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The Wheel of Time

At the inaugural edition of the London Design Biennale, the India Design Forum will represent India through an installation that depicts the country’s layered heritage.

London Design Biennale, London Design Festival, Thomas More’s Utopia, India Design Forum, Chakraview, Sumant Jayakrishnan and Pathy, Somerset House, Handpainted Type, Fashion News, latest news, India news (From left to right) The installation titled “Chakraview”; the upper view of the installation; illustration of Manshuk Lal Prajapati’s natural refrigerator, Mitticool; illustration of D Renganathan’s mechanical tree climber that can be used for scaling palm and coconut trees.

Design ships from across the globe are heading to the river Thames. Designers from world over will soon arrive in London to render their talent through installations, talks and exhibitions. The London Design Biennale, from the founders of the London Design Festival (LDF), will see participants from over 35 countries, exploring questions on sustainability, migration, energy, pollution and social equality. The theme “Utopia by Design” celebrates the 500th anniversary of Thomas More’s “Utopia”, prompting Rajshree Pathy’s India Design Forum to present “Chakraview”.

Curated by Delhi-based scenographer Sumant Jayakrishnan and Pathy, the installation at Somerset House will articulate the overlapping of ancient myths with modern design innovations.

Just as the seven chakras reveal the inner self, the installation is a representation of India’s multiple visions of lived consciousness. “In India, we are constantly working towards higher planes of excellence. At this global platform, we want to say we have arrived. From being an agriculture-supported country we have grown to become a strong economic force. The installation reflects what young India has to offer. Even when we inaugurate a nuclear power plant, we invoke the gods. As a curator, I could not ignore that this fundamental truth of innovation is our cornerstone,” says Pathy.

Jayakrishnan has worked with Delhi-based graphic designer Hanif Kureshi for the installation. Kureshi’s pet project “Handpainted Type”, which has rebirthed typographic practices of street painters in India, finds its way into 900 hoops that will dress two walls of the exhibition hall. The 12ft x 30ft installation on each wall will present glimpses of the market place. “These fabric hoops will show photographic references of handpainted letters and language forms from India,” says Kureshi, artistic director and co-founder of St+Art India.

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While More’s “Utopia” was self-contained, in India one would find many “Utopias”, says Jayakrishnan. “There’s Gandhi’s Utopia, where life is in the villages, then there is that of the craftspeople, who work with beauty but also have devotion as a base, and currently, there is the consumer society, where technology helps in the production of commodities. So for us, there are multiple conversations on what ‘Utopia’ is. I structured the installation focusing on the chakras as a process of evolution of the self. Associated with it are different elements such as water and ether, and colours such as red, yellow, orange and so forth,” he says.

Known for his ephemeral sets at fashion shows, Jayakrishnan takes the concept of the chakras to the ceiling as well, a smart move given the space is a double-height hall. “Symbolic of the different stages of the energy centres, we have six spaces planned, which move in colour gradients as one walks through the centre of the installation. It leads to the seventh space, the sanctum, which is much smaller. In this circular zone is Avinash Kumar’s film on Indian design, which will play on the loop,” he says.

Kumar, co-founder of BLOT — known for its atmospheric soundscapes and irreverent art — has collaborated with Hyderabad-based music producer Murthy, aka Murtho Murthovic, for the sound track of the installation. “We have attempted to recreate sounds of the Indian street and marketplace with electronic music thrown in, and quotes from leaders and design thinkers in India. A part of my work is also a seven-minute film that documents the journey of Indian design over six decades, since Independence,” says Kumar, who has also developed music for the ambient environment of the chakras.

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Jayakrishnan also plans to bring in textiles to complement the colour scheme and seal the “Make In India” idea, with jamdhanis, Banarasis and ikats woven by weavers from Aadyam, an initiative of the Aditya Birla Group, the sponsors for the event. “We selected handspun textiles, which will sit like a barcode, going back and forth in its gradient colours,” he says.

From representing craft communities to experimental music, “Chakraview” promises to emote the spiritual yet progressive future of India. “IDF, since its inception in 2012, has attempted to play the role of a catalyst, working with the government and the industry to promote design. I believe design has to be democratic. We are not talking about handbags and shoes. We need more people like Arunachalam Muruganantham, the man who invented low-cost sanitary pads, and Manshuk Lal Prajapati, inventor of Mitticool, the natural refrigerator. Let us embrace that this is how we want to represent Indian design,” says Pathy.

London Design Biennale runs at Somerset House from September 7 to 27

First published on: 02-09-2016 at 11:42:43 pm
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