Traditions that don't move forward are excess baggage: Curator Pramod Kumar KG

Panjim, Dec 22 (PTI) Curator Pramod Kumar KG believes that art and craft traditions that have not reinvented themselves to become relevant for the contemporary times, are nothing but 'excess baggage'.

It was no surprise then that his latest show, an exhibition of Jamdani works at the Serendipity Arts Festival here, looked at exploring the possibilities of contemporary innovation with the traditional Bengali weaving technique.

Titled 'Weftscapes: Jamdani Across New Horizons', the exhibition examines a fresh approach to the creation and making of Jamdani fabrics, both in its weaving, choice of raw materials, patterns, designs and the end-product — a finished garment.

It features 20 off-the-loom robes that showcase what could happen if the extra weft that is traditionally used to create the quintessential decorative pattern in Jamdani is substituted with different materials.

'I call traditional pieces which haven't moved forward excess baggage. In the 21st century, I, as a curator, am not interested in the past scene. I just think we place too much premium on tradition and cultural baggage.

'We have a very rich past and got a fantastic cultural patrimony, but we cannot stop just by basking in that. We need to take it forward, make it relevant for the 21st century, and relevance in the 21st century does not mean patterns alone, it does not mean designs alone. It means far more technical innovations,' Pramod, who curated the show told PTI.

In the exhibits, created by Kolkata-based artist Bapadittya Biswas, who has been engaging with the Jamdani technique for the last two decades, the extra weft is replaced by an array of materials ranging from wool, sequins, and chiffon to copper bullion wires.

This, Pramod said, opened up possibilities for jamdani, to be seen as more than just a decorative technique, perhaps as a 'site for innovations'.

For instance, the exhibit inlaid with copper bullion is significantly heavier than the traditionally 'ethereal ephemeral jamdani'.

'Can this not be an innovation for fireman's clothes, or any other kind of a protective wear? Why are we looking at textile traditions from the past only as patterns and designs going forward can we look at them as something new?' the co-founder of Eka Archiving Services, said.

It is however, not an attempt to revive the technique. It is, Pramod said, a 'scientific experiment'.

'This is a scientific experiment, an experiment of the handloom process and taking it forward in the 21st century in a newer light, in a newer way. It is really coming to the fact of the matter that what is tradition if it cannot be relevant to us now.

'This is something that needs to be done with almost every craft form in India, not necessarily the textiles alone. Every craft form needs to undergo this kind of transformation,' he said.

While Pramod, also the founder-director of the Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing at Jaipur, admitted he would want to do similar experiments with other traditional weaves of India too, but added that finding a practitioner who knew the subject very well was a challenge.

'I would need people working with the weave to be part of the journey. It cannot be me imposing as a curator and pushing an idea alone.

'It also needs to be with practitioners who know their subject very well. Unfortunately sometimes the word designer is restricted to someone who can just make a pattern but doesn't really understand the process. Only practitioners can take it forward, designers alone can’t,' he said.

He also asserted that exploring innovation ideas with a traditional technique did not render the original textile weave irrelevant.

'All of these 20 pieces of garments will still be made of the Jamdani technique, so Jamdani in its purity is being 100 per cent maintained. The decorative aspect of it will always be wanted, it is a celebrated textile. I don't see people not wanting to wear it at all but we are saying that that is not the way.

'It's to limit Jamdani by sticking to that palette alone. Unless we move it to these relevances the meaning of jamdani is lost. It will just remain excess baggage,' he said. PTI TRS MAH MAH