If only cities could speak, they would tell the stories of the long forgotten, of old temples and the gods that reside in it or those of the old men who were once young boys that played in the streets. On a cool evening in 23rd March, the Nautalle Durbar at Basantapur Durbar Square lit up with Gaynor O’ Flynn’s art installation, Kathmandu. Her second art installation in Nepal, Kathmandu was an interactive art piece that came alive with the voices of the people who pledged to preserve the culture, art and heritage of Kathmandu.
A single microphone was placed in the square and as the people began coming forward to the microphone and sharing their names and pledging to respect and preserve the ancient culture, buildings and artisan skills of the Kathmandu Valley, their voices were transformed into light that was projected onto the durbar. The lights changed with the voices, making it feel as though the building was gently swaying to the voices assuring in their conservation. Among the ruins of the temples destroyed in the earthquake, the lights also seemed to fill the gaping spaces of the Gaddi Durbar beside it.
People, young and old came forward to make their pledges to preserve their heritage and culture. The pledges were made in English, Nepali and even Newari as people lent their voices to the art. Pledging commitment to heritage conservation among the ruins of the Durbar Square made it quite an intriguing show. With most of the Durbar Square still in ruins, people were glad to have lent their voices to preservation as a sign of concern for the heritage in ruins. The event was also attended by Bharat Mani Subedi, Joint Secretary of Ministry of Culture and Gopal Jha, engineer at the Hanumandhoka Development Committee who pledged their commitment to the preservation of culture in the live event.
Flynn has done something similar in the past. Back in 2012, she installed the art piece Kora that emitted light on the Boudha stupa through the voices of the nuns from Nagi Gomba chanting ancient scriptures. An art piece that also focused on the need for heritage conservation, this was definitely a first for Basantapur Durbar Square.
The installation will be shifted to the gallery on the top floor of Nanglo Café and Pub, Kamaladi with an exhibition of the sound art and prints as a collateral event for Kathmandu Triennale. The exhibition will be open for public from March 24 to April 9 daily from 12 to 8 pm.