Making and Unmaking Archives – A Conversation with Shan Bhattacharya PART 2

Cover of  PORTAL : The Curious Account of Achintya Bose 

In this continuing conversation with Shan Bhattacharya around his recent book PORTAL : The Curious Account of Achintya Bose published by the Sher-Gil Sundaram Arts Foundation (SSAF) and Tulika Books (2020), we delve into some of the processes through which Bhattacharya arrived at an elaborate constellation of images, textual and para-textual narratives, all of which play into this docu-fictional work.

Rahaab Allana in conversation with Shan Bhattacharya 

Describing his process as one of interweaving an array of incomplete stories, Bhattacharya reflects on the idea of a ‘living’ archive and the diverse modes of writing and reading that are brought to bear – mimicking, theorising and articulating ways in which mnemonic sources can further unearth hidden histories. He says “The importance of an archive does not lie merely in the contents of the archive, but also how the content is being consumed by the present audience.” Contextual variations in this publication are inspired from different timelines and diverse socio-historical threads – be it transitions in lens-based practices from India, or literary styles and  structures from fiction/non-fiction. These become latent and manifest means through which a trans-temporal sensibility and an artifactual quality is generated. The experience of piecing together various cultural elements, an ‘esoteric’ assemblage as he points out, suggests that the publication may also take three dimensional form in the future.

Reflecting on the process of binding digital design with analogue output, the project as a whole creatively assimilates and then simulates tactile objects, print culture and imagistic accessories – the touch and feel of newsprint paper, tapes and paperclips, which remain critical to his evolving visual strategy and finesse with aesthetic interplay.