Earth Song- "I hear you are always Awake in that Old Forest Dream......."

August – September 2019

 (Source: arp, enak’s tears (terrestrial forms), 1917)
Hans Arp

“I hear you are Always awake in that Old Forest dream…..”

“I saw you being always awake in this forest dream, I saw you through your window of isolation where you bit by bit pieced and isolated earth from this burlesqued panic of ugliness.”

“I saw you weave, paint, sculpt, and embroider your earthly form into all things that needed life”

“and I hear you chiseled earth to grow again”

Dr. Varsha Dutta Pujari

August – September 2019

This is about the primitive urge of wanting to be in nature, with nature. Three unconnected human narratives are juxtaposed here to give an idea of how we keep returning to it, as means to self-preserve, and how accustomed we are to earth in a primeval way.

      A 60,000-year-old tribe with their primeval farming practices sees them as being one with nature. And the “Buhi Parabor,” the prayer to their Harvest God is a way of caressing earth with their songs, by invoking their spirit guardians just before a harvest.

Then we have Hans Arp from the Avant-garde Dada movement who burst his way through the throng of his decaying time to return to the Raw and Bold form of nature and made a point about the pointlessness of the times he found himself in!

“And once again life soars and swells in Our Dangar”

 (Source: Down to Earth, July 2019)

 (Source: Down to Earth, July 2019)

“We do not plough the land as it tears through the bosom of Mother Earth….instead we gently dig up the soil to distribute the seeds.”   (Bonda native from Malkangiri hills, Odisha).

Shifting cultivation like the ‘Dangar Chas’ practiced by the Bonda community augments the nutritive value of the soil, which in turn adds to the rich food baskets of this indigenous community without damaging the environment or expending the forest reserves. Since after cultivation the patches are left fallow for over three years; this farming style creates the perfect mosaic for carbon sinks that replenish the loss caused by cultivation and add to the new birth of the forest once more.

The ‘Buhi Parabor’ is a way of caressing earth with their songs, by invoking their spirit guardians just before a harvest.

 (Source: Getty images)

“This is Aurkondadangar, and here the Bonda stops many a times and squats to dig up wild plants and herbs that find place in the basket hanging on his back.”

We have a bounty

As she turns her rich belly to feed us.

After every harvest, we put our mother to sleep, to sleep.

Quiet lies she in her wake of incubatory sleep,

And dark secrets she spells out to the little roots

The omen is good

as this will sway the dark incomprehensible beings

and they now swivel to dance in the air,

as they spurt the tenderness of their bellies out into the ground againe

to the call of these bellies now soar

the butterflies, the insects,the birds,the snakes, the wind,

the plants and the flowers paint themselves

and in this luminous dangar

our spirit folks look over us delirious

and once again life soars and swells in Our dangar

and we are awake once again in this old forest dream.

– Dr. Varsha Dutta Pujari

Earthly Forms”Hans Arp

Isolated modernity: a move away from the panic of ugliness

“I hear you chiseled earth to grow againe…..

Hans Arp was inspired by nature, and drew a lot from it as he worked around his abstract reliefs of wood.

Most of his abstract reliefs celebrated the asymmetry in nature, but yet existed and exuded a brilliant sense of harmony that he depicted using vibrant color forms and shapes, using rocks, pieces of drifting wood, twigs, leaves, broken branches, and tufts of withered grass.

 (Source: Hans Arp)

He called them “Earthly Forms,” as it depicted the source from where it was inspired from – nature and its abstraction.

Arp was not interested in imitating nature but rather drew an abstraction of what it could be, and it was on purpose that he did not make this degree of inflection visible in any of his art form. The vacancy of chance was always left open in his oeuvre of artistic expression.  This was in a way tersely spiritual for him as he imbued these very aspects of nature that were both contradictory and beautiful.

He sought to create an art form that was removed from the burlesque brutalization of the times he lived in, of an era ravaged by World War I and epitomized in the modern development of ultra-rational technicality, that to him was inherently ugly and removed from nature. 

The sporadic bursts of irregularities in nature are what he drew from and this inspiration would sustain him and his art.

The blunt savagery propagating itself in the form of developmental monuments is what turned him away. This arrogant dehumanization of culture and everything around him from art, architecture and the way of life imposed on us is what removed him from these ‘regularities’ set by an ultra modern reality; that was nothing more than hyperbolical statements of those that stood drunk in their citadels of power.  The Dadaists moved in time to counter this with their art, which was to rebuke and remonstrate the brutal times they lived in.

This point of departure from nature was on purpose not made visible, as nature in herself was not wary of this departure from what seemed organic and what was in its course of decay. 

This period of vagrancy seeped its way into the Dada movement as the Dada artists found their call in the primeval upheaval of nature, where nothing as you look at it makes sense, and forms and abstractions were always inspired by the way nature revealed itself to us, in its raw, un-spoilt, unharmed form.


Coming back to the yearly celebration of Ganapati Chaturthi celebrations in a very small way we have a bunch of young kids who even though excited about the yearly celebrations, are soon realizing the harm done to nature every year during the Visarjan practice of immersing the Ganapati idols in choking water bodies.​

Visarjan is in itself a process symbolic of our mortal impermanence in this world but the act of doing away with these idols is in no way symbolic of our innate relation with nature but in fact an arrogant departure from what such rich meanings hold. 

These children realize that the act of submitting to the excessive fervor of celebrations comes at the cost of gnawing the very life from nature it purports to worship but not safeguard or protect against its own human whims.

If we introspect closely, the human body here in its idolatry form, is open for contemplative worship and the minute, intricate detail that goes into its making gives it the much revered verisimilitude, with no flaw left in its artistic composition, and even the devoted anthropomorphic mouse is the perfect embodiment of our being with nature. 

Our seas and oceans spewing out its own aquatic poison mingled with the debris from the Visarjan process is an audacious reminder of how life can be gnawed out, a concrete abomination of what our flaws look like.

Largely made of plaster of Paris, most of these idols with its high concentrations of calcium sulphate hemihydrate, smudges the life out of the aquatic flora and fauna. Laden with toxic colors heavy in lead and mercury, it takes about a hundred odd years for these idols to dissolve along with the paraphernalia that goes down with it and with it keeps churning the wheel of indestructible defilement.

The kids with Amit Sonawane, the artist take part in this earth song of making their favorite Ganapati idols with Shaadu maati, natural clay porous with its high moisture content.

Seeds go into the base before they start with freely moving their little hands around the clay and this act of seeding the idol ensures that instead of immersing them into water after the celebrations, they return it back to its earthly form by potting it in a plant tub, and wait as the seeds sprout to be a part of this earth song.

Arp showed us how chiseling his way back to earthly forms was a natural way forward for the Dada movement, one that was born out of the need to counter an age brutalized by unsparing greed for technology and power that was only cerebral in nature.

And the irony of repeating an age brutalized by the criminal desecration of nature is only too stark as nature hurls her fury on us now as we stand mute and helpless with the way in which our actions are intended only to aggrandize this greed for every bit of her stands unparalleled as this subversive consumerist frenzy is viciously biting away the very ground in which we stand.

Arp intuitively knew that the abstraction in his work had its bearing in nature, and would always be suffused with a kind of solid, ineffable spiritual meaning.

This is how he wanted to hold his art, and sought to enkindle the lost, yet our most primitive, innermost recesses and its connection with nature, and the freely moving handsof this enterprise is now teaching these kids of how ‘human-made’ forms don’t have to last, what has been made can go back to its un-origin form of just breaking away into its loose, crumbly, earthly form.

Dr. Varsha Dutta Pujari