BlowUp Bombay: The Film

November 6, 2010 § Leave a comment


BlowUp in Bombay from lenskap on Vimeo.

While we were away last month, Blindboys’ website went back online with a redesign and new content, including this video about their BlowUp in Bombay earlier this year. Thanks again guys!

Hello, Mr Mahajan

June 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

When we worked on the Blindboys Wideyed and BlowUp Bombay exhibitions, everything was arranged by email. So when I called Akshay earlier in the week to arrange to meet him off the train from London at Newcastle station, it was the first time I’d ever spoken to him.

“And how will I recognise you, when in most of the photos of you I’ve seen you have a traffic cone on your head?”

But then, there he was.

We all really enjoyed meeting you Akshay. Thanks for taking the time to pop by!

BlowUp Bombay

June 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

So… On 22nd May, Blindboys’ epic street exhibition, ‘BlowUp Bombay’, took place.

And here’s a round up of some of the things we’ve found about it online. Follow the links to read the full texts and see more images.

“Life is on display on the street — people walk, sit, stand, sleep, drive, drink, eat, piss, talk, mingle, fight, and love [there]. The street is where groups collide and where people live and die and where all of society mixes with trash, smog, sewage, and the pulsating sounds of traffic. We put together a bunch of our pictures there to bring them to you – where you’re standing, on the street.”  Blindboys

Image Ⓒ Kunal Bhatia

“As any artist will attest, street art is best made when unpredictable, subversive and not entirely legal. Which is exactly the formula followed by Blindboys.org, an online photo-commune founded by photographers Akshay Mahajan and Kapil Das in 2009. Their Blowup events, where an ad-hoc public photo gallery is created using building walls and shop fronts as hanging space, have slowly accrued a devoted following. Submissions number in the hundreds.”  MUMBAI BOSS

Image Ⓒ MASI

“Amateur and professional photographers set up a unique exhibition — on the walls of shops, alleys, fencing in Bandra today. Part of an initiative called Blowup Bombay, it has been started by blindboys.org, and describes itself as a “community-driven space which uses simple and effective ways to reach out to photographers and audiences alike”.” CNNGo

Image Ⓒ Sheena

“On May 22, [in] an abandoned house behind Bandra’s Mehboob Studio […] strewn with papier mâché Greco-Roman pillars and other discarded props that once featured in celluloid dreams, two photographers will set foot on Saturday, armed with cellotape and photographs printed on cheap paper. Together, they will embellish the tattered walls with not just their own works but also those of both established and amateur photographers received over the past few months. Works which, just like the roofless house, are constantly threatened by the oblivion of abandonment.

Welcome to Blow Up In Bombay, an event that aims to give photographers an unlimited, unpredictable and very accessible exhibition space—the street.”  The Times of India

Image Ⓒ Zishaan Hayath

“The setting for the May 22 exhibition [BlowUp Bombay] is not the glossy innards of a city gallery but rather a ramshackle house behind Mehboob Studio in Bandra with the paint peeling off the walls and the floor strewn with cinema props. [Akshay Mahajan and Kapil Das (aka Lenskap)] met in Angkor at a Cambodian photo festival in 2008. Common angst over a lack of space for promoting emerging works sealed their friendship and gave birth to blindboys.org—an online community platform to showcase emerging works and bring photographers and audiences together. Over the last six months, Mahajan, 24, and Das, 30, have organised three BlowUps: in Bangalore’s Church Street, Delhi’s Connaught Place, and Paris. Seeing the works displayed, they were invited by Wideyed, a UK-based organisation, some time back, to present an exhibition in Newcastle.” Indian Express

Image Ⓒ Vivek Sheth

“Date: May 22, 2010, Place: Blowup Bombay Street exhibition, Bandra… was one such day when the first time experience (despite the photos being showcased on straw mats, display area surrounded with trash) aroused a range of emotions that any gallery exhibition (even though they would have wall mounted frames, marble floor) in future would fail to…

It was just me…RAW to the core…and hence I loved every bit of it.” Baya Agarwal

“What’s the best use of public space? We think it is when the space is really used by the ‘public’ – lots of random people getting together and enjoying themselves. Sadly for Bombay city, public spaces that can truly be enjoyed by all sections of the ‘public’ are few and far between – and they often vanish within the blink of an eye only to be covered in scaffolding and renovated into a fancy mall.

