It is important to decolonize study as a discipline specific practice, to an interdisciplinary collective practice engaging and learning together in a participatory mode, where the subject and observer relationship is reciprocated to an interactive space of making and working together.

- Sanchayan Ghosh

From Enlightenment to light itself

Sunlight has been one of the most dominating elements that has determined mankind’s attitude and approach to visual art. During the Renaissance period in Europe sunlight became integral to representing the optical experience of the world. With the advent of cameras it finally became possible to map the optical experience as a visual image. The dialogue of the camera with light has determined the experience of visual image.

The colonial ruler’s camera provided the opportunity for anthropologists and ethnographers to map the other as subjects of an exotic land. In the 19th century, the impact of light on our optical experience was analysed greatly, and the reflection of colour due to light generated possibilities to experience an object as an illuminated entity.

My research refocuses this method of experiencing an object as an impact of light, and tries to engage with light itself. Light as a physical, social and cultural body that has been manifested in the evolution of modern technology, and light as an independent entity with the ability to transform the social and cultural space of everyday life. Evolution of urban light from a gas-operated object to filament-based source, to other forms of gas-based neon sources, and finally LEDs and digital projections has transformed light from a source of illumination to a cultural entity in the 20th century. This project intends to map the physical space of light itself as an embodiment.

It is important to decolonize study as a discipline specific practice, to an interdisciplinary collective practice engaging and learning together in a participatory mode, where the subject and observer relationship is reciprocated to an interactive space of making and working together.

Collaborators:

  • Deepak Jawahar
  • Justine De Penning
  • Karishma Hari
  • Nalini Balakumar
  • Rohan Dahiya
  • Sathya Ganapathi
  • Shanmukha Priya
  • Shreya Chajjed
  • Siva Sai Jeevanantham
  • Yazhini A N

“Presence of Absence” was a week-long performance and shadow-casting workshop that took place at Goethe Institut Chennai in October 2021. What is represented here includes still and video documentation of the workshop by Yogesh, with audio recordings from the workshop.

The ‘Presence as Absence’ workshop is part of a long-term set of engagements by Sanchayan Ghosh, who has been investigating the role of study within contemporary practice and pedagogy. Emerging from the proposition that study can be “a process of critical engagement and working together” the workshop foregrounded dialogical and reciprocal engagements between participants, with each bringing their own personal histories, experiences and memories, to set the context for study.

The workshop focused on two aspects of study - the representation of the body through theatre exercises that will let individual participants explore their cultural and social memory in reference to sound, body and gesture, and the use of light via the method of shadow casting on silkscreens, which engages with the relationship between urban light, photosensitive pigment, time and space.

Acknowledgements

We thank the project collaborators for their deep engagement in the project with Sanchayan Ghosh.

We would also like to thank Goethe Institut Chennai for their generous support of the workshop and for hosting it in at their premises.

About the artist

Sanchayan Ghosh (b. 1970) born in Kolkata, is currently an Associate Professor, Department of Painting, Kala Bhavan, Visva Bharati University, Santiniketan. He completed his Masters of Fine Arts, Department of Painting, Kala Bhavan, Visva Bharati University, Santiniketan in 1997.

Ghosh has been practicing site-specific art as a workshop based collective community dialogue leading to numerous forms of public engagements over the last twenty years. His interest in process based collaborative making and sharing of art lead him to interact also with different performance forms from all over India. He has also worked in different kinds of self organized initiatives in different parts of the world and explored transforming relationships of land, location, labour and practice. Ghosh lives and works in Santiniketan and Kolkata, West Bengal India.

Ghosh has been associated with different pedagogy projects in Kala Bhavana, Visva Bharati, Santiniketan, National School of Drama(NSD), FICA( New Delhi) and Five Million Incidents of Max Mueller Bhavana, Kolkata. He has participated in Kochi Muziris Biennale and explored a community sound project “Incomplete Circles, Invisible Voices” in 2012. He also co-curated the second session of Under The Mango Tree in Santiniketan in 2020. Ghosh’s collaborative sound project (work of art) ‘Short Wave’s Transit Tales’ is commissioned by Documenta14 (the German international exhibition project, under its Radio project and was transmitted in 8 countries of 4 continents). This piece has been shown in three exhibitions in Basel, Switzerland and Berlin and Weimar, Germany. His selected solo exhibitions include Reversed Perspective:3 Conjunctures, 2014 and Sisyphus Effect, together with Experimenter, Kolkata, 2010.

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