For 20 years or so, the artist duo Thukral and Tagra (Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra) has been working at the intersection of art, games, performance and design. But it’s the human connection that remains at the heart of their practice—in each work of theirs, be it the Memoir Bar (2017) or Collection Bureau (2018), people play important roles, as participants rather than passive spectators. Their latest project, “and Archive”, launched at the ongoing India Art Fair 2022, is no exception.
It comprises immersive artistic books and games that introspect on pressing issues such as climate change, the agrarian crisis and other issues. The idea is to disrupt existing mindsets and prompt participants to reflect on their approach to these themes.
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One of the highlights includes Weeping Farm (2022)—both a book work and gameplay—which looks at women from the agricultural community, burdened with debt, doing odd jobs to survive. The game takes you through their journey for a year.
Then there is 2030 Net Zero (2022), another game, focused on the rising level of greenhouse gases, with the participants required to bring them down to net zero, ensuring carbon neutrality. The game design itself is high on “conscious thinking”, with a focus on ethical sourcing and research processes.
and Archive is an ongoing project and will continue to exist in a myriad forms—as a printing press, a workshop for ideas, a record for artistic processes, a library, a curatorial device. “Building from a range of printed matter—text, images, and formats—produced over the decade and templates proposed for the future, and Archive hopes to produce an ecology of ideas and knowledge forms originating from the artist-book-object,” states the artistic note.
Thukral and Tagra describe their studio as a multi-limbed one oscillating between social design, intervention and art practice guided by interactivity, empathy and aesthetics. While and Archive is into independent publishing, hosting processes, proposals, and ideas, another segment, Thukral and Tagra Archive, is a window into the artists’ decade-long studio practice. “and Archive shall result in collaborations with other artistic practices later this year. The resulting books will provide access to the experience of visual poetry, monographs, research, and proposals. Gameplays, as a tool of art pedagogy and social awareness, will enlarge the scope of the art practice and deepen its relevance to the current systems of public engagement,” say the duo.
For both Weeping Farm and 2030 Net Zero, the studio engaged in primary research to understand the issues better. This added depth to the games, which seek to spark a dialogue and leave people pondering questions that may not have surfaced quite so readily in their lives otherwise.
For Thukral and Tagra, the turn to activism through art and speculative design practice is only the next logical step in their trajectory. “The repertoire of games and publications as both disruptive and playful, a tool of art pedagogy and social awareness, has helped enlarge the scope of our art practice and deepen its relevance outside the white cube space,” they say.
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