What to expect at the third edition of Sunaparanta's art festival, Sensorium

Updated: Jan 23, 2018, 09:30 IST | Benita Fernando | Mumbai

The third edition of Sunaparanta's art festival, Sensorium, celebrates a truly Goa state of mind, where every ending makes room for a new lease of life

Memories of a Metamorphosis by Sachin George Sebastian
Memories of a Metamorphosis by Sachin George Sebastian. PIC/ONE SCHOOL GOA/ ALL PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY SUNAPARANTA 2018

We are standing in Gallery 5 at Sunaparanta under a shadow cast by a daring yet delicate mobile by Julien Segard. The chandelier-like installation is composed of bits and pieces that the artist of French origin has scavenged from streets, beaches and a scrap yard in Panjim. Metallic objects, fallen leaves and sundry vestiges of plastic — possibly mementoes cast away by the sea — come together to form 'As He Takes From You, I Engraft You New'.

If the afterlife of debris is art, then Segard captures it best, and Sensorium showcases it well. The restrained beauty of this site-specific piece and the spectral shadow it casts draw gasps from all who walk into the gallery. We are gazing at Segard's work to the soulful tunes of Omar Khayyam, performed live in Persian, in the courtyard outside. "I was drawn to the shadows — I often think about the Tibetan idea of Bardo, the existence intermediate between two lives on earth. The shadows cast by his work allowed me to think of that space, where nothing is certain," says Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi.

Shanghvi, now a familiar face in Goa, is honorary director of Sunaparanta, an arts initiative instituted by industrialist Dattaraj V Salgaocar. The centre, situated on the perch of the elite hillside neighbourhood of Altinho, which overlooks Panjim, is known for the exhibitions and events that it hosts through the year. Among these is its showcase art festival, Sensorium, the third edition of which opened on Friday with the theme, The End is Only The Beginning. The festival, curated by Shanghvi and produced by Salgaocar, features 28 artists, Indian and international.

My Father's Balcony by Riyas Komu
My Father's Balcony by Riyas Komu. PIC/SIDDESH MAYENKAR

Karma art
If Sensorium's theme sounds cyclical, then the architecture of Sunaparanta conveys it too. The central courtyard hosts Polaroid-format paintings by Desmond Lazaro and abstract cityscapes by Jacob Felländer, and more. This courtyard opens up into eight galleries. As you tour the place, and possibly end where you begin, there is a sense of ritual, something karmic, about the experience. All the works address this fundamental theme. Belgium-born Sri Lankan artist, Saskia Pintelon's Faces rework old wedding photographs and studio portraits. Through her contemporary interventions, here is marital bliss and its antithesis, marital discord. Photographer Munem Wasif explores the blurred boundaries between Bangaldesh and India, and the sense of identity in his series Land of Undefined Territory.

On the lawns, Riyas Komu's installation in recycled wood, My Father's Balcony, draws the unbridled fancy of children attending the opening night. The young art enthusiasts turn Komu's installation into their playground, perhaps a fitting response to the boat-like structure meant as homage to the artist's father. The old and the young have met here.

As He Takes From You, I Engraft You New by Julien Segard
As He Takes From You, I Engraft You New by Julien Segard. PIC/ONE SCHOOL GOA

At Sunaparanta's entrance is an installation that sets the tone for Sensorium, as many visitors would agree. Memories of a Metamorphosis by Sachin George Sebastian derives from the changing architecture of New Delhi, both during the Mughal era and modern times. The structure, rooted under a tree in the lawns, is made of metal, but has the diaphanous quality of a spider's web. By night, it's hardly there, and risks visitors walking right through it. It's semi-visibility is a state that the artist sought hard to achieve, as he tells us, and indicative of transience.

An intimate festival
Sensorium debuted in 2014, with an encore in 2015, themed Edition {Love}. "This edition of Sensorium is loyal to previous editions, and to the idea of "small but serious". I find it vulgar that people broadcast festivals as 'largest' and 'biggest' — as if scale might undermine content," says Shanghvi. Besides, he doesn't like small talk, he says.

Map

On the opening night, nearly 300 people have landed on this century-old heritage property. Huddling in the rooms, there is the warmth of intimacy; stretching on the lawns, there is the ease of familiarity. Art openings at Sunaparanta seem to have a different flavour to them. The guests linger around for long, with an informal air and generous camaraderie. When we conjure Goa in our minds, there is the sense of escape, possibly from the harrowing demands of urban life. Here, at Sensorium's third edition, visitors can observe that after death and divorce, it is not damnation and despair, but hope. The idea is to confront and contemplate, and we have cutting-edge contemporary art to guide us along. The escapist in us will always have the state's sunny beaches.

Courtyard art cafe
While at Sunaparanta, do tuck into breakfast, lunch or just a quick bite at Bodega, the centre's cafe. Located in the courtyard, Bodega has an easy vibe to it, with gentle sunlight seeping through and ample breeze. The cafe is open from Monday to Saturday, 10 am to 7 pm. Homemade smoothies are around Rs 230, and there are a range of coffees and teas to sample from as well. The all-day breakfast features staples such as Mexican omelettes, and also specialties like 
mutton shakshouka.

Getting There
All major airlines run direct flights to Goa. Sunaparanta is 45 minutes away from the airport in Dabolim, and close to several hotels in Panjim.

Plan your visit
Sensorium runs till March 1. Make note of these dates when planning your visit. Schedule is subject to change. Visit www.sgcfa.org
Feb 8, 6.30 PM
Screening of An Israeli Love Story by Dan Wolman followed by a Q&A
Feb 10, 6.30 PM
The Quest for Passion, a music performance by Austrian trio, Marialena Fernandes (pianist), Marieke Jankowski (mezzo soprano) & Barna Banfi (saxophonist)
Feb 27 and 28, 6.30 PM
Two-day Portuguese film festival curated by Alexandra Côrte-Real Almeida in association with CLP - Instituto Camoes
March 2, 7 PM
Performance by Mithu Sen

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