It is said that Kolkata is a city with a soul. But where does that soul come from? It has been built by the people in the city; our culture, our way of life and our tiny little nuances that shape who we are and what our city is like. And all of this comes from the constant flow of social interactions that is much loved and appreciated in Kolkata.
But in the last couple of decades, the millennial culture has somewhat changed the way we do all of these things, even in Kolkata. Starting from the language that is used to the way it is used and the medium it is communicated through, everything has changed. And to an extent, one might say that the 90s kids have become more socially disconnected than any other generation.
However, the culture that the millennial generation created for themselves thrives, as if in a secret underground network, hidden from people who don’t identify with it. And like all cultures, this one too has several points at which everyone can converge and find common ground.
It is this concept that Shreya Dutta and Utpal Dutta explore in their recent exhibition/installation, Let’s Build Together. Using the Chemould Gallery space at Park Street, they created an interactive installation and exhibition. Shreya created a set of images and words printed on post cards shaped like puzzle pieces. The audience was invited to associate the cards to whatever they found relevant and create blocks of what Kolkata’s culture meant to them.
This was the centrepiece of the exhibition.
There were several “blocks of Kolkata culture”, which were created by people viewing the exhibition. These association blocks are a way to find common ground among different people’s way of life, said Shreya, who conceptualised this installation as part of her final year research project at PEARL Academy, Mumbai.
“So, everyone starts feeling alienated today and disconnected and they don’t know if they should interact or not; and they prefer not to go into that realm at all. When you come to this installation you’ll understand that it’s an invite. That no matter who you are and what your choices are; your way of life has a way of interacting with other people’s way of life,” said Shreya.
The inspiration came when she moved to Mumbai from Kolkata. She said, “There was this sense that I couldn’t connect to people. And then there was this need to belong.”Born out of this was the idea for this installation.
She said that if anyone coming into Bengal can just connect to one word or photo, essentially one part of the culture in Kolkata, then the project would have achieved its goal.
In addition to the centrepiece, a large section of the walls are dedicated to photographs by Utpal. These are depictions of intimate everyday moment that make up the spirit of Kolkata. Most of these photos are from the streets. The photographs have a very documentary rawness to them, complementing the centrepiece quite nicely.
There is also a wall dedicated to photographs by Shreya. These photos, however, are much more bold and brave. Technically, they are much more experimental and result in the creation of some exquisite scenes of the city.