Imagination is the ultimate disruptor. And art, the ultimate enabler of that imagination.
Art often lies at the intersection of many different fields of human pursuits of the self and world discovery, such as science, philosophy and spirituality. Just as the experimentations of Leonardo da Vinci were before their ‘times’, so is the latest trend in the art market related to the prolific use and creation of NFTs (Non Fungible Tokens) – a combination of technology meets art meets financial instruments. India may have been somewhat slow to join the world of cryptocurrencies and digital trading of art – art that could be created either using digital or traditional means or a blend of the two – but Indian creators are now gunning for a bigger pie of the global crypto-based art market. Over the last couple of years, there have been quite a few successful NFT drops, and the upcoming show ‘Techné Disruptors’ promises to be a milestone and game changer.
The reasons are multi-fold, not limited just to the list of participating artists, but including some from the traditional art world as well. In the words of the curator, Myna Mukherjee, “Technology primes every aspect of the post-covid art world for a digital disruption. Evidence of this disruption abounds in the upcoming exhibition Techné Disruptors, an unprecedented epistemological art and tech show in India that will not only reshape sedentary categories of art but also radically shift the way art is viewed, understood, experienced and sold.”
Conceived by Engendered, the show is supported by the American Center and the Italian Embassy Cultural Center. It will feature more than ten of the most cutting-edge, tech-forward pioneers and digitally native artists in India and the Global South and will run from 30 April 30 to 6 May at the Open Palm Court gallery of India Habitat Centre, in conjunction with India Art Fair 2022. The ‘disruptors’ featured include Harshit Agrawal, Rochelle Nembhard and Gemma Shepherd, Seema Kohli, Adil B. Khan, Minne Atairu, Babak Haghi, Dr Mandakini Devi, Nandita Kumar, Satadru Sovan, Shilo Shiv Suleman + The Fearless Collective, and Raghava K.K.
Myna adds ‘. . . the works in Techné Disruptors question the past, the present, and the social spaces we navigate in our daily lives — the private, the public, the inner, the market and the imaginary. They upend political narratives around gender, feminism, art as resistance, environmental rights, and freedom and access, as well as subverting notions of identity, contesting social norms, critiquing consumer culture, and imagining dystopian alternate realities. Collectively these works interrupt expectations and unsettle conventions, inviting visitors to gain a deeper understanding of the ways in which artists challenge norms and push boundaries through disruptive actions.’
One of the highlights of the show will be the Live NFT drop launched by renowned multimedia artist and art-tech pioneer Raghava K.K. along with Lara Stein (Founder TEDx, TED prize, Founder & CEO Boma Global, and ED Women’s March Global) to launch ReGenDAO, a first-of-its-kind global network that brings together ‘funding, artists, scientists, entrepreneurs and visionaries’ and connects the best minds globally from web2 and web3 to build regenerative futures for all. The NFT drop is in association with the world’s largest NFT marketplace OpenSea and will be featured on their homepage. The attempt is to empower India’s first collection of Global South NFTs towards building an equitable and prosperous tech+art ecosystem, and foster, bridge, connect, and forge strong South-South partnerships leading from the East. The exhibition and collection will include international award-winning works from New York, South Africa, Burma, Mexico, Argentina, Iran and other Global South countries.
Works @Harshit Agrawal
Harshit Agrawal is an Indian artist working with artificial intelligence (AI) and emerging technologies. He has worked with AI art since its inception in 2015 and recently held India's first solo exhibition of AI art. Nominated and shortlisted thrice for the Lumen Prize, the top tech art prize, his work is at the permanent collection of the largest computer science museum in the world, the HNF Museum in Germany. He has exhibited in group shows at several venues including the Tate Modern (UK), Asia Culture Center (Korea), Ars Electronica (Austria) and the Museum of Tomorrow (Brazil). He is a graduate of the MIT Media Lab and IIT Guwahati. Harshit’s neon-light work, Disruption is poetic regeneration, will be part of the show, and so will be Still life, Inside out-Outside in, and Landing.
Neon Work @Harshit Agrawal
Minne Atairu is an artist and the 2021 Lumen Prize Global South Award winner. She is also a doctoral student in Art and Art Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her research and practice emerge at the intersection of machine learning, Art/Museum education and Black culture. Her project, Igun AI, addresses a 17-year artistic absence during the interregnum following the 1897 British punitive expedition in the Benin Kingdom. She holds an MA in Museum Studies from The George Washington University, DC and BA in Creative Arts from University of Maiduguri, Nigeria.
Seema Kohli is a multi-disciplinary artist, straddling the worlds of the visual and performing arts as well as poetry. Her works are primarily a celebration of the female form, often with the underlying subtext and central themes of myth and oral narratives. Her works manifest narratives that straddle the medium of poetry, performance, theatre and film, focusing on techniques such as layering, collage, montage towards a utopian world-building. She has held over 32 solo shows and over 250 group shows in India, Europe, and the United States. Her works have also been shown at collateral events associated with major national and international festivals including the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (Collateral, 2016), Venice Biennale of Art/Architecture (2015, 2016), ARCO [Madrid] (2008), Art Basel, India Art Fair (2010-2021), among others.
Works @Seema Kohli
Rochelle 'Rharha' Nembhard is a creative director, filmmaker and co-founder of Noirwave (jointly with her partner, the musician Petite Noir – a.k.a Yannick Ilunga). Her work explores identities developed across diverse experiences and cultures, forged through a contemporary African lens. Gemma Shepherd is a Cape Town based interdisciplinary artist using photography, video and object art to meditate on issues of self, belonging and becoming. Rharha and Gemma’s joint works will be a part of the show.
