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Photo Essay:

Couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to conceptualise and produce an installation for my alma mater ‘Sri Venkateswara Bala Kuteer” Guntur.

The Founder of the School Ms Manga Devi called me and asked to me support the production of this sculpture for the occasion of the Golden Jubilee celebrations.

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I wrote back to her and told her that I would like to produce a work that is more conceptual in nature. I saw this image on twitter and sent it to her as an example.

Caring Hands

She liked the installation very much and asked me to work on installation modelled on similar lines. I then wrote to the artists in Switzerland and sought their permission to build on their idea.

Subsequently, I engaged my Sculptor friend Y. Sivarama Chary to assist me in producing this work.

Here we are taking the cast of Ms Devi’s hands.

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Ms Devi and I signing on the clay mould.

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The names of all the 5000 children being engraved on the fingers.

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The installation.

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Seating of 8 opposite the hand, symbolising the first class of 8 students in 1965.

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5000 plants symbolising the number of students that have graduated since the begining.

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50 steps on the walk way symbolising each year of existence. Laid out like a cinema reel, to evoke a sense of flashback.

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Names of all 5000 children who have graduated since inception engraved on her symbolic hands in the form of finger prints. Symbolising a mutual imprint on each others lives.

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The inauguration by Sri Abdul Kalam.

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Reflections – A note on the installation and the concept behind the same.

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REFLECTIONS

When asked to advise on an installation to commemorate the golden jubilee of my alma mater Sri Venkateswara Bala Kuteer, my first thought went to the motto of the school ‘Child is the father of Man’, adopted from this poem by William Wordsworth:

My heart leaps up when I behold A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began; So is it now I am a man;

So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be Bound each to each by natural piety.

Beginning in1965 with a small class of eight, the last 50 years has seen Sri Venkateswara Bala Kuteer become an institution with more than 5500 students graduating through its portals. All guided by the able hands of Miss Devi, who gave each and every child her individual care and attention. Celebrating the golden jubilee year, this installation seeks to combine all the above elements both at the gross and subtle levels.

Each of the fifty steps across the field represents an year of the schools existence. Laid out like a reel of film showing a flashback, a student can walk across each year, step-by-step, year-by-year, recollecting his or her time spent in school. On either side of the pathway is a bed of 5500 flowers each representing one’s classmates, juniors and seniors, laden with memories of time spent with them. A central strip of green grass forms the classroom. On one side are the eight seats signifying the first batch of students and on the other are five gigantic fingers made from a mold of Miss Devi’s hand piercing through the grass and reaching out to the sky. Taking a seat, one can absorb oneself in contemplation of a class in progress. Walking across to the fingers one realises that they have the names of all the students inscribed like a fingerprint, implying that they too have become as much a part of Miss Devi, as she has became of them.

 

Coming back to the motto ‘Child is the father of man’, one finds it extremely intriguing and at the first blush very difficult to comprehend. How can a child be the father of a man? However upon further reflection one understands that It essentially seeks to convey that the values learnt as a child are the ones that you live by when you grow up to be a man. Personally, this golden jubilee installation is a tribute to my first teacher and guru, Miss Devi, who taught me two important values that I have lived my life by – learnability and creativity. For this I am ever grateful to her. Reworking the original poem, I describe the installation once again albeit in a poetic form:

Standing amidst my fellow mates,

My heart leaps up when I behold
a caring hand, rising from the earth: Tender, firm and majestic all at once;
So was it when my learning began;
So is it now that I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
For the Child is father of the Man;
As years pass by one step at a time,
I realise my days to be bound each to each by the values taught by this deity.

For visiting alumni, this installation is designed as a place to reflect. So as you walk back the path, I do hope you can spend some time to sit in the class and reflect. Reflect on the time spent in the school. Reflect on the things learnt. Reflect on the fun filled times spent with classmates. Reflect on the values imbibed from teachers.

In these reflections you will discover that as a child, you were the father of your current self.

Hari Kiran Vadlamani,

Class of 1978

I acknowledge with gratitude the inspiration from the work “Caring Hand” by Eva Oertli / Beat Huber and Y.Shivarama Chary for the execution of this installation.


 

PS:

Uploading this after two and half years as I am now beginning to venture into more such creative productions.

Also trying to justify the ‘aspiring artist’ tag in my bio 🙂 

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