On Saturday, May 22 however, we came across  Blowup, a photo exhibition hosted by a group called the Blindboys.org – an online photo-commune founded by photographers Akshay Mahajan and Kapil Das in 2009.

The exhibition ended in an area that had lots of character – it was a huge open ground — a junkyard of sorts, with discarded suitcases, pillars (yes, pillars), gigantic scrap metal sheets and other discarded items we can only imagine were either part of a wedding or a film set. There were even some boys playing football in the area. I recognized one of them, it was Ningraj, and he told me that he had even helped put some of the pictures up.” Jalebi Ink

Image Ⓒ Puneet Rakheja

“At 3pm on the day of BlowUp Bombay, volunteers and photographers trickle into the winding alleys of the suburb Bandra, just north of the city. Photographs are pinned up in an abandoned building and surrounding walls. It’s not long before the unusual activity lures onlookers. Local children point at photographs of camels roaming through the Mongolian desert, while nearby, one photographer’s nostalgic take on the trusty Indian bicycle is attracting a crowd. More than 1,000 prints from various photographers tell an array of stories – from the bittersweet experience of moving house to farmer suicides in rural India. In the midst of the activity, 26-year-old Baya Agarwal carefully pins up her photo essay ‘Small Town Diary’ on bamboo screens. Agarwal has captured the life of a rural town in Orissa, snapping scenes from the local fish market to an old woman applying makeup. “I lived in a small town and I wanted to show what life is like, how people here live like they are in the 17th Century,” Agarwal explains. ‘Small Town Diary’ is a labour of love, taking Argarwal three months to complete. Due to the high costs of gallery shows, however, Argarwal has not exhibited her work. She says BlowUp Bombay provided the perfect opportunity.

As the sun goes down across Bombay and the exhibition comes to a close, hundreds of spectators begin to scramble for prints, ripping their favourite works off the walls. For the artists whose prints are taken it’s an affirmation that their work has struck a chord. For Mahajan and Das, the ultimate endorsement of Blindboy’s photographic street experiment will happen when people start staging their own BlowUp events.

“People ask, ‘When are you coming to Pune? When are you coming to Kolkata?’” Das comments. “It would be nice if we could let it go viral and people just took the initiative and organised something like this themselves.”

“It’s not so difficult to do.”” Riksutställningar

T-minus 15 hours and counting…

May 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

Image © Akshay Mahajan

If we’ve got our sums right, at around midday tomorrow GMT it will be tea time in India and Blindboys’ BLOWUP IN BOMBAY will be well underway. Not that we’re excited or anything…

As we can’t be there we’ve been following developments on the internets as best we can. Just as we were discovering that Google Streetview hasn’t covered India yet, so we couldn’t go on a virtual walkaround of the exhibition site (boo Google, booooo!), Akshay posted some ‘before’ images on Facebook – which give a brilliant taste of the area where BLOWUP will be placed tomorrow, plus they’re just gorgeous in and of themselves (so I hope he doesn’t mind us lifting one for here).

The line up of participating photographers was announced the other day and it looks great.

INDIA – Bharat Sikka, Adrian Fisk, Akshay Mahajan, Kaushik Ramaswamy, Meena Kadri, Puneet Rakheja, Prarthna Singh, Tunali Mukherjee, Natasha Hemrajani, Kapil Das, Munsif Mollu, Tenzin Dakpa, Sheetal Malhar, Ishan Tankha, Manu Joseph, Vidisha Saini, Zishaan Akbar Latif, and Varun Dutt.

INTERNATIONALCiara Leeming (UK), Hongtao Zhong (CHINA), Zhou Lvcun (CHINA), plus Gareth Philips, Brandon Thibodeaux, Julius Metoyer, and Ying Ang from the MJR collective in America.

Oh, and us. Hurray! Plus probably quite a few other photogs who also turn up on the day (wish we could!).

BLOWUP IN BOMBAY: 4pm – 8pm Saturday 22nd May 2010, behind the fabulously named Mehboob Studios in Bandra (beginning at the intersection of Varoda Road and Hill Road – map here, and more info at Blindboys’ Facebook page).