Works @Rharha+Gemma Shepherd
Babak Haghi is a professional Iranian visual artist. He started professional photography in 2012 with theatre photography and he learned the fundamentals of visual arts from his mentor Hafez Miraftabi. He has held eight solo photography exhibitions in Tabriz (Shokri Art Gallery), Tehran (Atbin Art Gallery, Mojdeh Art Gallery), Shiraz (Aban Art Gallery), and London (The Little Black Art Gallery). Four of his artworks were shown during the India Art Fair 2020 at the Italian Embassy Cultural Center gallery. He has photographed more than 150 theatres in Iran and has participated in more than 60 group exhibitions in Iran, Canada, Turkey, India, and Sweden. His photography work Red Fish will be on display.
Red Fish @Babak Haghi
Dr Mandakini Devi is a New Delhi based artist, educated in New Delhi and London. She completed her practice-based PhD in 2018 and worked as an artist/consultant for an architectural firm until 2020. Currently, she is teaching critical theory in contemporary visual culture to undergraduate students of photography in New Delhi. As she says, “. . . rigorous sessions of drawing and painting, have led me to experiment with collaging my photographs with my painted works. My works are informed by my understanding of representation of the female body, through my own contemporary cultural mobility. The collages are based on photographs from my immediate and everyday surroundings. They are re- scripted and staged through the process of layering and post-production.”
Work @Dr Mandakini Devi
Nandita Kumar is a new media artist who works at the intersection of art, science, technology and community to create interactive installations. She explores the elemental process through which human beings construct meaning from their experiences, by creating sensory narratives through sound, video/animation and performance, smartphone apps, customized motherboards, and solar/microwave sensors. Nandita has exhibited in varied festivals and exhibitions throughout the world including Pompidou, ZKM, LACMA, REDCAT, ISEA, Je de Paume, The New Zealand International Film Festival, Film Anthology Archive NY, India Art Fair, Rome International Film festival, Stuttgart Animation Festival, The Academy of Television Art and Sciences in Los Angeles among many others. She has received the ASU-Leonardo Imagination Fellowship and has also been a speaker at the Museum of Contemporary Art (Sydney) and TEDx. Her work series Birth of brain fly, Running spider, and Tree heads will be on display.
Works @Nandita Kumar
Satadru Sovan Bhanduri is a multi-disciplinary artist – equally at home painting large canvases or creating his own performance art and light installations amongst other phenomenology involved in his work. He completed his masters in painting from the renowned Visva Bharati University, Santiniketan in 2000 and is a recipient of several awards including the Fulbright Scholarship. He has been a part of several residencies and his work is in private collections as well as museums.
Work @Satadru Sovan Banduri
Shilo Shiv Suleman is an award-winning Indian artist whose work lives and breathes at the intersection of magical realism, art, technology and social Justice. Her work unapologetically embodies and weaves together the sensual and sacred, past and future through paintings, wearable sculptures, interactive installations and public art interventions. Most recently, her work was sold at an auction at Sotheby’s for 57,000 USD in the “Boundless Space” auction. She is also the founder and director of Fearless Collective, a growing movement of hundreds of South Asian artists reclaiming public spaces from fear. Her newest body of work, Semiprecious, explores the forces of nature – rivers, mountains, the movement of tectonic plates, wind currents, photosynthesis, rocks, moss, minerals and all kinds of invisible, microcosmic and macrocosmic love stories.
Work @Shilo Shiv Suleiman
Work @Fearless Collective
Raghava K.K. is a multidisciplinary artist, storyteller and pioneer in the field of art and technology who explores transcendence through the lens of the current digital era. Featured on CNN’s list of ten fascinating thinkers in 2010, His work traverses traditional forms of painting, installation and performance, while his practice embraces new media (artificial intelligence, neuro-feedback, bio-hacking, board and video games, crypto currencies, etc.), to express post-human contemporary realities. In 2021, He was the first Indian to launch an NFT at Sotheby’s, New York, in partnership with Burning Man. He will launch the prototype NFT drop for ReGenDao, a worldwide regenerative project powered by a global nexus of imaginators and innovators in association with the world’s largest NFT platform OpenSea on 30 April.
Works @Raghava K.K.
In Myna’s words, ‘. . . the works in Techné Disruptors question the past, the present, and the social spaces we navigate in our daily lives — the private, the public, the inner, the market and the imaginary. They upend political narratives around gender, feminism, art as resistance, environmental rights, and freedom and access, as well as subverting notions of identity, contesting social norms, critiquing consumer culture, and imagining dystopian alternate realities. Collectively these works interrupt expectations and unsettle conventions, inviting visitors to gain a deeper understanding of the ways in which artists challenge norms and push boundaries through disruptive actions.’
Considering the changing landscape of the art world – creative as well as the commercial aspect – the show brings to the fore numerous possibilities of art creation, engagement, and trade: a possibility where the tactile meets the imagination of the digital and the Augmented Reality (AR)/Virtual Reality (VR); a possibility where Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) take on the role of the creator based on the algorithms set initially by the human artist; a possibility where being the buyer of a code signifies ownership of a digitally held artwork; and, more so, a possibility where the creators, sharers and viewers are all humans, or otherwise. The possibilities are endless, while the age-old question, ‘What is art?’ will continue to ring loud among the debating intelligentsia. We eagerly look forward to the show and how it will position the questions and answers; however that may be, art will continue to be the disruption-enabler.
The show will be open to the public from 30 April till 6 May 2022.
(All images are courtesy of the curator Myna Mukherjee and the respective artists.)
Aakshat Sinha is an artist and curator. He also writes poetry and has created and published comics. He is the Founding Partner of artamour.