Spaces for Critical Practice
What is it
CRO|PAN is an ongoing project over several phases in partnership with Marc Rees of Wales. It investigates the connection of arts and community through temporary physical structures with a special focus on rooted histories, socio-cultural mores and future environmental concerns. The connecting point – The Cromen structure created by Marc in Taliesen, Wales and the raw bamboo structures created during Durga puja in Kolkata, India.
This collaboration was started as part of the Connections Through Culture: India-Wales grant scheme by the British Council supported by Wales Arts International and Arts Council Wales to develop cross-cultural creative collaborations. It will see its next phase in the National Eisteddfod Wales thanks to the support of Taliesin Arts Centre in Swansea.
“Some Pandals stay in my mind for many years probably because of the kind of immersive experience it offers as we enter the space. Kind of transformative and also quite powerful because we know it’s ephemeral.
I think it’s difficult to assess this having seen the city transform every year from up close. The positive economic impact is undeniable. And even artistically I think it’s quite extraordinary that people (if not actively) wait for this pase when much of the rational logic that governs our cities go for a toss. Definitely has an impact in terms of feeling refreshed after getting so much stimulus all around us. When we were younger, we used to live in a para which had the usual, slightly low key puja every year. Our cricket pitch which was basically an intersection of two roads, so with the pandal coming up, we’d have to accomodate that and play along a single lane. There was also some ironic rivalry with neighbouring pandals. I remember we would sometimes go to the Babu Bagan Pandal (which was a crowd puller compared to the incidental appeal of ours- Selimpur Club-which was sandwiched between Babu Bagan and Selimpur Pally), and ask the organisers, ‘Dada, which way is Baby Bagan?’ and they would be like ‘This is Babu Bagan.’ At which we’d act disappointed after having heard so much about it before. It wads petty, I know, but we found it hilarious at that time.”
Sujaan Mukherjee | Education & Outreach, DAG Museums
Phase 1 India : R&D Digital Immersion into Durga Puja
Pickle Factory team members Dana Roy and Kunal Chakraborty had a jam packed yet invigorating time documenting over 80 pandals across the city. Along the way they took interviews with several pandal committee members, artist/designers, skilled labourers with various specialisations, police, pandal hoppers, puchka-walas and more. The idea was to give Marc and the artists in Wales a taste of Durga Puja, at the same time investigate for ourselves the impact such temporary artistic structures have on the community and the city. We had many points of inquiry: What is it that draws so many diverse people together so tightly in this festival of art and light celebrating the Goddess Durga?
Phase 2 Wales : Field Study – Marc Rees & team (Dancers: Eddie Ladd & Elan Elidyr Davies, Videographer: Simon Clode, Creative Producer: Isabel Griffin)
Having moved the Cromen structure to Tregaron, the team’s research and development phase saw the dancers respond to the digital immersions from Kolkata. They physically investigated these impulses in and around the Cromen structure – and found many resonances: from the organic structure to agrarian themes, both in the pandals of Calcutta and the farmlands of Tregaron. They also responded to mudras sent by Odissi dancer Monami Nandy, by using the Celtic Ogham alphabet in the dancer’s hands. (Ogham is a system of symbols based on the importance of varying trees, signifying the synergy with the natural world and underscoring the need to return to that harmonious relationship with nature that was once experienced).
2022 – CRO|PAN(orama)
Phase 3 : A Willow grove has been planted in Tregaron, in response to the bamboo used in puja pandal structures. A willow sculpture (made by artist Michelle Cain) and the Cromen structure will be part of the National Eisteddfod Festival Wales in August. Vikram Iyengar of Pickle Factory will travel to Wales to work with Marc during this period. As well as acting as a nearby cultural pilgrimage site, it will also host classrooms, workshops, performances and dialogues rooted in how creativity can counterpoint and combat the climate crisis to inform new practice and imagined possible futures.
Phase 4: Marc Rees will travel to India to work with the Behala Natun Dal puja committee & community. The Cromen structure will be recreated inside the raw bamboo structure of a pandal. The site would become a curated space of reflection for the larger Calcutta community. The lineup of events will feature Paramita Saha’s Detritus which will investigate organic waste and climate concerns. The audience is invited into the piece at a critical point, as stakeholders in this problem and therefore its solution. #TakeTheCityKolkata – Pickle Factory Season 3 has various events planned within this structure, curated with a view to stir questions such as: What happens to us within this artistic structure that affects us and therefore affects the spirit of a city for decades beyond? What can we imagine for the future of the city?