspiring art students. It was also centrally located with a potential towards encouraging informal discussions at the premises. Unfortunately, it seemed that CKP was unable to sub-let its premises, even for non-commercial initiatives like ours being a leased space from the government. Proposal >>
Vardharajachar Charitable Trust
VMH.JPG An erstwhile hub for theater activities in the 70's, this space located in Seshadripuram struck us as a potential venue. The proximity to the Chitrakala Parishath and Ken School art students and its history were factors that induced our making a proposal to them. They were clearly interested in what we were attempting to do, however their policies would not allow for the space to be sub-leased for an extended period to just one group. Due to a lack of cultural activities to sustain the maintain and up-keep of this space, it is constantly rented out as a wedding hall and for political rallies, school programs. In fact a section of the building has been rented out to a private transportation company to help run the rest of the organisation.
Venkatappa Art Gallery
VAK.jpg Although Samuha was meant to cater to Bangalore artists and audiences, we none-the-less decided to approach the Venkatappa Gallery committee to support us because of its central location and its connection to the citys’ Art Museum. This meant that we would be able to connect to the city’s people. It would help us reach our desired audiences – the average Bangalore citizen and tourists. Unfortunately, according to their policies, they were unable to give the gallery space over for a continued period to just one group. It is their prerogative to enable artists from other parts of Karnataka to present their work there. Proposal >>
Chitra Gallery, Kannada Bhavan, Ravindrakalakshatra
RK.JPG Though this space was designed to be an art gallery, this space unfortunately was unavailable to us as. We were refused because it used as a storage area for their publications.
ADA Rangamandiram
ADA Failing this we approached the ADA Rangamandira, both important as a premiere art institution as well as centrally located space. By now we had realized without doubt that our best bet would be to approach art & culture institutions so that we could get subsidized rates while at the same time infuse these older organizations with young blood. ADA with their beautiful auditorium would be a great venue for our performance artists to practice and present their works-in-progress. Along with Kalakshetra and Town Hall it was the center for the 60’s social activism movement and we felt it would be the right auspices to start our initiative. The 1200 sq. ft. large space itself was a treat. We imagined that we would break down all the partitions that this erstwhile office-space had and re-construct it to be an open gallery with interesting corners and cosy discussion/presentation spaces. While they did not out-right reject us, they had put us on hold while they worked out the logistics of working with a un-registered group like us. Proposal >>
City Market BBMP Complex
CM.JPG While on the look-out for other spaces, we came across the BBMP City Market Complex. Its ties to the commercial realities of the city was fascinating to us. The vibrancy of the area was inspiring. We imagined our artists using the stimulus that this area provided in their art explorations. The idea of high art in a previously unused-for-such-activities space meant that we would be exploring audiences that were virgin to the art arena. Additionally, the government had invested heavily in constructing the complex, however these were being unused by the hawkers for various reasons. This meant that we might be able to rent it at lower costs. Our concern was that this space might be unable to be flexible for our varied uses. Being a busy market space, holding lectures and seminars would be difficult without proper sound insulation, and this we could not afford.
BBMP Freedom Park
FP.jpg After all these experiences, the idea of approaching the government started to appeal to us. This started us thinking about public spaces that the BBMP owned. The BBMP Freedom Park immediately stood out for its obvious bias towards the arts. It seemed that the designers and decision makers of this property envisioned it to be a space where the general public could acquaint themselves with art and culture. This meant that the art community would be able to have direct interactions with the public at large. Our ambitions were larger. We proposed our concept to the BBMP Freedom Park., knowing fully well that being simple artists with no deep connections in the government, this might remain a pipe dream. Proposal >>
Institutional Support
IS.jpg Along-side all these processes, we were offered support from some of the art insitutions in the city – Bar 1, 1 Shanthi Road and IIACD to name a few. We were invited to work under their banner . We fancied sharing a common space with them. However, since the members had joined Samuha because it was an autonomous body that was an artists’ initiative, it seemed that though the merger would be pleasant, it might not have resonated with the ideologies that this group held.

Space Design
While the negotiation process was on-going, and as I saw each new space, the ideology for the actual inside of the space began to grow and evolve in my head. Important questions about how and what this space should be began to form
• What is the Samuha space?
• What should it look like?
• What would it enable through its facilities?
• What were its requirements?
• How would the artists interact with this space?
• Which spaces best meets these criteria?
• Are there other spaces that meet all our requirements?

A lot of these questions started us thinking about other alternatives for the Samuha space.
One such idea was Jaaga - Temporary Structures as Creative Collective Spaces >>

Shivaprasad S

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