The principle of the unorganised arises in all that is viewed as systematic in the city of Bombay. The arabic word 'hawala', literally translated as 'custody', also known as 'hundi' in Bombay, makes possible a financial system that defines the mercantile culture of the city. Illegal but prevalent, it makes possible the millions of remittances that leave the city to rural India and towards payments across the seas, subsidising the purchase of homes for people in the city, and aiding in the partake of a greater mass who would not find a space in conventional financial systems. Borrowed from Arab traders, this format of transfer is essentially built on trust, and an innate belief in the ability to act and exist despite the state.
In the later years of the British empire the city of Bombay grew to be one of the most important stops once the ships had passed the Suez Canal. Its well ventilated hotels by the sea hosted writers on their journeys, jazz bands, and the occasional artist. The garden across from the town hall now the Asiatic Library turned into one of the earliest peripheries of the city to be globalised by plants, brought to Bombay from Africa and South America, to be initially acclimatised to the subcontinent as they left the port. The year India was brought under the direct control of the empire a school to educate children of former artisans was established in 1858; it was created to aide and augment the building of several structures that now make up the Neo-Gothic and Indo-Saracenic heritage architectural zones of the city. The gargoyles of the Victoria Terminus were actually sculpted in the foundry that now houses the printmaking department of the art college.
It is here that Clark House Initiative in 2011 began drawing out the architecture of its unorganised existence as an arts collaborative. The school faces the Victoria Terminus which brings in numerous immigrants to the city from the vast Indian hinterland. Due to complaints of neglect and the lack of funding, as well as a never changing course structure, the Sir JJ School of Art does not see many students from Bombay. But what it offers is often tremendous to the thousands of students who apply to the school each year from small towns and villages across India where even now the vocation of artist is unknown.
Placed within the centre of the city, the many acres that JJ comprises, become a foothold into a city that now revels in its socio-economic biases. The city and the institutions such as JJ, give rise to our politics of vernacular equality, alternate art histories and voicing concerns that refute the forced economic miracle that India boasts of, and the illusionary idea of internationalism that comes with it. JJ despite all its criticisms, is still an arena of certain degrees of equality, affirmative action, curiosity for the outside world, and art practices outside the art market. Most artists here have come to call Bombay their home passing through the corridors of the school. Yogesh Barve | salt and Equal | 2013
Before the Portuguese discovered the beautiful bay they decided to call Bombay, the city through its suburb of Sopara was trading with the Romans through Arab seafarers from 3rd BC onwards. This entrepot activity brought also faiths - the Nestorians were here within a hundred years of Christ's death, Buddhism flourished favoured by the merchant princes who financed the carving out of intricate caves with wall drawings in the large expanse of tropical forests that now exist remarkably as protected reserves, and languages - not far from Bombay the village of Korlai still speaks a Portuguese creole. Sopara is now called Nala Sopara, home to many thousand Muslims families who fled the island of Bombay after the carnage of the 1992 riots that has since divided it on communal lines. Amongst them lives the 90 year old Abdul Aziz Raiba, his history as an artist is one we wish to inherit as a collaborative of art practitioners, he used an urban arte-povera curating his own exhibitions that often dealt with the city's own history.
This acceptance of the unorganised as an alternative to the systematic or the corporate helps us curate based on a series of relationships derived from the need to collaborate which helps us eventually overcome the hurdles of rent, municipal permissions, places to live and most importantly funding. The Art Economy to us does not exist as a derivative compounding of auction results, large sales and museum commissions but an idea of co-habitation and mutual interdependence with a framer, a guild of carpenters, young writers in the city, an apple certified engineer, a software inventor, a group of migrant Bihari watchmen and our families, who find common place with young artists, old forgotten ones, visiting cultural practitioners from abroad, artist guilds in the North-east of India, and us as curators.