July 26, 2019 Asmita Aggarwal

Living Light

From studying folds to becoming obsessed with Origami, Ankon Mitra’s 400 kg installation art, mirroring astute paper sculptures danced with unabashed abandon at ICW 2019

By Asmita Aggarwal

Maybe it has something to do with Rabindra Sangeet, of course, said like most Bengalis do, with a roll of the tongue, or just the free-spiritedness of the culture, ruled by a female Goddess, symbolising fortitude that puts you in another orbit. It was this aesthetically rich home environment Ankon Mitra was surrounded by as a child. Quiet, artistic, articulate, few know he is the man behind the 400 kg installation of laminated paper that rose like the phoenix on the roof of the old warehouse converted into a couture space for Amit Aggarwal’s grand opening show of ICW 2019, on a sultry Monday evening.

An alumni of the School of Planning and Architecture he went on to study Parametric architecture at the University of London and launched his company, Hexagram, with two friends from SPA. They all took turns to further educate themselves and if someone did sustainability, one did urban design, never leaving the studio unattended, while Ankon focussed on landscapes. This took him to various gardens in London, where he met a rather intuitive nature lover, who explained how folds were an inherent part of nature and the human body. “I would say it was serendipity, meeting him and finding out so much in the universe which is connected. I became obsessed with origami,” says Mitra, also a TED speaker.

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All forms of flora and fauna have folds, like the human body—our DNA, the way sound goes in our ears and bounces back never bursting our eardrums, how our tongue folds allowing us to speak, even our intestines, eyelids and the brain—everything. “From macro to micro, folds were all-pervasive. I like science so it was love at first fold for me looking at complex structures,” he smiles.

Admiring the beauty of folds, when you add them on a flat sheet, which has no character, you can play with light, creating shades of grey even as though the sheet of paper has no strength of its own. It is these characteristics of geometry that fascinate Ankon. The Delhi boy who grew up with a businessman father and a mother, who worked with the Ministry of Defence, was encouraged to sing which he did, till the age of 12. “Amit had mentioned, he wanted to play with light, as the whole collection revolves around that inner, unsaid entity,” he explains.

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Choreographer Anu Ahuja introduced them, as she has been following Mitra on Instagram, and earlier wanted him to work with Gaurav Gupta. Within two weeks, this gigantic structure which had some elements borrowed from an earlier installation at the Piramal residence, at Worli sea face were incorporated, which did a calibrated danced as a light breeze blew. “Using the human body as a metaphor of light, we tried to capture the fluidity within us,” he adds.

The three lengths of folded paper hung by strings were scattered all over the once derelict warehouse, resembled the transition from the physical body to intellectual and finally spiritual. The first one was the longest, where the media was seated and the second went around the seats, where models walked around. The final one danced the most, as Ankon left the strings attached to it low, reflecting the stage when one is a spiritual being, unfettered, not bound by societal norms. The light shines forth in this stage of your life. “Ideally I would have liked to get four days to set it up, and see the movement, but we worked in a shorter time span and managed successfully,” he adds.

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Being the only architect in a family of mathematicians, painters, and bureaucrats, Ankon has found a way to combine the family genetics through his medium of art. “Most of my cousins played at least one musical instrument and honestly there is melancholy and rhythm in everything, even in the diagrams I make,” he says adding, “I really liked Amit’s idea and I loved the worn down godown space as well when it was shown to me. It was dark and brooding with the exposed bricks and old stone and metal ceiling, and I thought the white origami with lights would shine and totally transform the space. Enjoyed the association with a fashion designer for the first time.”

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