INDIA Blog 3 (Feb + March)

Lalbagh Garden and Metro

Rewind to the start of FEBRUARY, which is dominated by further research and narrowing down my topic to a tangible project on TREES in and around the Lalbagh Botanical Garden metro station.

Suresh giving us a tour of his garden project

Arzu and I keep meeting and go on a scouting trip to a nearby village (see last part of blog 2). We visit Suresh Samuha – whose Sarjapur Curries art project tries to preserve traditional and local planted or foraged curry ingredients. Brainstorming, Arzu adds the concept of ‘Living Libraries’, foraging, collections. I am looking to visualize the concept of human relations to nature in a tree, individualize a tree, create new visual angles, attention to the mundane. Can I move from the head to the eye to the heart?

I go on several walks inside the Lalbagh Garden, some alone, some with Arzu and her Art in Transit team, one later in March with the whole class of 25. Two of the walks are guided by excellent locals – and in typical Bangalore fashion start right after sunrise.

working lunch at 1 ShantiRoad

Suresh Jayaram is a gallerist and founder of 1Shanthiroad Studio. He is also a descendent of a nursery community near Lalbagh. A walking encyclopedia he points us to special flowering trees, their exotic origins, symbiotic relationships between trees – birds – insects – and yes, humans. I leave with hundreds of photos. Some will be part of my TREE animation. This is a first expedition with a handful of us who will be involved in the Art-in-Transit class + project at the Metro station. Aside of Arzu, Suresh and me, there are Anna, a psychologist and Yash, an artist, Rishab and Kanishka. We end at the famed lunchroom LMR.

One of the imposing trees at Lalbagh Botanical garden.

A few weeks later the 5-week class is well underway. It is Thursday, March 12 at 7:30am – when a faint breeze and fresh air enhance the guided Lalbagh walk with Vijay Thiruvadi. He is a retired, very learned gentleman, part local historian, part botanist who takes us back to Lalbagh origins in Mughal times. Some of the Muslim garden design is still preserved – with an overlaid axis of view centering on a Victorian glasshouse. About 2000 tree species are in Lalbagh, some as import experiments for cash crops, others representing the 19th-century natural science expeditions for unknown and exotic plants traveling from the Pacific to London Kew Gardens and back to India. In Lalbagh, we collect leaves + photos, facts, and anecdotes.

After lunch at LMR

Four hours later the temperature above 90’ (35C) now, we end the walk for an LMR lunch (yes, again, but gladly). They have a room reserved for us – and I am so glad to reciprocate and invite the whole class. Little did I know I would not have the chance to do it later…

In the afternoon discussion groups form and some students are interested in mapping, others in animating type. I give a ‘the making of’ talk through my related work and encourage students to collaborate with me.

Class meeting inside Lalbagh metro.

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