Where’s Art invites New Delhi-based curator Kanika Anand to introduce Astha Butail’s research on book projects and Indian old literature.
Astha Butail (b. 1977, India) is an emerging artist whose practice is inspired in part by her work as a fashion designer and in part by her deep study of Indian mythology and ancient scriptures. Her artistic direction and sensibilities are well defined in the poignant open book project she conceived in 2012 titled A story within a story (ongoing). Here, Butail draws from the manner in which oral traditions are passed on through generations and handcrafts an archive of a hundred catalogued books based on the Black Sun (2012). Each is filled by collective contributions wherein the audience is invited to write, draw, engage, react to a note on a prompt card that becomes the title of the book marked systematically as 1/100, 2/100 and the like. The outcome is a beautiful collection of people’s experiences, stories, poems, sketches and drools that interact with or overlap each other. She deftly controls the overall aesthetic of the books, each encased in a sleek retro-looking wooden cover, with leaves of paper choicely selected in white, black, red or grey, bound by thread and mountable at random on the wall as an installation.
Butail’s fascination with memory and the varied libraries of its keeping is complimented by her eye for symmetry that guide the construction of her works. No two books are made the same, the pages cut as eyelets, squares and other geometric shapes, with a black page peeping from under the white that is overlaid. From the concluding work in blue began another series of ten books titled Stretch out in the light (2013) that recently showed at Masquelibros, Artist Book Fair, Espaciovalverde, Madrid. She intends for these and the others that follow to grow with more contributions and be archived for the future as repository and relic of our current times and its thoughts. The artist lives and works in Gurgaon, India.
Kanika Anand is an independent curator and writer based in New Delhi, India with over six years of experience with contemporary art spaces in New York and New Delhi. She was also recently curatorial fellow at the Ecole du Magasin, Grenoble, France (2012-13) and regularly contributes her writings to Art Practical, Daily Serving and the Sunday Guardian amongst others.