Santiago Calatrava’s works were the topic for discussion during this Tuesday’s discussion. Following a short video on his works & his philosophies, there was a discussion on the relevance of his works – whether it was justified to spend so much to create such extravagant spaces. Ar.Tony set the ball rolling by wondering aloud what the relevance of Calatrava’s works was, if it was possible to justify the cost of the projects & the resources required. An interesting discussion followed with Roshan stating that Calatrava’s works often gave an identity to the place, as most of them were landmark structures helping to give a new definition to the place. Anand joined in saying that often Calatrava’s works were a source of pride to the people, elevating their sense of belonging and rootedness. Sujith mentioned that some of the works were similar to Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, in what the structure did to elevate the region around it. Ar.Tony elaborated on how Guggenheim helped in kickstarting the ailing economy of Bilbao, putting Bilbao on the world map, generating opportunities and in the process, reviving the whole city.
The discussion turned to touch on the relevance of public art in our urban spaces. The trigger was the installation of sculptures around Calicut city by a group of 10 artists. Ar.Tony narrated an interesting incident during the installation of the sculpture by renowned sculptor K.S.Radhakrishnan in the middle of Mananchira Square, which was one of the urban green lungs of the city. It seems that while the sculptures were being installed, a couple of gentlemen walked up and started behaving aggressively, questioning the need for placing this sculpture right in the middle of the green space, thereby ‘spoiling’ the space. Ar.Tony was discussing how ordinary laymen related to public art like sculptures, installations etc. The main function of such works was to provoke people to think, to reflect and contemplate. Public art tended to take art literally to the masses, by being present around them in common places, instead of being confined to galleries. Thus, they had a far wider reach and influence. However, one of the questions that arose was how to get ordinary people to become actively or even passively involved, on what will define what is acceptable and what is not and on the approaches required. It was agreed that most often, public artworks were acceptable as long as they were beautiful to look at, so that ordinary man could relate to it easily. Inspired by this discussion, most of us present went to see the installation of the sculptures in Mananchira, where in the middle of the green open lawn, K.S.Radhakrishnan’s ‘Musui’ was frozen in suspended weightlessness on top of the massive granite boulders, a strong contrasting composition as an ode to the free spirit against the trials and troubles of this world.