Post by Tapan Mittal-Deshpande, Conservation Architect, TMD Mumbai
Local Team for Principal Artist & Scenographer,
Rajeev Sethi, Jaya He, GVK New Museum scenographer often said, ‘every design has three stages: imagination, execution and between them – hallucination’… This in-between phase of the Art program at Jaya He, GVK New Museum, Mumbai was like watching a time-lapse film, fading in and out of numerous scenes in varied locations, incredibly animated. Everyone involved in their own professional backgrounds portrayed their own imaginings inspiring arguably the country’s largest public art initiative and India’s largest Museum, encompassing a total area of more than one lakh sq ft.
Envisioned as the ‘New Museum of the 21st century’, Jaye He was conceived as a ‘New Gateway’ to Mumbai and to India as a whole. It has three distinct parts . the first is in the arrivals corridor, consisting of a series of commissioned artworks along the travellators that map the city as ‘Layered Narratives’. The second section ‘Thresholds of India’ is a wall running like a central curvilinear spine, sky-lit and designed to direct and control circulation of passengers through the terminal, with a third in the baggage claim area named ‘Baggage Acclaimed’
The underlying theme, not only marks and celebrates every rite of passage in travel but is a journey bringing together art, architecture and science in its most imaginative forms extending into the public realm. An exhaustive expedition throughout the country for procuring artefacts captured multiple forms symbolic of ancient mythology, historic architecture, community based life styles, performing arts and derived cultural practices not restricted to material or scale. Approximately 5000 historic systems illustrated as sentinels of architectural spaces like facades, mandapas, jharokhas, arches, canopies, pillars, gables, totems, ceilings, doorways, windows, shrines, vaahanas, dwarpalas, god figures, santhal panels,yali figures, toranas, masks, khadaus, wheels, trunks, lamps, chariots and other sculptural motifs became the context of the Museum around which the creative narrative is woven.
These artefacts were positioned and juxtaposed with each other to create a representative and meaningful story line. Reassembly of certain ensembles involved more than 100 parts numbered and re assembled with efficient joinery systems by the craftsmen from their specific region of origin. The collection offered a complete range of materials never to be seen collectively in one location before, nor conserved by any art conservator alone.
Designed as a site specific creative intervention, with no artefacts set within niches nor ready made paintings bought to hang on the wall, this led to innovation and application of new details for fixing, finishing, surface textures, and pre-fabrication technologies within restricted zones of construction. Every artefact was studied to develop contextual settings, and inter-woven with narratives through different schools of art spread across the country to create a seamless narrative merging the foreground with the background.
With only 200 days for site execution with a team of varied skilled workforce, Jaya He is a first of its kind installation with layers of adaptations to cater to stringent safety rules, limited budgetary resources, first experience to handle
traditional artefacts and large-scale art works. Very close coordination was required between the artists and site contractors to create precise frameworks for holding the structure of the particular artwork. Bringing together a set
of core disciplines, reinforced that this art program was only a beginning towards setting the arena for interdisciplinary dialogue away from individual zones of comfort. The art program has eventually moved into a zone
beyond just forms of expression, it has become the means of expression and the reason for collective ownership constantly merging identities and cultures.