‘Infinite 3' are three young Aurovilians who are enlivening exhibitions through imaginative use of space and materials.
As I approach Kala Kendra gallery it's pouring with rain. I notice a broad, muddy ridge of red soil leading up to the front door. Intrigued, I follow it inside. It crosses the lobby and climbs the stairs, acquiring a fringe of gold paint. What on earth...?
In fact, this is one of the ‘installations' created by young Aurovilians Aron, Jonah and Shona to accompany a recent exhibition in Kala Kendra. “It all started low-key,” says Aron. “The three of us had a dinner together, the idea came up and we thought we'd give it a try.” They talked to Dharmesh, who coordinates activities at Kala Kendra art gallery, and he invited them to do installations for the next eight exhibitions there. He even allowed them to decide upon how to display the exhibitors' work.
So far ‘Infinite 3' (“because the unity of the three of us gives infinite possibilities”), have created installations for three exhibitions. For Firooza's paintings the installations included the ridge of red soil but also glasses of coloured liquid placed in strategic locations, stainless-steel trays containing coagulated oil paints, and a round bed of sand in which, off-centre, a granite grinding-stone had been placed.
What are they trying to do? “We try to enhance, to bring an extra quality to the artist's work, by making people look at it in a different way,” says Jonah. Shona explains that some of their installations, like the soaring curved shapes accompanying the calligraphic exhibition in the Tibetan Pavilion, are actually quite fragile. “You will knock them over if you walk about unconsciously. So one of our purposes is to make people aware of where they are in space, to become more conscious of their bodies as well as of the building where the exhibition is taking place.”
“In India we're overloaded with strong images,” says Jonah, “so people tend to shut off. We want to help them really see again. So we don't simply hang paintings or photos flat on walls but we display them in open spaces, or in relationship to an installation, or we put them at an unfamiliar elevation so the viewer is forced to give them more attention.”
The process Infinite 3 follow is interesting. Initially they speak to the exhibitor and look through his or her work to get some preliminary ideas. Then, for Marco's photographic exhibition, they decided that each of them would bring two ‘materials' from which the installations would be created. Shona brought turmeric powder and red pigment, Aron eucalyptus poles and goldfish in bowls, and Jonah five sacks of charcoal and chetties. “Then we work in silence,” says Aron, “and this is very interesting. We communicate, connect, through the doing. It's total improvisation.”
“There's no play of egos,” says Jonah, “and nothing is discarded. We keep building upon each other's ideas, and this makes the outcome much richer.”
A lot of work goes into creating the installations but then they are dismantled. Is this satisfying? “I enjoy it like this,” says Shona. “Something lives for a time, then we break it down and we're faced with the challenge of coming up with something absolutely different.” Jonah explains how they worked very hard to make the sand circle in Firooza's exhibition perfectly smooth. But, within a few days, people had written their names on it and animals had walked across it. “So we have to learn to accept we've created something perfect in our eyes but then to let it go, let it evolve naturally....
Look at that!” he says suddenly, noticing a spider's web hanging within a cascade of steel rods, “We could never do something so beautiful.”
“Sometimes,” says Aron, “I think we've compromised, we haven't pushed to our limits, because we have to respect the exhibitor.” “It's the only way we can build trust,” says Jonah.
So how do the exhibitors respond to their input? “I was so impressed by their initial energy and ideas that I gave them a carte blanche,” says Firooza. “They really brought new ideas. And the energy...when the current failed and it was pitch black, they just kept on working.”
And the future? “Kala Kendra is where we've started flying, but not where we want to stop,” says Aron. “We want to go further, not only to collaborate with Auroville artists and architects but to go into the local villages and the larger India .” Jonah points out that Kala Kendra has offered them a rare opportunity: the gallery pays for the materials they use. “Ideally, though, we'd like to get paid for outside work so we'd be free to create whatever we want, wherever we want, inside Auroville.”
A foretaste of their work was provided, over a year ago, when Aurovilians woke up one morning to find a section of a road painted blue. More recently, they erected some red lanterns near the eucalyptus grove. “It was an amazing experience,” says Jonah. “People drove by, then stopped, came back and looked. They asked us, ‘What's special about today?' ‘Nothing special,' we said, ‘we're just bringing beauty.' People are really touched by this. It's like a gulp of fresh air.”
“If we are more and more able to manifest things like this,” says Aron, “it unblocks, it opens up doors. When you go to the Chamber, you make an effort to centre yourself. But what if you could bring that awareness everywhere? That's what we want to do. To help celebrate the amazing place that Auroville is.”