The highway leading in and out of Panjim—National Highway no.17 or ironically renamed route 66—with its many branches of flyovers and exit roads, has created the impression that we might as well be getting ready for war. It is not an easy relationship to concrete that the world has inherited since World War II when the need of the time was low cost, quick-fix, prefabricated housing.
Goa is quickly running out of dredged sand to sustain the supply of concrete, causing environmental havoc; in sharp contrast to the romance of coastal lyrical drives and country roads with the old charm of traditional dwellings and rural simplicity and the carpet of green and blue that the eyes can rest on. Did we not anticipate the heat and carbon particles created by more commuter cars and vehicles for construction, dust flying about with all the trucks plying over the unfinished highway, piles of concrete building blocks, heavy weight scaffolding strewn about, and the unhygienic working and living conditions for the migrant road workers?
The new-bridge to Panjim is finally complete. During the 2016 edition of the Festival, we saw it half-built and we witnessed the process in wonder and with a faint anxiety at how it would impact our daily lives and common vista. The life and history of Goa is forever changed. No longer is it a paradise; this is a cause of intense anxiety and before us is being laid the foundations of a completely dystopian future.
That people have always related to Goa as a place of relaxation, tranquility and letting-loose will have to be re-negotiated. Relationships, social hierarchies, Corporate India, advertising billboards, coal dust and IT companies, will have to be negotiated. The question is, are there any new designs and constructions for a critical-pedagogy that empowers? And, how might we bring a little humor to the heavyweight grey, since, We, the people, were not asked, we were assumed.
This brings us back to questions quite simply around—survival, and the dichotomy between time lapsed and time moving forward. And so, the historical site of the old Goa Institute of Management, across from the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, on the Mandovi river-front in Ribandar, forms the impetus of this proposal for the performance section of the Festival. The site has been through multiple iterations through time. With its origins as the maternity wing of the GIM, in circa 1600, where generations of Goans were born, to being annexed by the Indian Union, after Goa’s liberation in 1961, when the building was further transformed into a space for education; bringing us to its current iteration—a jot in history as a station for artistic and cultural exchange. Positioning this concrete ‘archive’, if you will, this post-colonial structure, in the larger more dystopian architectural landscape of Goa, is our entry point into Concrete Skies, HH Art Spaces’ intervention for Serendipity Arts Festival, 2019. The more complex transitions that have burgeoned around this heritage building, from the temporal strain of the tourism industry, to the unabashed plough of real estate and iron ore mining, allow a didactic discourse to emerge, through these performances. This site as a cultural pressure point could be activated and converted by artists and cultural practitioners into a node and focal point of negotiation, renovation and creative invention allowing for a vibrant living cosmos during the days of the festival and perhaps beyond.
Image by Shivani Gupta for HH Art Spaces.
Transfiguration by Oliver de Sagazan supported by: