November 9, 2020

Vikram Iyengar

Vikram Iyengar #3

How can artists who have never met in person create something deeply felt and meaningful? How can one create connections separated by seas and borders and patchy internet connections? This was the challenge before us as we started work with our excellent cast of actors, dancers, and performers for the Multitude of Drops at the Buffer Fringe Arts Festival 2020.

Art transcends divides, we are told, and believe. And we see this happen as the three of us from India meet with our Cypriot friends twice a week to share and respond to text and image, visual and song, rhythm and beat, and feeling and impulse, in order to co-create a piece about climate change, experienced and expressed in water, that is grounded in social and individual experience.

There are a number of things that have to be taken into consideration: mobility, and availability. The three of us in India are, happily, in the same city, so it is easy for us to meet even as we must co-ordinate who can work in Nicosia, and who can work in Limassol. There are occasional nerve-wracking challenges: like time-zone changes. As Cyprus gains an hour (suddenly and unexpectedly), the time distance between us in India and our friends in Cyprus increases. We fret why our friends are late, and almost give up in despair, when one of them turns up with a reassuring smile.

We proceed with our work. On the first day of our twice-a-week meetings, we pair or group artists with artists and groups of artists with texts and impulses. This grouping is experimental, although it is bounded by who can be in which part of Cyprus at what time. We share ideas, and then discuss these impulses. On the second day of our twice-a-week meetings, we regroup to briefly nurture these ideas, and then separate into physical and virtual breakout rooms. After sharing an impulse such as this:

Matla’ means ‘mad’ in Bangla – and everyone who knows the river knows also that this name has not been lightly earned. But those English town planners were busy men, who had little time for words and names. Oh, it was to be a grand place, this new capital on the banks of the mad Matla – it would lack for nothing. The Matla waited one year and then one more and yet another until five long years had gone by. And then one day, in the year 1867, it rose as if to a challenge and hurled itself upon Canning. In a matter of hours the town was all but gone, only the bleached skeleton remained.
– ‘The Hungry Tide’, Amitav Ghosh


Our artists play with their impulses, and they return with movement or speech or performance such as this:


Or we share an impulse such as this:

The mesh of our roots catches silt, mud, debris from the water flowing by, stabilising the ground on which we have grown. In this way, we build the land, we earth the islands. And this construction presents a breaker to the semi-diurnal tide. With varying force the tides come knocking; we mangroves meet them, and send them away – baffled.
– ‘Breath Carriers’, Vicky Long


And we are returned with this:


We observe, we watch, we create, we share, we discuss, we learn, and we create. Over the month and a half that we have been meeting, we have learnt much about each other, and we look forward to our next interaction as we create a tapestry of fragments that carry stories about the Sundarbans and about the Pedieos. In this way, art brings us closer together, and something beautiful emerges even from threat and destruction.


Art transcends divides, we are told. And so it is.

– Lav Kanoi and Vikram Iyengar