A Project Supported by the PGP 1980 Batch

Why Art on the Campus

Art has the unique power to arouse an entire gamut of emotions - from delight at its beauty and creativity, to awe at its imagination, size and scale, to reverence at its godliness, to dismay at its exposure of uncomfortable truths, and indeed to inspire multi-layered feelings that can sometimes be too complex to describe in words. Art speaks not only to our senses, but at its best, great art speaks directly to our souls.

Art is integral to the spiritual development of the individual. Yet, despite its central role in the development of Indian civilization, for a variety of historical reasons, the study of art rarely finds a place in mainstream Indian higher education.

India has been blessed with numerous forms of tribal, folk, and cultural art - there are more than 40 genres of traditional art. Most of us are not aware of this rich legacy and the importance of art to our culture and the livelihoods of those that create them. Time we gave these art forms centre stage!

The goal of the PGP80 Art@IIMA Project is to populate the sprawling IIMA Campus with art in a manner that not only beautifies the Complex and elevates the spirit but also becomes the starting point for pedagogical enquiry appropriate to an Institute of Management. Appreciating the "benefits" of being surrounded by art can open the student's mind not only to culture, but also to a better understanding of the whole category of luxury and experiential goods and services. Finally, art has the unique characteristic of being simultaneously appreciated ("consumed") by the many - just like any commons - without the pleasure ("consumption") of one person interfering with another. Surely the study of art/creativity in an economic context, art as an uber luxury business, art as an asset class, art for tourism, etc., are all subjects worthy of study at IIMA.

The PGP80 Batch

We, the PGP80 Batch have for long desired to give back in a meaningful way to WIMWI (for those uninitiated into the mysteries of IIMA, WIMWI stands for Well-known Institute of Management in Western India, a code for IIMA), that gave us so much in memories, friendships and of course our careers. Our goal was always to engage with the alma mater around ideas that were large enough, unique enough, original enough and value-added enough. In the PGP80 Art@IIMA Project we found one such idea. This unique contribution to beautify the Campus (and draw pedagogical attention to art as an industry/asset class) will not only serve as a well-deserved legacy to and from our batch, but also, we hope, inspire other batches to make their own contributions to the institute in the realm of art.

Two members of the 1980 batch - Rajiv Chaudhri and Vipul Jain, who are also art lovers - came together to create this unique possibility and motivated the rest of the batch to join hands and raise funds to create art for the new campus. The batch has raised Rupees 1.1 crore for the first phase of the project, and efforts are underway to raise more funds for the next phase. Rajiv and Vipul engaged with the institute which set up a steering committee (with the two batch-mates, Professors Vijaya Sherry Chand and Prashant Das, and the Dean of Alumni and External Relations as members) to design and execute the project. From inception to conclusion, the project took about nine months; the first meeting of the steering committee was held on November 7, 2022.

The committee invited Baaya Design to conceptualize the approach and to execute the art. Baaya is a leading experiential design studio that uses art and artefacts to give new meaning to spaces and create special experiences for users. Founded by NID alumna, Shibani Dasgupta Jain, Baaya specializes in bespoke projects for the hospitality industry, corporates and luxury residences, leveraging artists from across the country.

- The steering committee gave Baaya some initial guidelines:
- Thematic: The art must be designed with a central theme - each piece must be unique and designed for this project, not generically curated. - Longevity: The artworks must be durable, and continue to be relevant for a long time. - Cultural roots: The contents must be inspired by Indian, including Gujarati, cultural art, iconography and values wherever possible. - Intellectual: The art must be thought provoking, and not simply showcase glory. - Contextual: The installations must reflect the IIMA brand and what it stands for. - Noteworthy: The displays must have scale and impact.

Conceptual Direction
Art is subject to multiple, even opposing interpretations. While the artist has agency in deciding what s/he is creating and how they are expressing themselves, there is always substantial space for observers to register their own subjective responses which may be different from the artists' and from each other's. As you look at these works of art, remember that your own interpretation/response is the most important one.

The Theme - What does the future hold?
The chosen theme for the art installations is 'gazing into the future'. What does it hold for us as a nation, and as inhabitants of a planet? With this theme, we look at 'futurescapes'- what will be the nature of our external world in approximately 25-30 years? Can we draw up scenarios around urban growth, sustainability, environment, automation, technology, culture, social interactions? Can we artistically speculate on and interpret these scenarios?

Multiple approaches to the design process were discussed over a series of meetings. What emerged was the methodology of speculative design to create a 'futurescape' for India, using the lens of IIMA's core values and identity.

An in-depth study of future directions was conducted by Baaya Design. This research yielded many different possibilities - both utopian and dystopian.

On the positive side the use of renewable energy (like wind, wave and solar energy) gives hope to humankind. Many advancements will be seen in eradication of hunger, and the use of sustainable materials, and the circular economy to do away with the very notion of "waste".

There will be massive shifts in technology, biotechnology, infrastructure, transport and medicine. Artificial intelligence will combine with biological humans to create superhumans, who may have bionic arms and legs, eyes and hearts, and super brains. Humans can choose to live many lives through cloning. There will be flying cars, super-fast connective corridors, smart homes, robotic assistants and pets, super garments that protect from heat and cold or give super strength.

On the darker side there will be decline in natural habitats, and in variety of species. The earth will be uncomfortably hot and cold, oceans will face depletion of resources, garbage and plastic pile ups may endanger the soil. Man will have to stay indoors increasingly and be wired virtually with robots as their primary friends. Biological wars may be fought. Humans will have to face the prospect of mental trauma, isolation, and separation from nature and personal relationships. They may face a rapid loss of older, familiar ways of life.

In Utopia there may be loneliness. In Dystopia there may be community.

And then there is this: Could Utopia and Dystopia really be two sides of the same coin?

The Art on display - Phase I
Nine works of art are displayed in the International Management Development Centre, New Campus, IIMA, and one sculpture will be installed soon. The first four depict interpretations of imagined 'futurescapes', with the translation of the visualization into works of art facilitated by Baaya Design Studio, Mumbai. Art works 5 to 9 are stories from national-award-winning artists These five artworks were created by national-award-winning cultural artists. Baaya Design discussed the conceptual theme with these artists and offered visual references.

More to come! Phase II art is planned to be completed in the next few months and will feature an iconic outdoor sculpture and some more thought provoking art. Stay tuned for details!

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