Asia Art Archive and Inlaks India Foundation are pleased to announce Avik Debdas as the grantee for the AAA–Inlaks Art Grant 2020.
This is the second grant made possible through the collaboration between Asia Art Archive in India (AAA in I) and Inlaks India Foundation. For this edition of the art grant, the jury selected one proposal for the year-long grant after the open call in late 2019. The jury for this edition of the grant included the Mumbai-based collaborative studio CAMP and the Delhi-based cultural theorist and educator Santhosh S., along with members of AAA in I and Inlaks India Foundation.
Debdas’s grant commences on 15 December 2020.
Avik Debdas is a Delhi-based artist who is currently pursuing an MA in Visual Arts from Ambedkar University Delhi. Prior to this, Debdas received a BFA in Art History from College of Art, Delhi. He also holds a background in engineering, having worked for eight years in the industrial town of Haldia, a chemical hub of West Bengal. This experience has shaped and informed Debdas’s perspective towards the ecological crisis of our times. He works across media to engage with and unpack the complex relationship between politics and ecology. He recently curated an “open house exhibition” with four emerging artists at the Centre for Art and Free Expression (CAFÉ) in Jamia Nagar, New Delhi, in 2018.
Debdas’s project for the grant, The Taste of Bitter Time, proposes to undertake a creative investigation of the genealogies of Tis Hazari, a locality in Old Delhi. The project takes as its starting point two anecdotes about how Tis Hazari derived its name—literally meaning “of thirty thousand.” One attributes it to a garden, Tis Hazari Bagh, consisting of 30,000 neem trees planted in the seventeenth century by Emperor Shah Jahan; the other to the 30,000 Sikh soldiers who camped outside Delhi in the areas near Tis Hazari. The project delves deep into archives to not only examine the veracity of such claims about Tis Hazari and the “missing garden,” but also to trace a speculative genealogy of the neem tree.
Debdas’s project begins with a phase of intense archival research to produce maps of the “missing Tis Hazari Bagh.” This research is grounded in questions such as, what would have prompted the planting of 30,000 neem trees? What led to their being cut, or missing in the garden? Where do we find remnants of neem in the chemical city of Delhi? Within the scope of this grant, the archival research may take on multiple directions, such as producing a script for an “evidentiary film”; analysing lab tests to find traces of neem in the city, be it in water bodies or consumer products; or undertaking a performative planting of neem trees as a way of thinking through questions of public property, ecology, and forest land movements.
The AAA–Inlaks Art Grant aims to encourage artists and creative practitioners to test new forms of art-making that incorporate research, collaboration, workshops, and formal experiments as a way to examine the technologies and ecosystems of information that shape our times. The grant has been initiated as part of AAA’s ongoing endeavour to support critical approaches and bold thinking around the archive as concept, as medium, and as systems.
Jury for AAA-Inlaks Art Grant 2020
CAMP is a collaborative studio based in Chuim Village, Mumbai, since 2007. Their practice spans video and film, electronic media, and public art forms that show how technical experimentation and artistic form can meet. Over the years they have been hosts and co-initiators of public initiatives such as the online open-access archives Pad.ma and Indiancine.ma, and the Mankhurd community space R and R.
Santhosh S. is a cultural theorist based in New Delhi, India. He teaches at the School of Culture and Creative Expressions, Ambedkar University Delhi. Drawing on his training in art history, his work critically examines the structural dynamics of the institutionalisation of culture from a minoritarian perspective. He often writes on contemporary cultural politics in India, with an emphasis on deconstructing technologies of visuality and the affective dimensions of the political.
The Inlanks India Foundation focuses on providing grants, and awards in various fields to outstanding young Indians to develop their professional, scientific, artistic, and cultural abilities.
Asia Art Archive in India (AAA in I) is an Independent Registered Public Charitable Trust established in 2013 in New Delhi with the goal of building resources for research on the region’s dynamic contemporary art scene. It accomplishes this mission by digitising artist and scholarly archives, developing research projects, and organising programmes.
Supported by The Inlaks Shivdasani Foundation