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Negotiating Routes:Ecologies Of The Byways 2010

The Negotiating Routes – Ecologies of the Byways invited creative practitioners to propose site-specific and interdisciplinary projects in response to the National Highway Development Program (NHDP) which had put land acquisition on fast track and was taking legal and police action against non-performing contractors and displaced villagers and tribals alike. The projects combined research and art, while addressing the visible and invisible transformations taking place in their immediate environments. Negotiating Routes encouraged archiving of local knowledge and mythologies about various ecologies whilst also facilitating a collaborative dialogue between the artist and the local community.

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Inspiration:

“The planting of seven thousand oak trees is thus only a symbolic beginning. And such a symbolic beginning requires a marker, ….the intention of such a tree-planting event is to point up the transformation of all of life, of society, and of the whole ecological system…”- Joseph Beuys-7000 Oaks, Documenta 7, Kassel 1982.

7000 Oaks functions not just literally in environmental terms, but also symbolically as inspirational imagery. It embodies Beuys’s utopian and poetic metaphysic of a social sculpture, designed to initiate a revolution in human consciousness, by means of its permanence and longevity: “the human being as a spiritual being.” The work also sought to render “the world a big forest, making towns and environments forest-like”.

In 2006 the Taiwanese artist Wu Mali floated the idea of diverse artist groups planting trees across the Tropic of Cancer: a queen’s necklace adorning the earth – a project that was the outcome of individual initiation and could work as an intimate, small-scale project as well as a highly ambitious, potentially vast undertaking intended to be replicated elsewhere.
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Inspired by the need to render “the world a big forest, making towns and environments forest-like.”, Negotiating Routes: Ecologies of the Byways invited reflection by artists on the anxiety of the ‘development’ embodied in the rank infrastructural growth in India and its coexistence with local ecologies. It was a specific response to the Road Transport Ministry’s ambitious plan of the biggest public-private partnership whereby 15,000 km of roads and highways would be developed over three years across India, resulting in golden corridors running north to south and east to west across the country. To expedite the implementation of over 165 projects under the National Highway Development Program (NHDP) during the year, land acquisition was on fast track, including shifting of utilities, obtaining clearances and taking legal and police action against non-performing contractors and displaced villagers and indigenous populations alike.

The Negotiating Routes – Ecologies of the Byways project invited artists, artists groups or professionals to propose projects, which were site-specific and had an inter-disciplinary approach combining research and art creation by artists and local communities. NR addressed the visible and invisible transformations currently taking place in immediate environments. The project encouraged archiving local knowledge and mythologies about various ecologies like the flora, fauna, home remedies, folklore, as also the visibilisation of an artist by a specific action or project.

Over two years, Negotiating Routes mapped the various project sites across the country, to create an alternative road map where artists and communities had come together in discussions on the regeneration of the local ecology of the cities or villages that they inhabited. Using the nomenclature of the National Highway or NH1, each site, ironically named NR1, NR2,  formed the nodal points of this alternative mapping as they connect to each other metaphorically, a route ‘ marked’ by art where transfer and exchange of knowledge had taken place.

This project was initiated by Varsha Nair and was co-curated by Pooja Sood at KHOJ.

NR 1: Varsha Nair                                                                                                                                                                                                        Wadhwana Wetlands, Vadodara.

NR 2: Aastha Chauhan, with Henvalvani Community Radio                                                                                                                          Gharelu Nushke & Muft Ki Salah, Chamba, Tehri Gehrwal

NR 3: Frame Works Collective                                                                                                                                                                                  Negotiating Routes: Sikkim 

NR 4: Maraa                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The Katte Project, Bengaluru


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