Art media

Art of the ugly: An immersive sound presents the stories of waste pickers in a landfill

An object of beauty. This is how a work of art is often described. A historical landfill and real stories of waste pickers would hardly be classed as a typical work of art. But the Suno digital storytelling project hits hard. An immersive auditory experience, it is inspired by the stories of a community of waste pickers living near Bhalswa, Delhi’s largest landfill site. As part of a media experiment, the four project members – Kanchan, Sukriti, Depanshu and Mayank – placed recording devices at various locations around the landfill to record the waste pickers’ stories. Armed with a torch and supplies to last the night, the scavengers climb the dump at night to collect the unsorted waste. Aside from the sheer revulsion of the landfill, the scavengers fight not only sickness and disgust, but also danger on a pile of trash that tends to fall apart beneath their feet. “Chadhna bhi aise hi padhta hai, utarna bhi aise hi padhta hai,” said a voice. Interestingly, the project has no visuals. Said Sukriti Thukral, one of the members, “We wanted to focus on the stories and chose not to reveal the faces of the workers.”

The sound of small children playing in the trash cans is a stir. Playfully, they find treasures in trash cans, where trash cans become boats and leachate becomes the river. “Arrey lagi re lagi re lagi re, Oh baar baar neeche,” comes the voice of a child playing at the dump. The majority of waste pickers belong to the Julaha community from Bengal, who migrated to Delhi in search of a better life but now have a love-hate relationship with the dump, which is their livelihood but also a spell of dead.

Project Homemakers is a desperate depiction of what life as a homemaker entails. Pritish Bali and Anu Bali’s project revolves around a digitally archived conversation about meals prepared by a mother, serving as a metaphor for many other unpaid caregivers. The project reflects daily updates from Anu Bali working over the years as a housewife and has interactive sections on the website that calculate things like a housewife’s working hours, how women’s names are changed after marriage, abolishing the identity with which they have lived. , and more. The installation has ants drawn in pencil on all the walls, signifying a tangential reference to the idea of ​​this ceaseless work carried out by a housewife.

The projects are part of Serendipity’s arts outreach at India Art Fair and are the result of several digital-led projects for which grants have been awarded throughout the pandemic.