11th December 2007

Bangalore City Project
Minutes of the Meeting

Date : November 12, 2007
Time : 7.00 p.m.
Venue : Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan

Present: Evelin Hust; Arun Kotenkar; Geetha Narayan; Chitra Vishwanath; S. Vishwanath; Krupa; Pankaj Murthy; Surekha; Suresh Jayaram; Raghavendra Rao; Prakash Belawadi; Sundar Sarukkai; Umesh Maddanahalli

The idea of a project on public spaces in Bangalore City took root during the World Information City event in 2006. Further impetus came from the Delhi Biennale and then the two architectural exhibitions and seminars that were held recently in Max Mueller Bhavan. All these demonstrated the need for a concerted effort to bring together various players from the fields of urban planning, art and design, architecture, theatre, music, film, history, conservation, ecology etc. in a meaningful dialogue – which would culminate in a strong movement to identify, define, sustain and perpetuate public spaces in the City.

The concept gave rise to questions such as what to do, in what scale, who will do what, and so on. To address these questions, a core group was mooted, comprising select persons from various fields in the so-called “creative class”. This core group would define the conceptual parameters of the project.

Role of Max Mueller Bhavan
Max Mueller Bhavan (MMB) has entered into this project in the role of a neutral mediator, as the Institute itself has no stake in the City and can therefore act in an objective manner. MMB will provide a platform for the groups/organisations/persons involved, offering infrastructural support in terms of venue and hospitality for meetings, seminars etc, PR support and eventually bringing in German expertise if required.

Time frame
MMB is prepared to make an initial 3-year commitment and envisages starting off on a small scale but working up to a Big Bang. This will be an ongoing project with several events a year, located in various parts of the City in rotation, rather than an annual or biannual affair. It will belong to the City, not to any one organisation, and at some point of time the reins would have to be handed over to some other organisation, in case the project is no longer a priority of the Bhavan with change of personnel at the helm.

Max Mueller Bhavan is not in a position to fund or sponsor the project, but corporates and the media could be approached for this purpose. Care should be taken to make this a non-branded project, so that the effect is not diluted by overwhelming advertising presence. Corporates should be made aware of the purpose of the project and are likely to be receptive since both stakeholders and new entrants to the City in the corporate and industrial sector lack the knowledge and perception that would serve to make the City their own.

Target audience
It is a fact that Bangalore is divided in more ways than one – geographically, linguistically, culturally. This project will be an attempt to bridge the divide, bring the so-called elite cultural community and its achievements in contact with the people of Bangalore, and at the same time recognise and promote the many indigenous, highly popular local festivals/art forms and expressions that exist.

Rather than creating a further divide between the two sections of the City, the project should facilitate a dialogue. A major issue is that contemporary art is generally perceived as elitist and alienated. This notion should be addressed. The nature of the art need not be Bangalore/theme specific, but should definitely give the audience the opportunity to engage with living reality and break down communication barriers, to own and inhabit the space. The media is also alienated, in that specific sections of the Press report only on specific events and there is no overall grip on the City and its cultural space.

The target audience encompasses therefore the entire population of Bangalore, as well as tourists and itinerant visitors.

We have public space in the public domain and public space in the private doamin. Data on these, their extent and nature, is lacking. Public spaces need to be identified and defined, not only buildings, but other spaces and attitudes. Some of the more formal public spaces like Cubbon Park, Bal Bhavan, Venkatappa Art Gallery, Ravindra Kalakshetra, Town Hall etc., are controlled by the Government and mired in bureaucratic hassles – one reason why Bangalore artists have not made much headway with interventions in the public space. The project can make it a goal to identify, recognise and claim these spaces for the City.

In this context, Udbhava – an organisation engaged in preservation of heritage spaces – has already made headway in the task of identifying and mapping the public spaces in the City. Several precincts have been identified and these could be used as the foundation for the reach of the project. Events could be organised in these central focal points.

Already in place/Ongoing:
Udbhava as already mentioned, is in the process of mapping the heritage precincts of the City and defining heritage walks. Srishti School has prepared a green map of the City, which could be integrated with the heritage map. Civic is in possession of data on various aspects of urban culture and planning which could be sourced to create a layered picture of the City.

Taking a cue from the 3-day Open House in London, where buildings normally restricted to the general public are thrown open with free entry. Besides observing the routine working of these institutions/organisations, which will serve to de-mystify them in the eyes of the public, special events could be envisaged, specific to the venue:
Film screenings
Mobile/portable exhibitions
Distribution of colour-coded heritage maps would guide the public in the voyage of discovery. Buildings/spaces to be identified could be public buildings, research and educational institutes, studios, galleries etc. Ecological spaces should also be opened up and school/college children involved in the efforts.

City walks with a heritage slant could be organised free of charge or at a very nominal cost, not only for tourists but for the inhabitants of the City.

The localised “Ooru-habbas” could be made accessible to the rest of the city. This however is a sensitive area and needs to be addressed with great care. The presence of an artist with roots in the ooru, like Surekha for eg, could serve to open up the normally closed ooru festivities, creating a conduit for communication.

A web portal could be designed with multi-faceted and multi-media information on Bangalore and its cultural and heritage space.

Immediate action
Pankaj has agreed to set up a blog, where members of the core group can brainstorm ideas for the project.

UAS Krishi Mela: Whoever is interested can visit the annual Krishi Mela at UAS, to witness first hand the organisation and effect of an Open House. Date: November 18th at GKVK Campus, Bellary Road.

Next meeting
It is proposed that the core group meet once in two months, so if everyone is agreeable, the next meeting could be in January 2008.

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