At The Museum
Conflict is integral to life, but how a society manages conflicts reveals how mature it is. Total absence of conflicts may also not indicate an ideal society. Despite having produced thought-leaders like Buddha, Mahavira, Ashoka, Tagore, Gandhi, Ambedkar and Vinobha, our civilization doesn’t seem to have progressed beyond the “win/lose” logic when it comes to dealing with conflict. And once the conflict is over, we refuse to publicly introspect and strengthen our humanity. The Conflictorium is a space that strives to engage every section of society with a variety of conflict issues, by celebrating plurality and encouraging conflict expression and avoidance in artistic and creative ways.
Power of the New
“If two entities have to occupy the same space, must one of them blend into or become subservient to the other? Is there a ‘third space’ which is beyond polarity, but opens up the possibility of something entirely new? Can aesthetics be such a space?”
A sound installation by Avni Sethi, “In This House and That World” introduces the layered history of the building and locates the audience-participant within this continuum.
“Histories are mostly records of conflicts, reflecting the ruler’s perspectives. They do not reflect the experiences of the people. Keeping this in mind, let us reclaim history to include your voice, my voice, everyone’s voice.”
The “Conflict Timeline” attempts to showcase the violent and oppressive past of Gujarat, since its inception in the year 1960.
Gallery of Disputes
“While conflict is unpleasant, turning our faces away does not remove them. The first step of healing a wound is to accept and acknowledge it.”
The “Gallery of Disputes”, designed by Mansi Thakkar, aims to bring forth various kinds of conflicts and their causes in the context of our social fabric. Most often interlinked, these conflicts and their causes may become hard to define and understand. As a museum that aims to reach out to a wide audience with varying backgrounds, a decision to convey the content of the gallery through stories was made. ‘Museum culture’ may be western, but ‘story-telling’ is universal. Drawing from structures and motifs in animal fables like the ‘Panchatantra’ by Visnu Sarma and fiction like ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell, the gallery follows the story of a Donkey, a beast of burden living in a forest, with a social fabric as complex and conflicted as in the human world. The story unfolds as the visitor walks through the gallery through mediums such as sounds, props, animations, light, shadow, etc. The visitor is treated to a carefully structured narrative whose elements may be followed in order to glean the story.
“When humans start behaving in exemplary ways, there remains no difference between us and gods. Throughout time, people just like you and me have renounced baseness and shown us what we all are capable of – even though the shadows of their differences continue to shape our destiny even today.”
The “Empathy Alley” comprises of silhouettes of political figures such as M.K. Gandhi, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Jawaharlal Nehru, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, and Indulal Yagnik. Each figure has a speech in the original voice and the speeches express the ideological thinking of each leader during the time of post-independent India.
“While tradition continues to guide us, modernity calls for a restatement of our shared ideals, values and commitments to each other, in ways that are responsive to our present moral dilemmas and challenges.”
In this room we have displayed a copy of the Indian Constitution (a pre-1977 version) and there are no restrictions on visitors as to how they engage with it. We encourage the visitors to go through the world’s longest written Constitution and try to understand its different elements. Knowledge of constitutional rights is essential for every citizen and the inaccessibility of the same is what we’re trying to overcome in this particular space of the museum. In addition to the Constitution’s presence, the space also has panels that display the human rights movement that spanned several years, for getting the inhuman practice of manual scavenging banned by the law of the land.
“Even in an ideal society, conflict would persist – pain, hurt, retribution would flare up. Instead of sowing seeds of silence inside our souls, can we find more creative and constructive ways to express and channel such memories?”
The “Memory Lab” is a community art installation that provides the visitors an outlet to express their innermost thoughts without any hesitation. The empty jars on the shelves are there to preserve the memories of conflict in the lives of the visitors.
“The sign of the truly powerful is humility; arrogance is a sign of cowardice. Apologizing and forgiving are perhaps the most profound of all human behaviors, with the capacity to transform the destinies of future generations.”
The peepal tree outside the Conflictorium has been made the “Sorry Tree”, where visitors are reinforced the importance of one word of apology and the weight it often carries when left unexpressed.