Paul Purgas: We Found Our Own Reality
‘We Found Our Own Reality’ is an expansive installation by artist and musician Paul Purgas which brings together architecture, textiles and sound to explore India’s first electronic music studio, founded in 1969 at the National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad, India. The project explores the technological and experimental ambition of the studio across its four-year lifespan at a moment of unprecedented national transformation and cultural exchange between Western and Indian Modernist ideologies.
A central part of the exhibition is a new soundwork, developed from a collection of unheard recordings by five previously unrecognised Indian electronic composers Jinraj Joshipura, Gita Sarabhai, I.S. Mathur, Atul Desai and S.C. Sharma. These tape experiments and compositions were created in the electronic music studio between 1969-1972, and initiated by New York composer David Tudor, who visited and personally installed and configured the studios core components – including a customised Moog modular synthesiser and two tape machines. Purgas discovered the recordings within the NID archive after a period of detailed research that subsequently involved the careful restoration and digitisation of the material. The recordings have been transposed by Purgas to form the basis of a new composition that interweaves broader aspects of the archive, including spoken word, tape collages, field recordings, sound effects and film soundtracks.
At Tramway, Purgas’ multi-layered composition is experienced through a colourful, sculptural field of bespoke speakers and acoustic panels which evoke the vibrancy and depth of the traditional dyes of Gujarati fabrics, which later became emblematic within Indian Modernist design. Within this striking environment Purgas has created a composition of tonal experiments from the tapes alongside spoken word elements recorded by the students, lecture excerpts and field recordings made at the NID during the production of Purgas’ BBC documentary Electronic India. Together they capture the playfulness and radical spirit of the NID studio that located electronic sound uniquely within the design paradigm as part of a holistic vision for Indian modernity.
A series of coloured panels as well as line-based insignias gathered from traditional textiles patterns, spiritual diagrams and Indian graphical systems punctuate the panels. The double diamond floor sculpture foregrounds the work of Indian architect Aditya Prakash, using a grid system inspired by his design for the Tagore Theatre built in 1961 in Chandigarh. Prakash studied at Glasgow School of Art prior to joining Le Corbusier's design team to masterplan the city of Chandigarh. Together these elements create a historical context for the NID studio within a rapidly modernising post-colonial India. A period of dream-like experimentalism, where the spirit of independence flourished against the complex backdrop of Western ideological imperialism in the fields of design and culture.
‘We Found Our Own Reality’ is a Tramway commission realised in collaboration with Camden Arts Centre.
Supported by Creative Scotland, The Art Fund and The Elephant Trust.
Image courtesy of the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, India