Climate change and our lackadaisical attitude towards the welfare of the planet that sustains life as we know it, have brought the doomsday hour closer than ever. Sometimes the simplest things elude our complicated minds. As we strive for superior technology and innovations in a late capitalist era, with giant-scale industrialization, we are forgetting the very essence of our sustenance — Planet Earth. Billions of dollars are being spent to travel to Mars while we wilfully ignore the repercussions of the damages caused to the only planet that we know of, that sustains human life. While a schoolgoing teenager like Greta Thunberg understands the gravity of the situation multi-billionaires and CEOs of petroleum companies pay no heed to the crisis at hand.
Even amidst all the apathy toward our dying planet, there are still several initiatives across the globe that are beacons of light in the existential struggle against climate change. Today we explore one such initiative, which has quite brilliantly, through the medium of an exhibition, brought about a unique confluence of the arts and sciences to promote collective climate action.
On the 2nd of February, 2024 Delhi witnessed the inaugural edition of the Sustaina India exhibition and its interdisciplinary approach to sustainability. Conceived by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), one of Asia’s leading sustainability think tanks, in collaboration with the acclaimed artist duo Jiten Thukral & Sumir Tagra, the exhibition transcends conventional approaches and instead encourages viewers to engage with pressing environmental issues through a sensory journey of artistry and introspection.
Thukral & Tagra, co-curators of Sustaina India
The initiative is not merely an exhibition but a dynamic platform catalyzing dialogue, awareness, and action toward exo-awareness. Through annual fellowships, exhibitions, and public programs, Sustaina India’s objective is to weave climate awareness and sustainability into the cultural fabric of India and beyond. Its mission extends beyond mere discourse; it seeks to mobilize creators to champion environmental stewardship through their artistry, thereby nurturing a collective consciousness toward a more sustainable future.
Under the expert curation of Jiten Thukral, Sumir Tagra, and Srinivas Aditya Mopidevi, the Sustaina India exhibition unfolds as a thought-provoking visual experience, resonating with the harmonious convergence of art and ecology. The curated selection of works, including sensory installations, performances, artworks and recipes, beckons viewers on a profound exploration of our relationship with the planet. Each artwork serves as a poignant reminder of the intricate interconnectedness between humanity and the environment, urging us to reevaluate our roles as guardians of the Earth. It's an exhibition that invites viewers to keep their “eyes to the ground, heart to the horizon”.
According to an analysis by CEEW, 80% of Indians now reside in districts that are at risk of extreme climate events like cyclones, floods, and droughts. While it's challenging for communicators to convey the significance of climate solutions and the extent of adversity, artists can serve as visual storytellers for collective climate action.
At the center of Sustaina India's exhibition are the works of three young artists — Debasmita Ghosh, Manjot Kaur, and Rachna Toshniwal — who have been supported through a fellowship program. Ghosh combines her action-oriented research on the impact of climate change on the ways of life of the Kondh community in Odisha. Kaur presents an immersive video installation on forests, the world's largest natural carbon sinks, and fertility, capturing her experiences visiting forests in various parts of India and the world. Toshniwal showcases tapestries and other creations made from ocean waste that washed up on the shores of Alibag, Maharashtra, advocating for a new approach to waste management.
In addition to the three Fellows, the exhibition also showcases textile and fashion designer Gaurav Jai Gupta, who explores the combination of textiles and carbon; visual artist, photographer, and archivist Pallov Saikia, who focuses on archiving the land and life in Rahmaria, Assam, which is gradually being eroded by the Brahmaputra river; multidisciplinary artist Richi Bhatia, who creates performances that facilitate conversations between different species; artist Shilpa Bhawane, who explores the intimacy we can develop with the materials around us through drawing; and Climate Recipes by artist, curator, and researcher Srinivas Mangipudi and Srinivas Aditya Mopidevi, which shares adaptive wisdom through lived experiences. Edible Archives presents discussions about sustainable, seasonal food, and sound artist and composer Bhaskar Rao adds a sonic dimension to the exhibition.
Embodying the ethos of sustainability, the exhibition embraces eco-conscious practices in its very essence. From wooden panels crafted from crop residue to soy-based inks and eco-friendly paints, every element of the exhibition embodies a commitment to minimizing environmental impact. This conscious integration of sustainable materials underscores the exhibition's broader message of aligning artistic expression with ecological responsibility.
Mihir Shah, Director of Strategic Communications at CEEW
Sustaina India Exhibition
Dates: 2-15 February 2024
Time: 11 AM - 6 PM
Venue: CCA Bikaner House (first floor), New Delhi
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