When thinking of decor inside an American taxicab, your imagination is probably limited to an LED payment screen blaring annoying ads and maybe a pine tree air freshener dangling from a rearview mirror. In India, a new firm is thinking a bit more creatively by helping cab drivers completely transform the interior of their taxis with original art by local designers. Mumbai-based TaxiFabric creates cloth interiors printed with vibrant designs that cover nearly every inch of a vehicle’s interior from the ceiling to the door panels and even the seats themselves.
TaxiFabric is an interesting hybrid of interior design, advertising, and promotion of local culture, with a number of benefits both to the cab driver and the artists. Drivers report that after applying the designs to their vehicles, passengers often tip more and remain in the cabs longer. Artists in turn have their work seen by a large new audience and are easily identified by a prominent label on the back of every seat.
From the TaxiFabric website:
Taxis in India, particularly in Mumbai, are not only the most convenient form of transport but have also become an iconic piece of culture. Although much attention is given to each taxi by its driver – to make it stand out from his competitors – very little thought is given to the fabric used on the seats. The designs that cover the taxi seats are often functional and forgettable and with the outstanding design talent Mumbai has to offer, this shouldn’t be the case.
Design, as a job or even simply something studied at school, is unfortunately not widely recognised in India. Older generations don’t understand it- design to them, just performs a function. Many people don’t know that design can create a real impact. With so few spaces for young people to show off their skills, it’s hard to change that perception.
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Ten years ago, after a tsunami struck near Chennai, India, a camera repairman named Sekar noticed a pair of displaced green parakeets perched near his back porch. He immediately started to feed them with rice from his home, and the birds soon nested nearby and slowly—and then not so slowly—began to multiply.
The 62-year-old now cares for an estimated 4,000 birds that live near his home, spending almost 40% of his income on their care. He rises around 4am to start cooking giant pots of rice which he services twice daily on a latticework of boards on the roof of his home. This video from Aravind Kumar takes us into Sekar’s home to see what taking care of several thousand exotic birds looks like.
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Journalist Spends Four Years Traversing India to Document Crumbling Subterranean Stepwells Before they Disappear
Across India an entire category of architecture is slowly crumbling into obscurity, and you’ve probably never even heard it. Such was the case 30 years ago when Chicago journalist Victoria Lautman made her first trip to the country and discovered the impressive structures called stepwells. Like gates to the underworld, the massive subterranean temples were designed as a primary way to access the water table in regions where the climate vacillates between swelteringly dry during most months, with a few weeks of torrential monsoons in the spring.
Thousands of stepwells were built in India starting around the 2nd and 4th centuries A.D. where they first appeared as rudimentary trenches but slowly evolved into much more elaborate feats of engineering and art. By the 11th century some stepwells were commissioned by wealthy or powerful philanthropists (almost a fourth of whom were female) as monumental tributes that would last for eternity. Lautman shares with Arch Daily about the ingenious construction of the giant wells that plunge into the ground up to 10 stories deep:
Construction of stepwells involved not just the sinking of a typical deep cylinder from which water could be hauled, but the careful placement of an adjacent, stone-lined “trench” that, once a long staircase and side ledges were embedded, allowed access to the ever-fluctuating water level which flowed through an opening in the well cylinder. In dry seasons, every step—which could number over a hundred—had to be negotiated to reach the bottom story. But during rainy seasons, a parallel function kicked in and the trench transformed into a large cistern, filling to capacity and submerging the steps sometimes to the surface. This ingenious system for water preservation continued for a millennium.
Because of an increasing drop in India’s water table due to unregulated pumping, most of the wells have long since dried up and are now almost completely neglected. While some stepwells near areas of heavy tourism are well maintained, most are used as garbage dumping grounds and are overgrown with wildlife or caved in completely. Many have fallen completely off the map.
Inspired by an urgency to document the wells before they disappear, Lautman has traveled to India numerous times in the last few years and taken upon herself to locate 120 structures across 7 states. She’s currently seeking a publisher to help bring her discoveries and photographs to a larger audience, and also offers stepwell lectures to architects and universities. If you’re interested, get in touch.
You can read a more comprehensive account of stepwells by Lautman on Arch Daily.
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Transit is a 2010 sculpture by Mumbai-based artist Valay Shende depicting a life-size work truck that carries figures of 22 people. Created over a period of 18 months, the piece was constructed from thousands of reflective stainless steel disks that have been individually spot welded together. Shende conceived of Transit as commentary on a dramatic rash of farmer sucides in India over the last decade. The truck’s rearview mirrors display video footage of roadways in London, Mumbai and Dubai, as if the vehicle is moving from the perspective of the driver’s seat but in reality it remains stationary. Transit is currently on view at the Mumbai City Museum, and you can read more about it on Indian Express. Images courtesy Sakshi Gallery. (via Jeremy Mayer)
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“If one is talking about sculpture then scale and skin is everything,” declared Anish Kapoor. He was speaking from India, the birthplace of the acclaimed sculptor, where his latest installation was part of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. The skin of the object is what defines it, he goes on to explain, while scale creates a certain mystery around the object. Kapoor’s latest work, Descension, has both of these elements.
Unexpectedly set into the gallery floor is a large, seemingly endless hole. In it, a vortex of black water perpetually froths and churns. The whirlpool alters the form, or skin, of the water creating a fury of liquid that invades the walls of the gallery. Descension was on view in a corner room at the Aspinwall House in Fort Kochi, a meaningful location because the room opens to views of a peaceful sea that creates a striking contrast to the powerful whirling vortex. (via Designboom)
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Nestled in Northeast India next to the Brahmaputra River sits Majuli Island, a giant sandbar that happens to be the largest river island on Earth, home to some 150,000 people. It is also the location of the 1,360 acre Molai Forest, one of the most unusual woodlands in the world for the incredible fact that it was planted by a single man. Since 1979, forestry worker Jadav Payeng has dedicated his life to planting trees on the island, creating a forest that has surpassed the scale of New York’s Central Park.
While home to such a large population, rapidly increasing erosion over the last 100 years has reduced the land mass of Majuli Island to less than half. Spurred by the dire situation, Payeng transformed himself into a modern day Johnny Appleseed and singlehandedly planted thousands upon thousands of plants, including 300 hectares of bamboo.
Payeng’s work has been credited with significantly fortifying the island, while providing a habitat for several endangered animals which have returned to the area; a herd of nearly 100 elephants (which has now given birth to an additional ten), Bengal tigers, and a species of vulture that hasn’t been seen on the island in over 40 years. Gives you more than a little hope for the world, doesn’t it?
Filmmaker William Douglas McMaster recently wrote and directed this beautiful documentary short titled Forest Man from the perspective of Payeng’s friend, photographer Jitu Kalita. The project was funded in part last year through Kickstarter. The video is a bit longer than what we usually see here on Colossal, but completely worth your time. (via Gizmodo)
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The Wall Art Project is a non-profit organization based in Tokyo who organizes Wall Art Festival (WAF), an initiative to bring art into schools in places like India and Tibet. The Japanese artist Yusuke Asai, who paints with basically anything he can get his hands on (tape, pens, leaves, dust and mud…) was asked to travel to the Niranjana School in Bihar (east India) to create a mural on the walls of a classroom.
You can only imagine the surprise when Asai unveiled a sprawling, immersive mural titled “Earth Painting; The Forest of Vows.” To create the piece, Asai sourced only locally available materials which included 7 different types of soil, cow dung, water and straw. Unfortunately the installation wasn’t permanent and was washed away after several months, but we do have these photos to document the art. (syndicated from Spoon & Tamago)
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Editor's Picks: Sculpture
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.