Sep 14, 2009

How Long? How Far? : In Conversation with Sachin G Sebastian

Me: Geometry and Paper appear as two dominant aspects in your work. What is the reason for your constant passion towards them, and how do they help you while dealing with your practice?

Sachin: Paper was my passion since childhood. I remember replicating the pop-up greeting cards my mother and her friends use to get me, and doing my own drawings on top of the replicated forms. After I reached to pursue my graduation in NID (National Institute of Design) I was confident that I can deal with anything that is related to paper. Geometry, I got the kick when I was studying in NID, one of my faculty was saying that geometrical grid is the base for every form. Then I started viewing and dealing the practice with these understandings of geometry. My experimentations in geometry thus made me more comfortable and this is also one of the reasons that I never used to like a flat two dimensionality as adapted by the Graphic Design. I was more interested towards the processes in which works like organic architecture takes shape. My practice in that sense primarily has the geometric grid as a base on to which different forms are developed. This process also makes things easy in the sense of time and execution. My explorations with paper became more nuanced when I shifted to Bangalore after my graduation with the understandings on geometry I gained from my graduation. I felt that paper would be an ideal way to deal with my concerns and thus all of it started.

Me: How does the process of your work go, as it is based largely on paper? What are the kind of techniques you adapt to execute them? More importantly what are the contextual/conceptual motivations behind such developments?

Sachin: Well I have done largely pop-up’s, For Instance in my recent work Ramayana, there is a basic story which I already knew and my attempt was to go deeper into it. In this work I have taken 6 main scenes, the first scene is like Ram lifting the bow, while dealing or working on this scene there are certain factors which I keep in mind, When you open a page how can one feel that the Rama is really pulling down a bow, for this I visualize the scene and understand how the animation of pulling the bow can be orchestrated with paper. Even similar method applies while dealing with other scenes like Sita being taken away by Ravana. So after the first visualization I start with developing additions as it progresses. Sometimes there is a possibility that even the base structure may also change accordingly and that’s how all these processes amalgamate into the final one.

Sachin G Sebastian, Image from the Pop-up book Ramayana

Me: How do you perceive and interpret the physical structure and the aspects relating to the conventional idea of book. For Instance the way, in which the narratives of your two pop-up books on Christmas and Diwali go, they are unusual narratives being narrated by a character called Toto. So there is an attempt to move away from the existing formats of book and also the narration, can you share your experience in more detail?

Sachin: I was always uncomfortable with the conventional form of books, especially those which you sit and read with concentration, and rather I always used to prefer watching a movie. But many of my friends use to be of the opinion that it is more productive to read a book as there is a possibility of visualizing the text that is written, whereas movie is already a visualization of somebody else. And you can say that this is one reason that made me to deal with pop-up books. In a book as I feel, by opening it there should be some place to play around, and by just opening the page half of the story should be told. One of the other important aspects I try to engage with is that people have strong ideas about books that they in particular formats and in with such function, so pop-up’s in that sense are something to go away from these established notions. There is no possible speculation before opening the pop-up’s about the visuality of the inside structure. Coming to the narration part I was always against this typical narrative formats. I use to write short stories, for instance there are short stories on cards, where suppose there are 5 cards having different things written on them still each one of it stands as an individual story but when you begin to read the others then you realize that there is a connection between each other. In that sense how much ever you shuffle the cards the story is the same. I took this aspect as a conceptual motivation and how much ever I manipulate, the story is the same and every page in my book stands as a different stories and also contributes to the book as a whole. So these works can be understood as not stories that fit in specific narrative but as fragmented instances that does make sense even if they are assembled.

Sachin G Sebastian, Image from the Pop-up Book A Christmas Dream

Me: Your work in this residency is a Paper based work which is developed by cutting and folding the paper roll, having a running landscape starting from a sea to an urban scene, it seems like the landscape is transforming from one into another. In what context do these diversities come together?

Sachin: The aspect of Architecture is what I broadly wanted to engage with in this residency. There is a bombardment of architecture in the name of development. The notion of struggle for survival is moving everyone from rural to urban landscapes. These are the perspectives from which I initiated my attempts in this residency, I narrate this with the help of a visually fractured landscape that starts from sea to green fields and ends at a stage of urban architectural excess. The reason for executing this on a single paper scroll is to narrate the whole story on a single scroll. For Instance in Chinese Scrolls, one scroll narrates the whole story. This attempt can also be understood as an articulation of the landscapes I have been passing through since my childhood. From a plain landscape of Kerala, where I step out of my house and keep my leg on the soil to the current day architectures of Delhi where land the outside concrete surface is just a dream. That is why I call this How Long? How Far? Primarily questioning myself until how long and how far I am going to operate in these spaces. In another sense this is also a question to the society that bases itself in urban spaces at large as to how far and how long these practices in the name of development are going to be there. More importantly these spaces are limiting one’s senses to articulate with architecture and that’s how I call it an architectural bombardment. If you look at the scroll from the side it appears like a seismograph. This is also to metaphorically say that when the landscape is in sea and plain, the line is steady, the moment it goes up to the city it goes up and up and up.

Sachin G Sebastian, How Long ? How Far?

Me: There is an attempt to create a discursive space through this residency between practitioners from different backgrounds. How do you perceive this attempt and how does it help you in different ways?

Sachin: It is obvious that every time you get exposed to new things your mind also opens up to newer vistas, through discussions and many other productive modes. Especially when people come from different geographies of the world, there is a diversity of understandings. Though we are dealing with a similar subjective interest such as bookmaking in this residency the ways in which everyone approaches to that is drastically different. It is also a benefitting factor that comes out of the freedom this space has provided us to understand the thematic in our own ways and work accordingly.

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