ArtAloneTogether is a mix of dance, theatre, magic and music performances, in addition to socio-political conversations.
From 10 am to 10 pm on Sunday, 23rd August artists from Kolkata, Shillong, Bengaluru, Imphal and even Amsterdam will be sharing a virtual stage, in what is set to be the second edition of ArtAloneTogether. The performances are varied — folk theatre, hiphop, dance, illusionism, rock and roll — and have been more than a month in the making, and are meant as much to entertain as they are to provoke thought.
Indeed, thought seems to be the only common thread linking the acts — thought, and relevance. Says the event’s co-curator Paramita Saha from the Kolkata-based Artsforward, “The main idea behind the curation was its relevance to now. The performances would have to make sense during these times, and they would also have to work on a screen. A lot of good work that doesn’t translate to this [the online] space.” This challenge is one being faced by performers around the globe during the COVID-19 lockdowns, and this lineup is no different. From the eight-year-old Sunderbans-based Mangrove Theatre Centre that works with children’s theatre, folk and traditional theatre, to Indian illusionist Amazing David whose clientele includes the royal family of Bhutan, and National Award-winning actor Sohini Sengupta who will be performing Leela Mazumdar’s play Dulia, the screen has to be contended with by all.
To that end, says Paramita, some of the performances had to be deliberately tweaked for the medium — like the opening act by interdisciplinary artiste Kiran Kumar, whose work has been supported by the Berlin Centre for Advanced Studies in Arts and Sciences and the Literary Colloquium Berlin’s Crossing Borders program, among others, in the past. “Kiran Kumar’s essay-travelogue-performance I had seen on Facebook: a lot of things about it worked, but most things didn’t. We thought about it a lot, how to layer out the mix of text, thought and visuals on screen.”
On the other hand was the Imphal-based Nachom Arts Foundation, set to present a socio-political dance — 1 sq. ft. Tokhai — based on the experiences of those displaced by war, violence and persecution. “Nachom had to rework their camera angles… the screen looks two-dimensional after a point,” says Paramita, who co-curated the event along with Nishit Arora from Smoke Inc, to be presented in collaboration with Offbeat CCU.
The musical side of things is helmed by Shillong-based veteran rock musician Lou Majaw and Kolkata-based, multilingual hip-hop collective Park Circus, each with a large and dedicated fandom of their own. It isn’t all performances, however. An intriguing addition to the program is The Queer Muslim Project that has been working to create a safe space for dialogues for LGBTQI+ Muslims around the world since 2017. Such is the impact of the project that last year, its project’s founder Rafiul Alom Rahman was appointed to a UN panel on gender equality — the Beijing+25 Youth Task Force.
At ArtAloneTogether, the project will be bringing together Amsterdam-based Sarah Naqvi and Kolkata-based Reya Ahmed, for a conversation “Exploring Queer Muslim Futures and Utopias”. So amid all the art and culture, there will also be some food for thought on the table.
This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.