(L-R) Director Onir, curators Davide Quadrio and Myna Mukherjee, Aseem Chhabra
(L-R) Director Onir, curators Davide Quadrio and Myna Mukherjee, Aseem Chhabra

Teaming up for the love of art

SAMA: Symbols and Gestures in Contemporary Art of Italy and India' is a three-part documentary film that explores multiple dimensions to the contemporary art scene in Italy and India

Art has the tendency to transcend geographical and social barriers and bring people together, thereby creating a confluence of ideas. It is this characteristic of art that has been explored in depth in the Indo-Italian documentary film SAMA: Symbols and Gestures in Contemporary Art of Italy and India. Volume one of the trilogy premiered on Thursday at the Embassy of Italy in New Delhi, Chanakyapuri. Curated by cultural producers Myna Mukherjee and Davide Quadrio, this documentary is directed by Indian filmmaker Onir along with Italian director Allesandra Galleta. 

Commissioned and produced by ArtHub Asia, a non-profit organisation devoted to contemporary art creation, and Engendered, an arts and human rights organisation, SAMA is a collaboration of The Embassy of Italy in India and The Italian Cultural Institute of New Delhi. The film, which explores the semiotics of India and Italy’s contemporary art scene, is supported by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.  

A toast to art

The event commenced with the inauguration of digital works inspired by the film, created by artists Satyakam Saha and Satadru Sovan. This was followed by an address by Vincenzo De Luca, the Ambassador of Italy to India: “The Embassy of Italy in India, and The Italian Cultural Institute of New Delhi has supported the project since the beginning because we immediately understood the potential of such an important piece of work. The documentary underlines the parallels between Italy and Indian history,” he said. 

The hour-long screening was followed by a question-and-answer session with the curators and Onir, with Aseem Chhabra, Director of New York Indian Film Festival, as moderator.“One of the things important to us was how art from India or South Asia is represented. Often, there is some ghettoisation or exoticisation that happens. We wanted to do move away from that,” shared Mukherjee.

Onir, who has also directed the critically-acclaimed My Brother…Nikhil, said that SAMA helped him revisit art, a field he has experimented with in the past. “When Myna spoke about this, it was an opportunity I was greedy for. There was a possibility to explore this incredible world of art. For me, the process was like stepping into a world where I was going with the vision that ‘I want to know and discover’. And that makes the film accessible for someone who is not necessarily from the art world.”

An array of voices

Featuring 50 artists from India and Italy, this documentary presents an assortment of voices and ideas. “We wanted to showcase that there isn’t one particular box within which you can put Indian or Italian art,” commented Mukherjee. Through a series of interviews, the artists discuss their respective styles, individual methods of creating art, and the challenges they face.The second volume of SAMA is scheduled to release early next year. 

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