By Sukant Deepak
May 3, 2023 (IANSlife) Delhi-based artist duo Jitin Thukral and Sumir Tagra, who incorporate painting, archiving, gaming, and publishing to engage with the socio-cultural and political landscape of India and beyond, recently designed a digital installation, ‘Mumbai Rising’, at the new flagship Apple store at BKC that allows people to participate and create their own works.
The goal of the installation is to create a space where visitors can share their ideas about a dynamic, and growing city. The artists say they wanted to ensure that ‘Mumbai Rising’ provides an interactive and engaging experience that encourages collaboration and inspires creativity.
“The focus had to be on showcasing the city’s energy, momentum, community and connection. The final design should incorporate innovation and a user-friendly interface to ensure a seamless and enjoyable experience for all participants — that was the brief we received,” they tell IANS.
While their focus has always been on using technology to create unique experiences that inspire audiences to think outside the box, for this project, they wanted to create a safe and inclusive space where people could share their ideas and perspectives on the city.
“We envision an installation that encourages exploration and allows thousands of people to contribute their own unique expressions. The installation has been built around eight prompts that are centred around emotions, paradise, dreams, song, rain, speed, kaali peeli, and Bombay. These prompts will serve as a poetic narrative that invites visitors to collectively explore and define the city we call home,” says Tagra.
Adding that their goal is to create an interactive and collaborative experience that celebrates the diversity and energy of the city while fostering a sense of connection and community, Thukral says, “To achieve this, we used innovative technology and design an intuitive user interface to ensure that visitors can easily engage with the installation and share their ideas in a meaningful way.”
The project required a high-speed interaction between the user and the algorithm, to generate unique imagery based on the user’s inputs. The user experience is critical to the success of the installation. Thukral says their goal was to create an interface that seamlessly integrates aesthetics and functionality, allowing users to interact with the installation in a way that is both engaging and visually satisfying.
To achieve this, they used cutting-edge technology to create a responsive interface that is both fast and reliable. “We partnered with creative coder, Kiel M, to help us develop an engine. Overall, our aim was to create an installation that meets the highest standards of aesthetics and functionality, while also delivering a truly memorable and engaging user experience,” says Thukral.
Stressing that they choose projects that allow them to get outside their comfort zones and which offer something new to learn, Tagra asserts, “We like to push our understanding. We try different mediums to expand the scope of what art can do. it’s a deep dive sometimes the results are extremely satisfying.”
Commenting on a wide array of themes — consumerism, GST, water woes, farmers’ distress, the duo belongs to a select group of artists not holding back when commenting on the contemporary social and political scenario.
Thukral believes art is a powerful marker of time, reflecting the social, cultural, and political context in which it is created. “As artists, must respond to the world around us and engage with the issues and concerns of our time. We come from humble middle-class backgrounds and have always believed in staying grounded by connecting with grassroots-level projects. We understand the importance of engaging with the communities that inspire our work, and we believe that it is through these connections that we can create art that is meaningful and impactful.”
Adding that they recognise that times are changing and that their ways of working must evolve to stay relevant and effective, Tagra believes it is essential to be part of the system to bring about meaningful change. “And we are committed to using our art to challenge the status quo. Ultimately, we see our work as a way of connecting with others, sparking dialogue and engagement, and of inspiring people to see the world in a new and exciting way.”
The project with Apple also took them back to their archives where they revisited their work of the past two decades.
The duo says it was exciting to draw on their own archive of artworks as a starting point for the installation as the same contains a wealth of fragments and pieces that we have carefully researched and built up over the years, each one capturing a different aspect of the city of Mumbai and its many layers.
From the basalt rock that forms the bedrock of the city, to the species found in Rani Bagh botanical gardens, to the works based on speculation and dreams, their archives boasted of a broad and diverse range of inspiration for this project. “By combining these elements in new and unexpected ways, we hope to bring a sense of wonder and excitement to the city on the move, inspiring visitors to see it with fresh eyes and engage with its many facets,” says Thukral.
Tagra adds that every time they delve into their archives, they are struck by the overwhelming sense of history and reverie that it contains. “It is a living record of the city’s past, present, and future, and we are honoured to have the opportunity to draw on it to create something truly unique and special. We believe that by sharing our archive with visitors, we can open up new possibilities for dialogue, engagement, and understanding, and we look forward to seeing the many ways in which it will inspire and inform this project.”
For them, it has always been fascinating to create a work that gets ‘completed’ when it is inhabited or activated in some way. Their latest installation explores the idea of creating a ‘song’ that can only be heard when the space is inhabited or engaged with by visitors.
“The concept of this work is based on the idea that sound is not just something that we hear, but something that we feel and experience. By creating a space that is designed to be activated by visitors, we hope to create a rich and immersive sensory experience that captures the essence of the city on the move,” say the duo who is also working on new gameplays, another book and researching for a new show at Sharjah later this year.