Grant Period: Over one year and six months
Kristine Michael and Kumkum Jain, a ceramic artist and textile artist respectively, will collaborate on a project in which their passion for clay and textile will come together in an installation based on the interrelated themes of skin as clay, the concept of fertility, and the sense of dissolution and renewal associated with the sea. More broadly, the collaborators wish to locate their project in the context of women's artwork — how this gives voice to women's circumstances and experiences and how such artwork has historically been received. Kristine and Kumkum point out that their trajectory as artists has been influenced by what they perceived as important to their personal histories as women and that it has involved a long process of forgetting what we had learned and following the inner necessity of our own thinking.
For Kumkum this has taken the form of exploring the history of textiles, examining the cultural values inherent in the use of textiles as well as working on her own creations. Kristine has sought to go beyond her training in industrial product design and. as one commentator on her work remarks, has consistently exposed herself to various schools and techniques. This project takes off from an earlier collaborative work between the two commissioned by Morarka Centre for Crafts, NCPA, which, for various reasons, could not be completed and was not exhibited. They propose to continue work on this installation, arguing that the creative possibilities of the piece have not been fully explored. They also wish to expand the work in some ways — conceptualise it as less site-specific than they had initially done and as having a broader vision, larger scale, increased complexity, greater use of natural dyes and the use of different firing techniques. The theme of the installation has been very loosely defined by the collaborators and they seem to value this element of openness, choosing to think of the theme more as a broad metaphor for what they will do rather than an idea they will strictly adhere to or represent very clearly through their work. This is reinforced by the fact that Kristine and Kumkum will work jointly on some parts of the installation and individually on others. They will therefore have the space to explore themes that personally interest them, even as they respond to a more general theme that resonates with the whole piece. One of these themes is fertility, which they exemplify with the story of Demeter and Persephone. They view fertility as a general idea underlying the entire work describing it as an "ode to fertility as seen through different eyes, different hands, different minds and different bodies." The collaborators therefore seem to look at the work as a celebration of fertility rather than as an exploration of particular questions or concerns connected with fertility. The other theme that interests them is actually more a set of images associated with water, the sea, fishing lore, boats, ropes and weaving.
The overarching theme of the project is the connection of clay with skin and skin as garment. The reference point for this is the story of Parvati who rubs her skin to collect the clayey substance to mold into her son. Parallely, the proposal talks about skin as the first garment for the human body, and both collaborators therefore see skin as their entry point into the project. The two hope to be able to exhibit their site-variable installation in clay, textile and fibre in outdoor sites in Delhi and Jaipur, to begin with. They also hope to interact with art students and other professionals in the clay and textiles field by way of workshops, lectures and discussions.