This is a sculpture at a busy and main Mumbai intersection near Mahim and Bandra.
It was installed recently- maybe a year ago and due to its location and size can barely be missed. Yet, to my surprise it elicited little or no interest or comments from the media or even the average citizen (a.k.a. blogs ). Which I find significant because it is almost the first prominent public art display that I have seen in Mumbai.
I concede that the average practical Mumbaite ( me included) does not have much patience to appreciate 'weird stuff'. It is too much at odds with a city culture that places a very high premium on a practical, pragmatic, no-nonsense, make the most of every minute ethos.
And yet, a complete lack of any kind of natural beauty , added to that a lack of any 'bohemian' influence makes the city what it is- a sad, weary, troubled one. No time to stand and stare -slowly it makes us humourless, petty and mean spirited.Urban spaces, or lack of it is more appropriate in a city of Mumbai has seen increasing land grabbing by building and construction industry. While parks and open spaces are under threat and some hobbly- wobbly approach continues in supporting heritage structures; one more aspect of urban spaces as good as dead or non-existent in Mumbai is to do with Art & Culture.
In contrast to it's northern counterpart New Delhi the capital, Mumbai has no Dilli Haat, India Habitat Center, or even an Arts Council (which is really ironic considering Charles Correa lives in Mumbai). Chennai has a Dakshin Chitra, Artist Village, Goa has an annual carnival- I don’t know what Kolkata has – but last I knew the whole city had ‘kolchure’.
Installations, city squares and public spaces - large (or small) open friendly central areas where people can meet, congregate, celebrate, experience art, music and festivities & culture is non-existent. Small, sporadic, scattered efforts are at best just that. The rest are exclusive. While space is a constraint, lack of any public policy is what really distressing - which means there are no guidelines or governing principles.
Music, art, dance, pottery, puppetry, craft? What is that? Fairs, exhibits, exhibitions, carnivals, cirque de soliel?- will only elicit puzzled confused looks from the harried citizens who can barely make it to work and back. Isn’t that for Page 3 people? Public libraries, town halls- you gotta be kidding right?
Compare this to other global cities -which is why this article caught my attention. It speaks on the importance of creating and preserving urban spots where artists and poets converge as critical to growing urban centers. This article that also has a picture of old New York city precinct by Ed Yourdon, my twitter friend who pointed me to it.
So when I see this update on Twitter by someone who lives in New York, I , wonder, will even the next generation in Mumbai ever post a similar update.
If the current situation and state of the city is any indicator then it seems highly unlikely.