Afghan Church at the centre of art

Feb 11, 2014, 08:42 IST | Ruchika Kher

To stay in tune with the new surge of showcasing art in alternative spaces, Mumbai-based artist Suruchi Choksi will open the display of her video works, Unbelong, at the Afghan Church on February 15

Art often draws from its surrounding. It gets more pronounced and finds greater meaning if displayed at a venue that adds to its theme and both blend in a seamless visual. Taking a cue from this thought, Mumbai-based artist Suruchi Choksi in collaboration with Eve Lemesle of art space, What About Art? has taken a step to display her new collection of video works, Unbelong, at the Afghan Church (also known as Church of St John The Evangelist) — an Anglican Church in Colaba, which was built by the British to commemorate the dead of the disastrous defeat in the First Afghan War of 1838.

The opening day of the video exhibit

The works
Unbelong, as the series is titled, seeks to explore the two diametrically opposite characteristics of human behaviour and its ramifications — to want, to not want. “I have explored this concept through four short films. Each film has a different approach, a different treatment, but tries to bring home the same idea — how is it that something at a given moment seems so precious, so inseparable, but becomes so easily replaceable? forgettable? How does it feel to be revered one day, and relegated to being refused the next? What is it like to be put on a pedestal, adored and admired one day and discarded or abandoned the next?” explains Choksi.

Unbelong, will take place at the Afghan Church in Colaba. Pic/Sameer Markande

The 39-year-old has used mythology and cultural practices as metaphors and created universal stories, like pictorial collages, depicting myriad layers of reality. “The viewer is allowed to infer his own meaning,” she shares.

The artist stresses that through this exhibition, she wants to bring to the viewers, this reality of unbelong, never more glaringly relevant than now, when in our constant quest to acquire more wealth, more material things and bigger social circles, we have forgotten what it means to belong in this moment, to truly be with the one we are and to enjoy all that we have already acquired. Instead, each acquisition becomes a marker to aspire for something else.

Why inside a church?
The opening of the show will take place at the Afghan Church and the works will move to Bandra’s What About Art? for the next 10 days. Leading us in to her choice of the opening day’s venue, Choksi elaborates that the theme of the films is profound, and the treatment, somber, so she, along with Lemesle felt that showing it at an alternative location like an abandoned building or a church would make it appear more engaging.

“The Afghan Church is somewhat of an enigma; in a way, it epitomises this sense of unbelonging — it is an Anglican church built by the British, it has a small transitory parish comprising mainly of naval officers and their families that get transferred and move away, but mainly, the irony that so many people in the city do not know about this gorgeous piece of heritage; its location at the far end of Colaba intensifying its isolation — it really is in the city but, not of it,” she briefs us.

State of the art
However, the artist admits that wanting to showcase the films at the church is a gamble, given its imposing structure. But, despite the grand scale and the stunning architecture, Choksi says that it is not overwhelming. “I have felt a deep sense of serenity, and tranquil detachment every time I’ve been there and that is the space I want the viewers to be in when they see the films here,” she puts things in perspective.

Stills from the video works created by artist Suruchi Choksi for her exhibition, Unbelong

Was it easy to get the required permissions in place to exhibit her works at the church, we quizzed, to which the Juhu resident answers, “We did not have any permission issues to host the event here. We have taken due care of the formalities. The Reverend and the caretaker were very kind and helpful. Also, considering that it is a freestanding projection, there is no threat or risk of damage of any kind; it was easy to assure them.”

On February 15 (Afghan Church, Colaba) and February 16 to 24 (What About Art?, 7 Baitush Apts, 29th Road, off Waterfield Road, Bandra (W).
Call 9920994089

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