Samooha at Kochi Muziris Biennale 2016
Samooha is an informal, interdisciplinary artist collective of individuals drawn from the worlds of architecture, activism and anthropology. The name simply means "collective" in many Indian languages. I am one of the founders of this group along with two activists from Sathenagar, Mumbai which is my primary field research site and four architects, based in Mumbai and Ahmedabad. Samooha's composition is fluid and its network open to allow individual practitioners to circulate in and out of the group as they choose.
Connected to each other through work and friendship, Samooha came together in 2016 to explore the relationship between urban housing infrastructure, cultural identity and new visions of inclusion in the diverse, hierarchical and agonistic contexts of Indian cities. We focus on the artistic potential of three practices vital to the cultures fostered within informal communities in Indian cities - self-reliance, self-making and self-building.
Samooha's first project is On Stage: Sathenagar Here, a large interactive architectural installation, specially created for the 3rd edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, 2016.
For the duration of the biennale, our temporary construction in bamboo occupied the entire length of a 60 meter public access lane leading from a main thoroughfare to the seafront promenade in Fort Kochi. Nestled between David Hall and Aspinwall Compound, two the Biennale's main exhibition sites, On Stage was conceived as a multi-disciplinary artistic project combining architecture, video, photography and performance in an interactive installation setting. The bamboo structure recalls the spatial conditions observed at Sathenagar, a large informal settlement in Mumbai named after the celebrated Marathi Dalit writer, poet and social activist Annabhau Sathe. The site is held together by the work of visual and performance artists from Sathenagar, produced in collaboration with Samooha.
For our next work, we will collaborate with the Ghana Think Tank to set up a Sathenagar Think Tank in Mumbai as well as an arts center in Sathenagar to bringing internationally exhibited gallery artists as well as Sathenagar's homegrown artists to show their work in at the center Sathenagar.