With a new immersive audio-visual project, media artist Avinash Kumar talks about the importance of creating a spectacle in live performances
Why does every artist need to be a great storyteller? Back in 1961, American author Robert Heinlein attempted to address this question in his novel Stranger in a Strange Land. Paying homage to French sculptor Auguste Rodin, he wrote, "Anybody can look at a pretty girl and see a pretty girl. An artist can look at a pretty girl and see the old woman she will become." But he went on to say, that to be a great artist like Rodin, one would have to "look at an old woman, portray her exactly as she is...and force the viewer to see the pretty girl she used to be..."
Antariksha Sanchar held at Triveni Kala Sangam in New Delhi last year
But we're living in a world where the definition of art goes beyond painters, sculptors or illustrators — where the choice of material is immaterial. Our case in point being 38-year-old media artist Avinash Kumar who plays with light and motion to create extraordinary installations. These can range from mythological motifs projected behind Bharatanatyam dancers on stage to abstract patterns displayed in sync with the beats an electronic musician is playing at a gig. And contrary to popular belief, for Kumar, all this is still storytelling. "At the end of the day, you have to figure out how to make people step out of their homes and come to a club," he tells us. Today, Mumbaikars will get a glimpse of his work at Famous Studios, where Kumar along with techno DJ Arjun Vagale will be collaborating on an immersive audio-visual project titled Artefact Assasin (AA), organised by Social Offline.
"I've been part of Basic Love of Things [B.L.O.T], an electronic arts collective, for many years. Vagale has always been important in the electronic music scene and wanted to explore a different sound. And both of us are based in Goa, so we just thought we'd create a project called AsymetriK and do a set of AA shows in different cities," Kumar, who goes by the moniker Thiruda, says, adding that they've been working on the project for about nine months. After taking the show to Bengaluru and Delhi, the Mumbai chapter today will be the final one, before they turn it into a larger event.
Kumar's mother is Bharatanatyam exponent Jayalakshmi Eshwar. Last year, she performed a dance opera in the city called Antariksha Sanchar: Transmissions in Space, which draws from a video game of the same name that Kumar through his studio Quicksand Gameslab worked on, where Eshwar and mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan are the protagonists. "Even though my formal training has been in design, my lessons in storytelling have come from my mother," he says, proceeding to talk about how the club-centric AA is a drastic shift from his earlier projects.
Kumar's visuals will sync with Arjun Vagale's music for the show
"Working with my mother was a completely different experience because the visuals were created in tandem with her dance. Here, my sole inspiration is Arjun's music. He's got a whole modular synth aesthetic. So you'll be seeing a lot of lo-fi and textures projected onto LED screens and through lighting. And we'll be mixing all of this live!" Kumar shares.
On: Tonight, 8 pm onwards
At: Famous Studios, 20, Dr E Moses Road, Mahalaxmi.
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Cost: Rs 826
A walk through Mohammed Ali Road's Khau Galli