bangaloREsident@Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology
Henrik Schrat was born in 1968. He studied Stage Design and Painting in Dresden, and has a Masters in Fine Art Media at the Slace School of Fine Art, London (2002). From 2011 – 2016 he completed a doctoral thesis at the Essex Business School on the subject of visual narration within organisations. Economy as a subject and its interplay with culture is an issue Schrat has been and is concerned about. He has shown his work internationally since 1995.
Schrat works with different forms of visual narration. He likes to revert to traditional techniques like wood inlay (maqueterie), silhouette drawings or hanging scrolls. These techniques with their cultural preconditions are interpreted contemporarily. Thus come narrative graphics, different types of illustration and large scale murals into being.
Schrat's projects are resarch driven. Social, political and especially economic relations are the backbone of his projects. They are clothed in metaphorical, narrative surfaces, drawing on popular stories and folk tales. This can range from fairy tales to the Starship Enterprise up until Harry Potter. And are entertaining, humoresque, and overflowing with narrative complexity. Hieronymus Bosch was surely an ancestor.
Central publications in his work are: A comic strip about the stock exchange, based on 40 interviews: The Appearance of Phantasie (2000); MyGeld (myMoney) based on a Radioshow about economy with Stefan Heidenreich in 2004; the One-Day-Comic series, and a Graphic Novel based on texts by American artist Dan Graham called Wild Things are Going to Happen, both for Eastside Projects, Birmingham. In 2012, three fairytales of the early 19th century by Sophie Tieck were illustrated for the German publisher Suhrkamp, (Belinde). In 2016, Bergenroth was published, a cooperation with historian Ursula Naumann about a 19th century social utopist (courtesy ACC Galerie/Museum Zittau).
Besides classic gallery pieces, a substantial part of his works are large scale murals. For instance at Forum Ludwig/Aachen Germany (2005/06), in Eat the Food, (MOCCA, Toronto) 2007, at Golden Eagle Art Center, Nanjing, 2013 or at Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, 2014. Milk and Honey, a mural for a dining hall of the German Parliament, playing on the European fairytale of Cockaigne (courtesy siebenhaar art projects) occupies an interesting position among the murals.
Schrat's project for Bangalore relates to his work with wood inlay objects. A technique, which could be called subversive nowadays: it is executed in wood, and utterly slow. Every copy calls for the same amount of work. The clash of traditional craft and high-tech is especially strong in Bangalore. Schrat is eager to look at the tension between technology on the one hand and human condition on the other: bodily dimension, tactile qualities, spatial surroundings and distances.
I am sitting now in Berlin under the Christmas tree in my flat. Came home yesterday from a 6 week residency with Goethe-Institut in Bangalore. It feels like a village here, especially since it is Christmas, after this noisy and chaos–driven time in Bangalore, the honking, cars and even birds are louder than here. I really got used to it and loved it, found friends and all that was very well organised through Goethe (THANKS!). I would have loved to stay on, working on projects which still occupy my heart and mind.
Goethe provided the framework for the cooperation with a local host, which was in my case the Srishti Institute for Art, Design and Technology. So the actual project was between this so called 'host' and me. Srishti – that’s a very good university, just around 20 years old, but fully established as one of the leading institutions in this field and still on the rise. The Indian way of organising things is more flexible and last minute than I am used to, but everything worked out fine and operated on a highly professional level. A member of faculty worked closely together with me, so the interface to the university was very good.
I had to run a project with students for a month, within what is called 'Interim' – a month where the students don’t have regular teaching, but are all signed in into one of the projects. There were around 20 of those projects. Our project revolved around story telling in/with crafts-based objects. How to bring the tradition and time embedded in traditional crafts into the 21st century. We chose as an example the traditional toy-making of the town of Channapatna. Srishti had contacts to a small toy factory there, so we went, had a look and tried it out ourselves.
Channapatna revisited became the title of our project, and it revolves around the wooden toys and figures which are traditionally made in the town of Channapatna. It examines narratives which unfold around it, traditional and contemporary stories. In developing their own narratives, the students established new content and stories around them. Following that, the students tried to make figures themselves using the same technique, as part of multimedia displays, to try out the 'knowledge of the hands'. The displays of the narratives, with figures, boxes and images bring perspectives to rethinking a tradition, and opening up stories they are related to.
For one month every day from 9 am to 4 pm the project went on, so it was a pretty intense time, and we became a sort of family. It was a really great bunch of people, young, bright, energetic and mostly full of laughter and energy.
Due to the different tradition of teaching – a relatively small frame cluster of exercises had to be developed and not so much a free project with mentoring along the way as I am used to from Europe – it turned out to be an exhausting experience. There was literally no time (and energy...) besides the teaching to really work on my own art projects. As interesting and satisfying as the teaching was, this was disappointing – after all I had come to Bangalore as a resident with Goethe to realise a project. Nothing materialised, only ideas stuck in my head.
Nevertheless, I got deeply involved in the city and the university, and the time spent with the students became a great treasure. I'd love to be back one day.