The works of Joscha Steffens deal with virtual and analogue war games. These phenomena point to a shift in the culture of war: As the increasingly one-sided virtuality becomes reality in our present-day warfare, these games express a lack and an existential need for the physicality of fight, even though the killing in here – contrary to the deadly clicks of a drone pilot – remains a game.
Joscha will be part of Jaaga's pioneering public art project in Bangalore: Urban Pastures. The vision of this project is to introduce contemporary art at 50 new bus shelters being installed within one specific constituency in North Bangalore. The project presents a tremendous opportunity for art, in this case photography, to occupy an unusual public canvas within city space. A space that is accessible visually to all strata of society and represents a mini-ecosystem.
At second glance precisely the fact that I had never been to India – the unknown – excited me a lot. So much so that within a day I overcame my doubts and agreed to participate. The invitation and project description included a chapter of Italo Calvino's Essay ‘The Invisible Cities'.
Though I wasn’t familiar with this particular work at that point, I had been carrying his novel 'The Baron in the Trees' for long time in my mind. The atmosphere of the novel, this vague feeling between childplay and being pulled out of the society, something hermit-like crawled back into me and together with a naïve romantic Idea of India created by an overdose of Hermann Hesse literature during my teenage days, I found myself preparing for a new adventure.
The 8 days and 7 nights in Bangalore went by like one big druggy trip and it becomes difficult today to define structure within. I was diving into a new sphere, a sphere of warmth and depth, of thick intense air, sound, noise and colour. The experiences and encounters I made were extremely impressive and intense, thus making it impossible to separate them now either geographically or timewise. In my memory everything becomes one big colourful, loud, hectic and fascinating smelling wonderful spacey rotten cluster: Bangalore.
At the end of the day I found myself again and again in one of the ‘Invisible Cities’ Marco Polo talks about in Calvino’s novel. The herdsman of Cäcilia was as real, as present as the never-ending but at the same time never-collapsing flow of traffic running over the gigantic crossroads and through the small alleys, as aggressive as the stray dogs defending their territory throughout the night, as anachronistic as the monumental staging of tanks and flying warships, that I came across over and over again.
It was especially intense to spend time with the Indian artists Pinky Gandhi and Roy Sinai. The personal exchange during the Urban Pastures project and the shift of paradigm for every one of us together with newly-built friendships might be the most important element that I can carry home with me. Without these direct individual contacts it would have been impossible to realise a work such as “Defence Land”. Each of them opened out for me a complete different access and view on this complex creature of Bangalore.
I am very glad and thankful that the Goethe-Institut made my participation possible and I hope that there will be more intense projects of this kind in the future.