Blindboys Wideyed – the book

May 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

The surprise we took to the North East Photography Network discussion group talk we did this Wednesday was a print-on-demand book we had made about the Blindboys Wideyed collaboration. It’s very exclusive – we have just two copies of it for reference only, it’s not for sale, and if you missed the talk you may never get another chance to look at it in person… But we’ve made this little video so we can show it in another way (with apologies for the hissy sound).

News from Blighty and Bombay

May 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

 

North East Photography Network have invited us to give a talk about BLINDBOYS WIDEYED, the exhibition and interventions we produced in Newcastle in collaboration with Blindboys.

And the timing couldn’t be better – taking place at the Lit&Phil this Wednesday 19th May, from 5.30pm – 7pm, the talk is the perfect way for us to sign off the UK part of the collaboration just days before Blindboys take up the baton with BLOWUP IN BOMBAY on Saturday 22nd May. Blindboys’ BLOWUP street exhibitions have previously taken place in Bangalore, Delhi and Paris, and they’re planning to make the one in Bombay their biggest ever. GO BLINDBOYS!

Oh, and we’ll be bringing a little surprise to the talk with us…

Blindboys Wideyed: the afterword

April 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

The end is only the beginning

This weekend we had to go to Newcastle to clear the Forth Lane billboards of Lenskap’s ‘Where are you going Mr Mahajan?’ piece, ready for the next artist. We were a bit sad (especially as the posters were still intact!), but it was a beautiful day, and even good things must come to an end sometime.

So now that our part of this collaborative exchange has come to a close, and we’ve had some time to think about it, we’ve realised that one aspect of the whole BLINDBOYS WIDEYED experience we haven’t mentioned, but which was really a key factor, is chance.

The empty shop we originally hoped to use as our gallery is steel clad, which is where the idea of using magnets to hang the exhibition came from. But if we had been able to lease that space instead of 67B Westgate Road, we wouldn’t have also had the billboards on Forth Lane for Mr Mahajan.

When we first approached Blindboys about exhibiting their work in Newcastle, they asked us what we wanted them to send us. So we told them that the size of shop/gallery we secured (which we didn’t know at the time) would determine the size and number of prints we could display, but that wasn’t their problem and anyway, they should just send us whatever they wanted us to see and show. Had we tried to prescribe the exact quantity and kind of photographs we wanted, we might not have had the foresight to select the images we received – the wealth of work that we were then able to respond to and, thanks to the fact that Wideyed doesn’t have its own permanent gallery space, be flexible and inventive about how and where they were displayed.

Take Charli Bikaner. After we’d worked out the sequencing for 67B, we were lamenting the fact that we didn’t have enough space to exhibit Charli as well (because we heart Charli!)… when the idea of approaching the Mining Institute occurred. As for the billboards, the option of using those came about as we randomly chatted to Mike Tilley (of Newcastle Arts Centre, who rented us 67B) about Blindboys and their ‘Blow.Up’ street exhibitions – and it was as we told him we thought it such a shame we couldn’t do anything similar, that he offered us the billboards on Forth Lane as well.

And here we circle back to Mr Mahajan. We turned up yesterday with buckets, sponges and scrapers, ready to remove the posters completely, but when it came to it we were asked to just smooth away any ridges and cover over the darker areas with paint, leaving as much paper in place as possible. While we worked, so many people passing by told us how much they had enjoyed Mr Mahajan, saying they wished we could leave him in place. So we couldn’t resist – we mostly did as asked and covered everything… but the cones. Hey. Last chance to play, and we didn’t hesitate to take it.

It will be interesting to see what happens to art works subsequently placed on Forth Lane – whether they’re respected as well as the Mr Mahajan piece or not – because as far as we know those billboards have not been used for that kind of display before, and everyone we’ve spoken to has been both amazed and more than happy that the posters lasted so well. Which raises questions. For example, that series of images (however they’ve been read) have obviously been enjoyed, and it makes us wonder – is the evident pleasure they’ve given, both to us and passersby, necessarily a guilty pleasure?

Does it really, really matter if it is?

More important than anything though is something Blindboys and we agree on – that work needs to be seen. BLINDBOYS WIDEYED has been all about making that possible. And while the internet has been incredibly useful, digital is not the last word.

Chance is. Woo, did we dare say… chance? Well yes! We are photographers, so we do have some experience in either making or recognising luck when we see it. And really, there’s nothing wrong with that either.

Touch wood.

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