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Abr Circle hopes to create a network of support for performance artists

The newest initiative on Instagram seeks to commission short performances or digital works from artists, who might have seen a void in opportunities during the pandemic

Devadeep Gupta, 'Normalisation of a Disaster', video still, 2020 Image courtesy of the artist and abr

On the Instagram page of abr circle (@abr_circle), one can see work by bhand artist, Khursheed Ahmad, sharing space with that of Sabika Abbas, a performative poet, whose practice revolves around the intersection of gender and minority rights. Then there is the powerful Connecting by Salman Bashir, which is a recording of a live performance talking about the silence during the communication blackout through the last year in Kashmir, "a comment on the restrictions levied In the region post the abrogation of article 370". Works, across disciplines, can be seen on the abr page, which started in May this year during the covid-19 induced lockdown, as a network of support for performance and digital works.

It was founded by a set of cultural practitioners, who don’t wish for their names or “bylines” to take away from the work that the participating artists are putting up. Early on, the team members released a manifesto, which described abr as an alliance of cultural practitioners coming together over shared vulnerabilities to create a circle of care, communality and conviviality in these uncertain and difficult times. “The lockdown was pretty difficult for all of us. We felt there was a need to change direction and look at ways of nurturing the community. It was vital to find ways to come together, to witness these critical times,” elaborates the abr Team. So, the team set about commissioning short performances and digital works. The idea was also to offer financial support, even if it were through a small honorarium.'

Khandakar Ohida, 'I Was Still Silent,' video still, 2020, Image courtesy of the artist and abr
Khandakar Ohida, 'I Was Still Silent,' video still, 2020, Image courtesy of the artist and abr

It is an interesting choice of name for the page, and the reason for it is outlined in the manifesto as well. “Named after the Urdu word for cloud, abr alludes to both the enhanced prominence acquired by the digital as well as the amorphous collectivisation and the promise of rejuvenation borne by every cloud,” it states. The idea behind abr is also to bring out a diversity in artistic voices from across gender, caste, class, religion, language and sexual orientation. Also, one can sense a freedom in the way artists are approaching the commissions, unfettered by categorisation or the need to work within set curatorial parameters.

So, there is Humhu, a multidisciplinary artist based out of Mumbai, who juggles between working in theatre, being a fashion model and making films. His enquiries range from metaphysics to queer culture in underrepresented societies and trauma bonding. Also significant is Devadeep Gupta’s project, which looks at the ephemeral relationship between people and the river in Assam. He is also inquiring into the gas leaks that took place in Baghjan. Khandakar Ohida, an artist from West Bengal is looking at the lives of Muslim women back home during the lockdown. “Every perspective is important. We want to bring out different perspectives about this moment that we are all living in. The aim is also to open up the very idea of what performance art is, and to attempt to understand what makes art resilient to the vicissitudes of time,” says the abr team.

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