The Story of Auroville, One recorded memory at a Time

While the Auroville Film Festival progressed in full swing, in a corner of the Town Hall building stood five television sets placed on pedestals, each of them playing video footage on loop. ‘A Tribute to the Soiled Hands and Feet’, a video installation by filmmakers Richa Hushing and Rrivu Laha, was one of the art installations that complemented the festival, and brought together recorded memories over four decades in Auroville.

Richa and Rrivu moved into Auroville’s Pitchandikulam Forest in April when they met Joss, the steward of the forest, who gave them access to the Pitchandikulam studio. They unearthed over 100 hours of video footage covering four decades of Auroville’s history. “Thanks to Joss who let us use the studio and look through through the hard discs, it is then we got to know the wealth of recorded memories that lay in our hands. We then realised that it deserved to be brought into the open,” Richa says.

The footage also made them realise that the story of Auroville is multi-dimensional. A single-line narrative might not be enough to do justice to such a vast, multi-layered, multi-format material, says Rrivu. The footage called for a more expansive kind of presentation. It was then that they hit upon the idea of an installation, wherein each of these memory streams can be watched independently of each other, yet together to create a holistic pattern.

On their own, the video clips contain precious glimpses of Auroville from a time when it hadn’t yet evolved into the international township it now is, like the green walk around the bio-region engaging in mid 80s; the seed collection trips; the bicycle race; people gathering around a dawn-fire in soiled clothes; an Aurovillian couple performing gymnastic stunts before an open crowd of school children and many such. The idea, Rrivu says, is to watch these clips devoid of any narrative shape or context, and to just meditate on each individual clip that is stoking the memory of the past.

The initial idea was to put up 100 television sets so that they could fit in a wider range of moving picture, but for now they’ve decided to set up a pilot version of their project. Richa adds, “What these videos give us is an idea of the toil that went into making Auroville what it is now. This is our way of expressing gratitude for the work people have put into building this town.”

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