September 3, 2020

Vikram Iyengar

Intro Post- Vikram Iyengar

In this blog we will be sharing our artistic journey on this project with our readers. Our objective is to make three-four posts over the next three months:
● 4th week of September
● 3rd week of October
● 2nd week of November

We will share snippets of our creative process and intercultural engagement with our Cypriot collaborators, as well as some content relating to our project. We encourage creative and scholarly use of our posts and ideas with acknowledgements (please credit A Multitude of Drops I Ranan India & Buffer Fringe Festival, Cyprus). Commercial use may only be made after explicit permission from both Ranan, India and Buffer Fringe Festival, Cyprus. Thank you for your understanding.

A small team comprising of Maria Hadjimichael, Vikram Iyengar, Lav Kanoi, and Vicky Long have met a few times over the last few weeks to share ideas, stories, history, and context in preparation for A Multitude of Drops at the Buffer Fringe Arts Festival. In this first post, we also share some reflections from our meetings with our Thinking Partner (Maria Hadjimichael and Klitos Papastylianou). A number of evocative impulses (distinctive to each location, but containing also common or resonant aspects across different places in India and Cyprus) have emerged from these discussions. We intend to weave these impulses with other stories and experiences that our artists will bring to the table as well.

The Buffer Zone
One such impulse is the buffer zone itself, where this festival will be hosted. This UN-administered buffer zone separates the northern part of the island, which is administered by the Turkish Cypriot Administration from the southern part which is under the Republic of Cyprus,
and marks the separation of human from human because of a history of violent conflict. Furthermore, and ironically, as human use of land spaces in the buffer zone has become limited, nature has thrived. If one of the outcomes of war and human conflict is destruction and environmental destruction, in this case, the afterlife of conflict has led to a strange and ambiguous revival of nature. Is there a larger story here for all humankind? Is suffering anti-nature? On the other hand, In the Indic context, to the south and east of Kolkata there is a buffer zone of a different kind. This is not a man-made demilitarized space, but a unique natural mangrove forest that protects human civilization from the vagaries of the ocean and the tidal river delta, even while life and nature thrive in the intermediating region.

Figure 1: mangroves on Sagar Island, south Bengal Pic credit: Ranan


The Commons
A second impulse, perhaps worth mentioning here, is that of the commons. Who owns the commons, who belongs in it? Who defines the commons and subjects it to what uses? Does unregulated use of the commons always lead to tragic outcomes? How might we think of the urban commons, and its interdependencies with nature and with history and heritage, both of which can be seen in terms of the commons. When the Pedieos river flooded recently (itself a consequence of human interference and mismanagement of natural flow regimes) it not only submerged much of the old city, it also damaged a centuries-old piano. Who will play music on those strings now? Whose music is lost?

Figure 2: broken piano in European villa – click image for hyperlink


The river, itself, is a commons – but has also been displaced and marginalised by successive human interventions. Is it staking a claim to its original and organic flow?

This piece will trace the ebbs and flows of these experiences in Cyprus and in India, grounded in the movement and metaphor of water – withdrawing to reveal bicommunal spaces, expanding to reveal spaces of nature, extending to cover human loss and human love and disappearing to leave us with our barren (or fertile?) histories.

Lav Kanoi and Vikram Iyengar