By Sukant Deepak
New Delhi, July 11 (IANS) While the past two decades have witnessed the duo work with a multitude of media including installation, painting, sculpture, video, performance, design and interactive games, pushing limits and constantly challenging their own vocabulary, what has remained constant in Gurugram-based artists Sumir Tagra and Jiten Thukral’s works is the strong socio-political element communicated through the immersive environments they create.
As the world, in face of the pandemic changes faster than imagination, and the artists find themselves in the midst of making sense of it, working on their new initiative called ‘& archive – an online store’, which will host their books, prints, objects, and games that have been conceived from more than 18 years of studio practice, Sumir added, “Frankly, the work in the studio didn’t stop. Being privileged, we worked in our ecosystem which is contained. As we pass these historic moments, there has been much introspection in the way we approach the work. We have created a separate identity called ‘pollinator’ which allows us to explore many intangible questions like conventional value systems which are primarily sales-driven. These projects allow us to navigate many such hazy and complex subject matters of shared ownership, and knowledge devices.”
Talking about ‘Solitude – A Social Distancing Handbook’, their project during the first lockdown, the duo says that ideas about care and repair have been on top of their minds. “The handbook develops proposals for single-player exercises. These proposals are self-motivated sessions to be played in a confined space. The compilation of proposals is an open source book,” said Jiten.
The single-player games in the form of proposals are self-driven, simple, and easy steps to occupy oneself through reflection and observation of one’s immediate environment.
“The tools already exist with us all – we have just given them a way to find another meaning within them. We process ideas that will come to us by making raw sketches, which then get visualized into vector drawings. We still try to hold on to the intimacy, information, and awkwardness that are the soul of the game. The lightness of the animation builds a therapeutic massage. It has always been a sufficient source to create humour and vibrancy. In these painful times, it is required for us to heal ourselves,” added Sumir.
The duo, who have exhibited at the sixth edition of the Asia Pacific Triennial, Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, Arken Museum in Denmark, Kunstmuseum in Bochum, Lyon Museum of Contemporary Art, and Mori Art Museum in Tokyo besides holding a ‘Match Fixed’ at the Ullens Centre of Contemporary Art in Beijing say that they have never divided their duties, and everything falls into place through the many stages of making art — from inception of the ideas, research, medium, possibilities, and planning of making.
“We often have disagreements about subject matter most at the initial stage, and we also take it to push the limits rather than restructuring it for good,” added Jiten.
As the conversation veers towards their ‘Farmer is a Wrestler’ that travelled to Yorkshire, New Delhi, Amman, and Abu Dhabi, and which has strong social and political undertones, the duo add that the issues about farmer distress is not only urgent but probably one of the most political in their experience.
“The intent was to educate ourselves and allow the power of art to reach out to a larger audience. It’s imperative to create these voices, and art has always mirrored the society. Somehow the work is more about care than the revolt. We have been documenting loads of information and are almost ready to release a book in both English and Punjabi,” the duo stressed.
While experiencing a Thukral & Tagra work, it is hard not to talk about the scale and spectacle. However, Sumir feels that the medium and scale come as a need and not as a desire. Stressing that the idea of scale should not be valued by its limited understanding of price and size, but from the impact it leaves behind, he added, “We would love to do Olympic scale work if it solves a purpose but also try to make some invisible intervention which are as powerful as whispers.”