Insisting that their involvement with the farmers’ agitation is rather complex as they are aware of being privileged, and will not feel the real effect of the new farm laws, New-Delhi based artists Sumir Tagra and Jiten Thukral, who have initiated multiple art projects in face of the protests, which are deep inside the system and will stay for a long time say, “The issues of migration and then agriculture have been at the face of our work. Many projects by now have taken shape from three exhibitions — ‘Bread and Circuses’, an installation and game ‘walkwithgurunanak’, kisanekta.in, which is as an archive documenting this protest, and the very recent ‘Trolley Times’,” say New-Delhi based artist duo Sumir Tagra and Jiten Thukral.
Talking about the recently launched ‘Trolley Times’ they conceived, a bilingual newspaper distributed at the protest sites at Singhu and Tikri borders, the duo say that it acts as ‘Manthan’ at heart. “The name was conceived by core team members and was passed to us to design the masthead and the layout of it. As we get the files and the content in a Google Document, we illustrate and design the issue with Gurdeep Dhaliwal, who is one of the core team members. Our vision was to create a world-class bilingual newspaper that has appeals to the masses and reaches all corners of the world. Since the first issue, the look was kept unique as the colour and choice of paper is key to us. Initially, we supervised the print to get the perfect colour with a print run of 5,000. Now, gaining popularity and demand, ‘Trolley Times’ can be printed anywhere and distributed with proper consent. The last issue was printed in many places as it’s free to print,” says Tagra.
Working with a small setup, keeping the norms of the pandemic, Tagra says, “The illustration and the front page are seen as “work of art”. Keeping the focus and true nature of this brave endeavour, we are always cognizant of the message and its impact.”
Adding that it is an engine that has many moving parts, and these parts do not matter as the only thing that should be seen is the power and impact it has, Thukral says, “Every revolution has many stakeholders and the idea is about a single voice of Kisan protest.”
Thukral also says that the idea of kisanekta.in was to document an open-source archive, which also acts as an image bank for the ‘Trolley Times’.
“We have been consistently visiting the sites of protest, and have been seeing the movement and its expansion on different levels, interviewing the farmers and documenting them as for a large film — which will be a second part to the Kisan Ekta Morcha film shot in 2018.”
Stressing that the factual public memory is fading and the trust factor when it comes to mainstream media is at its lowest, Tagra says, “In this age of miscommunication, one feels hallucinated with noises — and the real sound is at a total loss. As a citizen, we feel it’s important to know the authentic which can only be heard from the primary source.”
As an artist, Thukral feels that there are several striking aspects of the agitation that just cannot be missed. “From the dichotomy of the urban and rural landscape, there is also deep compassion, as we see village names on the pillars and the marking of areas of one pind as signage. One can witness shifting gender roles and new avatars of caravans and sanjha chulhas.”
Talking about the participation of several young artists from different backgrounds in the agitation, Tagra feels they are connected to the time and have chosen to voice it through their own medium.
Ask them if they plan to hold any exhibitions of the work done during the agitation, and the duo are clear, “We see this as hukum — the order at large. It’s our very purpose to document this time and frame it correctly. There are no plans for an exhibition at this moment.”