Art in Transit: Peenya Metro Project

Artist: Agnishikha Choudhuri, Amitabh Kumar, Arzu Mistry, Samir Parker
Location: Bangalore, India
Year: 2014
Researcher: Eve Lemesle

Art In Transit is initiative by the students and faculty of Bengaluru’s Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology led by Agnishikha Choudhuri, Amitabh Kumar, Arzu Mistry and Samir Parker working towards transforming urban infrastructure into cultural hubs via art and installations. The project works hand in hand with the Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) to give residents of Bengaluru added ownership of public space and shared local histories within a metro-rail system officially titled ‘Namma Metro’ (literally, Our Metro in English).

Art In Transit (AIT) aims to consider multiple questions related to community, identity and community building and how art and design may be used to alter public spaces to gain individual local identities. The team looks at Peenya Metro Project as a pilot for similar work in other metro stations. Peenya, the locality the metro station serves, is an important and fast-growing suburb of Bengaluru, with its architectural landscape giving way to a convention centre, industries and other urban growth.

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The Peenya Metro Project was created as a way to engage the local community as well as commuters, via varying artwork, some light and playful, and some thought provoking, all comments on local history and culture. This is seen as the art work ranges from an interesting installation called ‘Colours of Peenya’ placed along the stairs, suspended columns shift colours that form a very local palette. An intricate visual piece explores the ‘Great Indian Meal’ something many commuters will carry with them every day but never really reflect on. A participating student also created a community garden, with plants brought in by locals and commuters, each bearing a tag with the donor’s name. Another piece that strikes a chord are portraits of the security guards employed to work at the metro station, along with portraits of people living in the community around the station. There’s also a sound-based installation made of pipes from a local scrapyard, which commuters can tune into while waiting for their ride. Another really interesting work involves the artist leaving questions for the community/commuters, such as: What do you wish for in a metro station? which allow people to engage with infrastructure creators and inform them of their needs without resorting to lengthy forms and complaint letters.

As the landscape of Bengaluru changes, the AIT team’s work to integrate local history with contemporary urbanity to create new shared histories is definitely being noticed. The impetus to beautify and create interest around utilities in burgeoning urban centres is definitely a way to create community engagement and ownership of infrastructure created for public convenience. The idea of art in the Metro also creates an atmosphere of safety and a sense of togetherness. The idea of working with State structures such as the BMRCL is also a way for communities to engage with those that provide infrastructure, making for a simple, enjoyable way to communicate your needs to your local government, and also feel cared for by the government.

The project was not only received well by the people it was intended for, the AIT team is now gearing up to work on other spaces under the BMRCL (admittedly a long process that begins with finding funds), as the project has also been really well received by the larger population of the Bengaluru Municipality, as seen from responses in the local press.

The project sees more than 30 students from the Srishti School of Art, Design & Technology come together with four faculty/practitioners who act as facilitators for the Peenya Metro Project. The project is a permanent project in the newly built Bengaluru Metro, turning a metro station into a cultural hub for public interactions, events as well as creating a way via the projects to be in touch with the BMRCL, suggesting improvements, making requests for additional facilities etc. To create a cultural hub around a public transit space also gives people a better reason to use public transport, which makes it additionally beneficial for the city.

The project was begun in July 2014 in collaboration with the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (BMRCL) with a pilot project at the Peenya Metro Station. This ongoing collaboration aims at transforming Bangalore’s metro stations into cultural hubs that facilitate meaningful interactions through public art and design projects.

All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

Progress Agency