Gasworks Resident 2017: Ranjit Kandalgaonkar
My art practice focuses primarily on unseen and ignored processes of urbanization. In my work, I draw upon contemporary visual arts media, archival documentation and historical artefacts to record showcase and critique urban conditions playing out within the city.
My project cityinflux is one such ongoing project and a central theme to my urban practice. For a number of years, I am attempting to document the often ignored spaces/episodes that form what I call ‘blindspots’ and contain glimpses of the unofficial city that perpetually runs unseen, alongside.
This is also part of the multimedia aspect of my practice: the access to my work happens through the capacities of particular media. Currently, my lens is trained on Bombay/Mumbai, but I use cityinflux as a city-viewing lens.
Various projects have me continuously in public archives and libraries and always in direct conflict with the multiple potentials that reside within the ‘record’; as in the veracity of the information encountered, its history, its contemporary relevance. The record no longer is bound by the sole function for which it was created nor its physicality in the archive/museum; it embeds information of various environs and timescales. My attempt is to question this understanding of a record and the information it holds ideally transcending the form in how we traditionally access it. A new set of questions are constantly becoming relevant as scenarios in the city keep playing themselves out.
Some of these long term projects (described below) attempt to unlock historical and contemporary data through a re-imagination of events placing the work in the context of an unseen social history.
Since 2009, Stories of Philanthropic Trusts is a research project documenting the communities living in 19th century Bombay and recording philanthropic activities pertaining to them. It begs the question within the colonial narrative as to where did agency lie within the day to day running of the city.
Prior to that, I had collaborated with two architects on a project named Gentricity. The project has developed some multi-disciplinary diagrams of localities in Mumbai, which represent multiple narratives of the sites examined (old tenements and mixed-housing scenarios).[with Saurabh vaidya & Aditya Potluri].
Build/browse is an interactive game platform which continues to install an alternate and growing archive of oral histories of objects found in markets across London and Mumbai. I was particularly interested in second hand objects -ones that were no longer new but not old enough to be deemed ‘antiques’ either. [with Amitabh Rai & Sadhvi Dar].
7 isles unclaimed, a collaborative project, imagines the original seven island archipelago of Mumbai as never becoming the reclaimed land form it is today. We came across correspondences in East India Company records that were not realised-that missed their chance to ‘play out’ in the city’s timeline. The fictive stories and maps that emerged imagined points in history where the city narrative could have gone either way. [with Vinita Gatne, Tarek Salhany & Polly Phipps –Holland].
In continuation, I documented the lost habitat of flora and fauna on reclaimed land for the project Isles Amidst Reclamation. The artworks were installed amongst the records of the Maharashtra State Archives and the Bombay Natural History Society library.
For the project Shipping and the Shipped, I reworked my father’s photographs which were taken from the bridge of ships during his travels from 1950’s onwards. These images allowed an entry point into the study of the transformations in shipping infrastructure, the repercussions of which play out in the types of ships being decommissioned and scrapped at the Alang ship-breaking yard.[with Stefano Harney].Alang is my site for a long term project called Modeled Recycled Systems on mapping ship-breaking practices and its recycled paths.
Most recently, our collaborative project The Architecture of Public Health Trusts in Colonial Bombay [with Brenna Bhandar & Vinita Gatne] conducted field and archival research on community-specific philanthropic trusts dealing with health and hygiene in colonial Bombay.
This recent research has led me to the Gasworks residency where I will be using my residency period towards a new work that documents events that transpired during the 1898 plague that struck Bombay. There are gaps in most historical narratives, viewpoints that are glossed over, biased, or merely forgotten. Some deserve a relook in the present context. I seek to validate (or speculate) some of these narratives, in this current research on the plague through my research period at Gasworks, tapping into this ‘entropic information’.