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The HAT Project 2006/07 is supporting 20 exchange fellowships between England, South Asia and Australia

Sumedh Rajendran

Residency at Manchester Metropolitan University


Exploring material incompatibility in the age of social amnesia

BREAD- LEAVENED and UNLEAVENED is envisaged as a practice-led project aimed at examining the dialectical conflicts that surround us. As an aesthetic investigation, it seeks to go beyond the obvious political and social conflicts that are being played out around the world and explore underneath the skin — of both individuals and materials.

Through my oeuvre of works, I have always sought to address this conflict or incompatibility — between social values and their justifications, the organic and the fabricated, and the sacred and the profane and how these eternal conflicts, through a chain of dialectical processes, end up redefining the way we live and the way we think.
Craft, by its very definition, is linked to tradition and thus, history. Having born in a country like India where tradition and modernity has been linked, and at times, shaped by a centuries old colonial past, where the deeply traditional has been irrevocably influenced by the colonial structures, it’s been my curiosity to find out how this has affected life in turn. That is, when your own backyard craft, passed through generations, which you claim to be your own, on close observation, hints at a very strong colonial influence. My effort has been to decode this conflict through facilitating a coming together of these two seemingly disparate elements: the traditional craft and the new urban material milieu.

It would be pertinent to say here that a bulk of my works have been executed with iron or leather, two age-old but eternally contemporary mediums. I have put to use an aesthetic of ‘work-in-pieces’ that potentialise the use of the ‘disembodied body’ juxtaposed with an architectural fragment to make a statement. By doing this, I have tried to break out from the sculptural traditions, whether it be ancient or post-modern. The idea is to leave behind the old ways and forge a new assembly of function where each material — stained ceramic tile, a common sight in public spaces in India, is of particular interest — put to use comes with its own cultural and contemporary narrative.

By venturing to do so, artists like me, who also have an ancestral background in craft-making, are presented with a potent medium that blends a modern academic background with the lineages of traditional image-making and contextual framing.

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Sumedh Rajendran talks to conference during cHAT week at Sanskriti, Delhi, India. March 2007