Cloud's End (1)
A collaborative journey and project by Jenson Anto and Rahel Hegnauer
Jenson Anto and I have been exploring and experiencing nature and the urban landscapes as well as the cultural space and its narratives by both our countries for quite some time.
For our first collaborative project we travelled through the South of India (mainly state of Kerala) for 3 months.
In a non-scientific way we were researching into the history of the trading routes. Along the South- West coast of India ancient sea ports dating back to Roman times or even further back can be found. During colonial times the Dutch, the Portuguese or the British built and took over sea ports, too. One of the ports, Cochin, was our main base during this project.
On our journey we discovered many connections between the two worlds and although comparing the two cultures was not our goal we noticed similarities or correspondences in architecture, textile and furniture design.
Following two examples illustrate the widely ramified trading connections between India and Switzerland:
- In the 19th century a Basel missionary introduced a specific system of how to form and bake roof tiles to South India, so that the Indians could produce them for export purposes.
- In the same century textile factories in the Kanton Glarus (Switzerland) imported wooden block prints from India for developing their own designs. Some of the designs are now considered to be typically Swiss, a most famous item is the „Glarner Tüechli“.
We also came to realize that our optic on colonialism was not the same. While for me coming from the formerly colonialising part of the world a critical view on colonialism and its consequences was crucial, as for Jenson Anto, born and raised in India, this view was not one of his main issues.
These cultural and historical complexities as well as our personal associations were the basis of the project.
The journey and the project has been financed by ourselves.
It still has to be completed one day ...
(1) On our journeys we came twice across this name. Both, a hunting lodge from colonial times in the hills of the Himalayas and a tea plantation in Kerala were named Cloud‘s End. A reminder of the colonialists‘ passion to name all and everything and thus make it their own...
We had the boxes made – of recycled wood of cargo boxes – by a carpenter in Kochin. The two boxes contained smaller boxes which contained our purchases and collected items. They all had a connotation of the „exotic“ or being „typically Indian“. Our intention i. a. was to work with and question these clichés.
The stop-overs of the boxes were supposed to be: Kochi (Cochin, an important trading harbour during colonial times in the South of India) – Colombo (Sri Lanka) – Rotterdam (Netherlands) – Basel (Switzerland).
Instead the boxes travelled from Cochin to Colombo to Singapure then to Koper (Slovenia) and finally to Schaffhausen (Switzerland), from where we had to pick them up by van.
2 boxes 1.20m x 1.30m x 1.30m, 9 smaller boxes of different sizes
Picture travelogue from the journey sampled together accidentally.
11 A4-booklets folded to the size A5. Each booklet with 10 pages, double side print, back and front, colours and b&w, low quality print on low quality paper.
The 220 pictures in the booklets is a choice of many, many more pictures we took while being on this journey.
The opening of the boxes at Kaskadenkondensator Basel
With an introduction from Martina Siegwolf.
The beginning of our exhibition started with a meal. The boxes hadn’t reached Switzerland by then. They only arrived at half-time of our exhibition which meant that we could only partially work with the sent material; it was literally work-in-progress.
Many thanks to the Kasko team, especially Axel Töpfer, that we could work and show at KASKO (Kaskadenkondensator Basel), Martina Siegwolf and Rolf Furrer for their offer to stay at their place, Marie-Theres Weiss for driving the van with the boxes from Schaffhausen to Basel and from Basel to Zurich and Rahel Egli for her support in our temporary kitchen.