Bhubaneswar Art Trail
October/November/December 2018
Arnika Ahldag

Alternative proposals to Future Bhubaneswars, 8 sets of printed text/photos, 2018
When futurity collapses into contemporaneity, single channel video, 22 min, 2018

“Nobody really is from Bhubaneswar” a young student from Bhubaneswar told me when I had just started asking around what the city is like. He hinted the city’s relatively short modern history, having been established just after Independence. Bhubaneswar became one of the fastest developing cities in India and the “best city to do business in India” according to the World Bank rating of 2014. Bhubaneswar became smart. The city already seems to be what India’s future should be like and therefore becomes the test bed for data collection.

When futurity collapses into contemporaneity seeks to juxtapose the history and structures that have made contemporary India and the future that is being modelled upon its cities. It addresses questions of exclusion of communities that are not the supposedly “customers as residents” of what the city as a gated community could be.

Bhubaneswar has been built by many, by the bureaucrats, the migrant workers, the IT employees and now the smart city mission. Alternative proposals to future Bhubaneswars are fictionalised proposals to alternative dreams and aspirations for the city.

The Space
The former tea shop is on private property, owned by a local family but also offers public access opening up to one of the main roads of the old town. Yet the business never showed success and had to shut down, due to a lack of customers. The tea shop or kiosk is a site of knowledge exchange, gossip, information, short time dwellers. It can be seen as an archive of undocumented stories. Instead of the chatter of tea drinkers, this kiosk will host a video work and a print work of text and photography, 8 sets in 500 copies each for people to take away.

The video When futurity collapses into contemporaneity stars Meera and Antarin. Meera, a local leader of the transgender community, a celebrity and Padmashree nominee is applying make up on Antarin, an expert on Urban Development. He is talking about the future of the city, smart societies, simulation of life, computability of living, disaster aesthetics, speculative optimism vs possible urban collapse, technical gadgets. While Antrain is speaking Meera is performing an act of care on Antarin, the modeller of the future. As he is speaking of the layers of how cities are build and society is shaped, she is applying symbolically applying layers of the female/queer future on him, without speaking. Right in the end, she picks up from where Antarin has finished and tells him how her community, senior citizens and sex workers find themselves in a city that is not built for them and how they are fighting for their space. So whose city of the future are we really building?

The text/photography work Alternative proposals to Future Bhubaneswars came out of conversations with people I met in Bhubaneswar. Among them the Sarah Habersack - Smart City Mission, Maa Kochulai Market Management - who have been trying to claim their right to property since 16 years, Adi and Vipul - who work in the development sector, Aadish Nargunde - a smart architect, Jeevan Nair - a soldier and publisher of a magazine written by student journalists, Anant Mohapatra - Intach, Bhubaneswar Chapter, Ileana Citaristi - an Italian Orissi Dancer. From these conversations I wrote 8 fictionalised proposals to what Bhubaneswar could be in the future - to reject, to discuss, to take home.

Keeping the audience in mind I hope that different people can relate to the material in various ways. Locals will get an idea about the different layers of the city they inhabit, others might relate to the conflicts between public/private, public/community, gossip, fiction and fact - which in itself is for me what a Kiosk represents.

Password: development