While the popular meaning attached to a scarecrow is that it drives things away, and that it symbolises danger, art and media collective, Maraa, has used them creatively to bring out the multiplicity that exists in Bengaluruâ€™s Cubbon Park.
Breaking the common perception of danger associated with them, these figures of scarecrows established at Venkatappa Art Gallery, emote experiences that people have encountered and experienced over the years. As much as it is about the place, it depicts time, and the transition of space over the years, an inquiry into the nature of change in the park, and what it means to different individuals.
This initiative is a part of Maraaâ€™s month-long annual arts festival called October Jam.
These scarecrows that have been diligently crafted by individuals from various walks of life, using hay, old cloth and other waste material, communicate diverse experiences of Cubbon Park.
Shruthi Menon, one of the members of the organisation believes that in the process of making the figures, people start embedding their own emotions and stories in them. So when someone is making a body, they create it in a way, that they are creating their own self.
Maariah is an 18-year-old boy, who sells paper windmills and balloons at the park. He was forced to discontinue his education in order to support his family. While making his creation, he put everything of his choice into it.
"It's a very strange experience when one is making a body. When they are in the process, they invest so much of emotions into it, that they eventually become very possessive and protective about it. And for us, all of them are individuals with an identity, and not scarecrows," says Menon.
The exhibits are all emoting various narratives collected over the course of a month. Kanchana, once a Hijra sex-worker, is now the head of the community. For the members of the association, it was important to get the stories out, as they are reflective of a diverse culture, and are all doing well.
The exhibition also has on display mannequins, as representative figures, that symbolise "the gaze" in the park. Talking about the similarity of these figures with CCTV cameras installed in the park, Menon said, "It is important to keep watch but for some, it can be obtrusive as a constant vigil is kept on their movements."
Due to commercialisation of the space, various small vendors, and individuals are not allowed in the space, yet they come back. It is like, "Their existence is itself a resistance. The idea is not about preservation, it is not about development, it is about things that are happening right now," she added.
One of the exhibits has the body of a human, with the face of a horse. Angarika Guha, another member said, "In the process of making the structure, the authorities time and again interfered, and stood as a hurdle. Having worked on the same figure several times, the team decided to replace the face with that of a horse. Since, a horse holds a different meaning for different people, it was left to interpretation."
The team believes that arts in the public space can be free of the burden of competing agendas. Through this exhibition, the artists were able to depict their creations in a way that breaks the barrier prevailing otherwise.
(All photographs by Arundhati Sarkar)