There are some interesting things going on with Artefacting Mumbai: IMMERSION. First off, if you're like me and you read words instead of saying them, look at that name again: Art-e-facting. The persons behind the Artefacting project combined the words art and artifact, to make a word that sounds like a mid-western mom talking about computer image storage.
The idea behind IMMERSION is that NYC based visual artist/urbanist Alex White Mazzarella, and Portland videographer Casey Nolan spent three months in Dharavi Mumbai, doing art projects with kids and attempting to record what it is like to be inside the slum. Dharavi is world famous for its portrayal in the Danny Boyle film Slumdog Millionaire and for being an increasingly large recycling industry, processing waste from surrounding areas as its main economy.
At first glance the installation comes off as sloppy. The curator's notes are printed on recycled material which bleeds the ink illegibly. Videos of conversations with people from the slum are formatted poorly, the subtitles cropped to unreadability. The minuscule trashheap sculpture looks an awful lot like an art school audio visual project. The whole thing stinks of poverty porn.
But the art exhibition is in the Mercy Corps Action Center lobby and Mercy Corps momma didn't raise no fool. So I try to look again.
During their final weeks in Dharavi, the Artefacting artists discovered a number of large, red wax bullets being recycled in their area. The bullets came from an art installation by renowned Indian artist, Anish Kapoor. In the spirit of the the slum's main economy Mazzarella and Nolan latched onto the idea of recycling these wax-covered cylinders into an art project of their own.
IMMERSION is an attempt at using art to make a record of Artefacting's finished product Artefacting Mubai, an exhibition which drew over 500 people from surrounding areas to observe the recycled pieces that were created using Anish Kapoor's red wax bullets. It is an attempt to break down stigmatization of the region which surrounding locals refer to as, "the black place." Artefacting seems to contend that Dharavi is a thriving, thrilling hub of industry.
Artifacting has just began a run of projects in conjunction within my hometown of Detroit, MI. I'm not sure why my hometown is in the same league as Asia's largest slum but I can only hope Artefacting object is similar in Detroit as well, to explore the joy instead of ruin. Detroit could easily be America's "black place" right now. Although I can't say a lot to Artefacting's originality of location choice, I do approve of their intention.
Artefacting Mumbai: IMMERSION continues to show in the Mercy Corps Action Center through September 25th.