From the 3rd of July 2020, amidst the COVID19 pandemic, Amsterdam-based Indian artists Pankaj Tiwari and Abhishek Thapar started a durational performance walk of 312km from Amsterdam to the refugee camps in Calais, France.
‘The Art of Walking’ proposes to raise awareness in Europe and beyond about the ongoing struggle of migrant labourers displaced after the COVID-19 lockdown in India and that have been walking long distances from big cities to their native villages.
Throughout this project, Pankaj and Abhishek donated 80% of their artistic income to support over 40 of these families back in India for three months with the money being channelled directly to the families The project has been supported by international partners listed at the end of this post and by local people and artists along the way.
Finishing on the 15th of July by cooking to 40 asylum seekers in their destination, the duo continuously shared texts, images, poetry and various responses to their performance as it progressed. You can re-visit or experience it for the first time here
Here, artist Pankaj Tiwari reflects on the journey, the performance and it’s motivation. He responds from his studio in Amsterdam to the following questions/provocations proposed by performingborders curators Xavier de Sousa and Alessandra Cianetti:
– Can you tell us more about the premises of the performance and how you feel it is related to what is happening in India now that you are based in Europe?
– The Art of Walking is an intersection of performance, walk, collaboration, encounters, writing, food making. How did all these elements shape each other along the way? Did their relationship change along the walk?
– During the performance multiple encounters happened: people that walked with you and Abhishek along the way, hosts, artists and migrants in India responding to the performance digitally, migrants based in Calais, and more. What kind of influence these ongoing encounters, conversations had to the development of the performance and your practice as artists?
– The Art of Walking ended in Calais, what happened when you were there? How did you feel when the performance ended, and how did it change compared to what you had originally planned?
– During the walk, you developed your own performative methodology. We’d love to know more about it and how you think it will shape your future work as an artist.
(all videos include British English subtitles)