‘State of Cooum is a reflection of society’

Four artists and water activists open up on why art must lend its voice to the dialogue on climate change and inspire people to act towards cleaning up our rivers and cities
‘State of Cooum is a reflection of society’
Hyewon, Pa. Madhavan, Melina and Guiyoung (Photo: Justin George)

Chennai

Melina Nicolaides, Hyewon Lee, Guiyoung Hwang and Pa. Madhavan are a part of InKo Centre’s Water Matters, an artistic intervention towards social responsibility. Melina feels that an artist has a larger role to play in our society right now. “We are all more connected that we have ever been but the access to vital information is not enough. 
People may have access to information but they may not interpret it the right way. I think the ethics of activism have really moved into the artistic world. At this moment, environmental awareness is of top priority. The artist, as a communicator or messenger of climate change, can take data and facts from a scientist and interpret in a way that the general public can understand. Once the general public understands something, they can have an opinion, which will inspire them to put pressure on policy,” said this Cypriot artist. 
Guiyoung Hwang added, “I personally think that there is something different in art and the way an artist supports what is going on in the world.” Hyewon Lee, curator and professor of art history at Daejin University, South Korea, pointed out that the answer to our future lies in the past. “I am fascinated by the old tanks that were built many, many years ago in Tamil Nadu. 
These tanks are perfect for irrigation and they use up the water overflowing from the rivers during rainy season. We need to replicate such structures from the past and incorporate them into our cities. We need to look into our past to find solutions for the future,” said this artist.
Dialogue on Cooum 
Pa. Madhavan, the artistic director of the Cooum Art Festival, said the state of our rivers reflect our society. “The Cooum is polluted because of each one of us, who don’t take ownership to keep the river clean. We are responsible for the state the river is in now,” said this artist, whose project ‘I Am Here’ focusses on creating a dialogue around the river Cooum. From January 14-17, Madhavan will be found beside the Cooum for 72 hours. In this solo performance, Madhavan will interact with people and also take them on a walk along the river, to create awareness about the ecosystem.

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