In her 2013 book, On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes, Alexandra Horowitz describes as "a blessing" the ability to "admire the unlovely." Much of what restricts the act of seeing, she writes, is that we have expectations of what we will see, an expectation that constantly hinders us. "In a sense, expectation is the lost cousin of attention: both serve to reduce what we need to process of the world 'out there'." This is played out most obviously, perhaps, in transit spaces - bus stops, metro stations, skywalks. Time here is spent in limbo, marked only by train announcements. "How do we give people a breather here? Can we bring them back to the present?” asks Natasha Sharma, a member of Art in Transit, which has, since 2014, worked on bringing public art to the Namma Metro stations.
These are the questions the team pondered as they put together the art work across Namma Metro stations. At Festival of Stories, which takes place this week, audiences can go on art walks through the Cubbon Park Metro station - yes, the Metro station - exploring the countless narratives that exist in silence there. The Zine Fair, for instance, which will take place near the Chinnaswamy Stadium entrance of the Cubbon Park station, participants document the sounds they hear in these spaces.
The idea is, quite simply, to explore the idea of art in public spaces. "The narratives are constantly changing, as are the contexts. How long does a work of art in a public space stay relevant? How do we talk about the practice of public art," remarks Sharma. Three walks over as many days will take participants through the diverse complexity of stories that exist in the Metro station - "Three different guides with completely different narratives," said Sharma. "We want to bring in new voices."
A sonic installation by Aerate ft Smokey the Ghost, Way-finding through Cubbon Park by Sensing Local, An Angry Words Installation by Mouth of Word, murals and postcard booths - the three day Festival of Stories engages commuters across the spectrum. The blackboards placed at strategic corners across the stations are always filled with scribbles - "There's something new everyday. People use them to write notes in different languages, play games or create little works of art," said Sharma. "How do people respond to public art?" In a recent project, Sharma laid out a series of transparent bins to address Bengaluru's solid waste management problems. "People began putting their dry waste in these bins - there were no signs, nobody told them to do this. It was a natural response to a work of art."
On Saturday morning, a group of local Instagrammers will make their way across the stations, to capture and document the work there. "We're also looking at the idea of social media as a gallery," said Sharma. "The people who walk through the stations and those who get their information off social media need not overlap. We want to reach out to all of them."
What: Festival of Stories
When: October 20 to 22, 4 pm to 5.30 pm
Where: Exit C, Cubbon Park Metro Station