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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Musing about random ideas

Everyone says, when they are slighted or appalled by anything they think is wrong with society, 'What? In this day and age? In 21st Century...!'

I ask: What is this forced mystique about 21st century? Is it just a number in the mind? Isn't everything in the mind?  If it's not 21st century, is it OK to have those whatever-malaises the people, the press asks the so-called oppressed or denied or marginalised about?

We used to say, how can evils persist. This is 20th Century. Now it is 21st Century? Does the passage of time automatically mean progressive minds?

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Henrietta Horn - Contemporary Tanztheater Artist

The second person I am featuring here is Ms. Henrietta Horn - the famed Tanztheater artist from Germany. She was the co-artistic director at the Folkwang Tanzschule Essen of Pina Bausch alongside Pina Bausch from 1999 - 2008 as biography would show.

I do not know her personally. I was once introduced to her at the lawns of Max Mueller Bhavan at KNK by Prasanna Ramaswamy very briefly when she was in Madras and presented three of her solo pieces at a very casual evening in front of a few select audience. I do not remember the year a-tall...

Then in 2004, I had the fortune of being at Duesseldorf for 4 months, visiting and associating with theatre artists and artists in general all round NRW area. On Dec 8th or 10th I do not remember exactly, I was at Essen to watch Ms. Horn's Artichokes in Silver Sea - one of her lighter works, she being a quite intense artiste - as part of the Essen-Werden Tanzfest. It was a pure delight later after the show when I went backstage and met her briefly and got her autograph at the back of this little showbill.

Thanks Prasanna-ma. It was a fantastic 4 months visiting K-20 and K-21 and other places, getting to see the works of masters such as the whole Expressionistic canon, Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian... (the list is very long) in person, at touching distance. Thanks to Frau Rahimi who was the head at MMB then. KNK MMB brings a lot of flooding memories! The reason why I pulled this out is a bit oblique. I received invite from Mr. Sadhanand Menon for the recent exhibition at Spaces. Thinking of the great legend Ms. Chandralekha led me to think of only one other person I know - Prasanna-ma, which inevitably for some reason led me to think of Pina Bausch (I remember fondly doing a lot of odds and bits backstage work during Nelken - Carnations - India tour of Pina Bausch & Co back in 90s) and in turn triggered this memory of meeting Henrietta Horn.

The Portrait of a Photographer as an Artist - Mohan Das Vadakkara

Today, my walk down the past lane takes me to putting in front of a whole new generation of young audience two people. The first person I introduce here. The second one in another separate post. 

One I have very personal acquaintance with and have had the opportunity of laughing, kidding around, fighting, having my works watched, analysed, photographed, videographed.... and whom a whole lot of Madras artists are familiar with. I consciously use the word Madras, even though you could have noticed my posts refer to my beloved city more as Madras and only when talking of contemporary inevitables as Chennai. No artist who has walked the Theatre in specific and Arts scene in the city will be unfamiliar with his work or him in person. A very genial, humble and knowledgeable person, I fondly call him as padakkaaran... Mohan Das Badagara. 

The accompanying photos are from a random album of his I chanced upon to take along with me, when Max Mueller Bhavan cleared up from KNK to its current residence. 



I bought a horde of German books for pittance, was gifted a horde of books - both in German and in English by a lot of Heads there from Herr Augustin, Herr Schindler, Frau Behlke, Frau Wetzkubach, Frau Rahimi.... as and when they left Madras for another pasture. Also, when MMB moved from KNK they were throwing away such a load of things because 1) they were old, anachronistic 2) they couldn't find place for those 3) the new place was getting digitised. So, like many a person, I also became richer with books, posters, media. 

One of those riches in the middle of rags was this album by Mohan Das. It is a simple collection of faces and places. I haven't met him in a while. Am sure he is quietly around at rehearsals, film festivals, art shows, theatre performances clicking away like there is no tomorrow, unassumingly, as he always does. He always tells me the need to buy printed photos, burned DVDs of performances in preservable copy saying "pinnaale venumna kedaikaadhumaaa.... negatives enga pogumnu solla mudiyaadhu, tapes enge pogum, memory card eppo erase aagum..." (later if you need you won't get, negatives and raw data files being erasable!). So I believed him and I BELIEVE HIM because after 25 years of being around, I realise the importance of old materials. I have materials - books, show tickets, fliers, program bills, souvenirs, photographs I myself took, bus tickets on the back of which several artists drew casual sketches and threw away which are documents now, plain paper sheets and tissue papers on which people like Mitran (Devanesen) and others drew stage and set first sketches.... so on and so forth. From 60s (when I hadn't even started taking firmer steps)... till 2006. After that I stopped collecting except those I own from my company. There are too many artists in the business now to keep track of and I lost the excitement of watching many of the theatre shows because they are purely of no aesthetic value to me and commerce never really excites me. 

Anyway, back to Mohan Das. I have some old random pictures. I hope you enjoy these. Some of these have solid history behind them. Notice how his places and facades have the same personality and character as some of the faces he captured. PLEASE FEED ME YOUR THOUGHTS AND VISIT HIS FB PAGE AND GIVE HIM A PAT FOR HIS UNFLINCHING STAND. He's been a very unassuming but steadfast soldier among people of his tribe. Like an artist refusing to budge to the demands of commoditisation making aesthetic works even when there is no cash in the bank or gas in the vehicle tank, he has been plugging away stolidly. As against a lot of photographers I have known started with lofty ambitions and have ended up shooting all kind of things and people for the lure of filthy lucre indiscriminately, Mohan Das is an artist among photographers in the same breath as a lot of documentary film makers, theatre directors who choose their work with a certain politics at heart and mind. Soldier on Badagara...