Review by Sarmistha Maiti
September 14, 2013


“When Up is Down…”
Atom Collective
August 1-7, 2013
Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata

It was rather unconventional! I’ve never come across this kind of a show ever in the premises of the Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata which could be regarded as one of the central hubs of art and culture in the eastern fringe of the country. The indication is towards a change which is inevitable and even if it has taken a little longer to bring about this difference, but it has finally been put in real shape and action in this city as well. In the recently held show titled “When up is down…” which is being referred as a project and not just an exhibition by Atom Collective initiated by two very young artists Lalima Bhowmik and Nilabja Bhattacharya, the former an alumnus of Kala Bhavan, Shantiniketan and the other one who did his formal education in art from the Government College of Arts & Crafts in Kolkata.

But somehow both were bitten by the bug of experimental art or conceptual art and decided to give up the traditional and conventional way of looking at things even in their day-to-day mundane life. It can be otherwise stated that they went into the deeper stories of these conventional approach and tried to dig into the essence of our wholesome existence through the smallest particle of which we are all made yet it goes unnoticed. And hence often the conventional becomes a shallower way of approach towards anything which in fact needs to be re-addressed and not just taken for granted with the stereotypical notion of human destiny that ‘life will still go on …’

The whole idea of Atom Collective through “When up is down…” was to create a space of physical interaction by slowly understanding and experiencing the insecurity and instability in our lifestyles. Atom Collective is an amalgamated art structure who believes “art is a collective journey – a collective effort of more than one individual.” As stated in their own words, “The body of art is a process centric work as it projects an unstable form and a state of dormancy or completeness if seen at a certain time frame. The intention of the project is to establish a relationship between the fragmented states of mind which is one of the prime characteristics of urban system through a journey from the inner structuralism to outer structuralism or reverse. It is uncertain to dictate the flow of the journey due to the absence of rigid definition of the ‘inner’ and the ‘outer’ state” – the works were created by a collective endeavour of individual space and reality yet amalgamated in the process of exposition and executed to procreate a bigger space where each one can fit in exactly like an atom joins with another and a molecule is formed and thereafter the matter is built.

“Impression of Existence”, “Juxtaposition by chance and choice” and many more which were meticulously arranged on floor and on the wall as well as pedestals etc to give an impression of randomness in which human emotions keep swapping yet the tendency is always to pacify one such kind of restlessness. The initiative of Atom Collective was an attempt to give voice to this discourse that both inertia and instability are the unique features of any existence on earth yet the process to keep the mobility on and reach stability can’t be altered.

The only flip side of this collective endeavour in the space of Academy of Fine Arts was again the typical gallery space and its external noise leading to the gap between the viewer and the object of display where subjectivity of interactive space was still missing. The connection between the wall and the floor was not enough to breed the psycho-therapeutic spatial journey for the viewer to feel that he/she is just another small atom in the whole process. But the initiators of the project must be applauded that they have at least attempted to bring about this difference in the heart of the City of Joy which will surely lead to a change in the mindscape of art aficionados in this part of the globe as well. Kudos to the onset of a different discourse!