Once a majestic fort – Qila Mubarak in Patiala, had been subject to slow decay for more than 70 years. A big part Sikh palace architecture will be lost if restoration, under the supervision of the Indian National Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage, hadn’t been undertaken. And now one will see the Qila Mubarak, restored to its former glory, serve as a backdrop for musical soirees, performance art and discussions related to art and architecture, for the upcoming festival Panorama Punjab.“The Qila Mubarak fort’s architecture is a composite of several styles, reminding one of the changing eras, tastes and visions. This hybridity echoes the ethos of the forum’s vision as well,” says Sarah Singh, founder-director of the festival.“I think any great idea comes at you in the simplest of forms, and fairly easily. The idea for starting a forum struck me while working on a political campaign in Amritsar .This came out of nowhere, because I had never created this kind of entity before,” she says. However, as Singh worked on it, for over a year,She wanted to create something that would be challenging and provoke audience . The intention was to be more of a salon-style forum rather than a biennale or a fair. “Each year, the iteration can be different,” she says.A core part of the vision was also to explore the hybrid history and aesthetics of Punjab. The modern and ancient co-exist so beautifully in the state — whether it is in the architecture of Chandigarh or in the sites of the ancient Indus Valley Civilisation. “Hence, Panorama Punjab is both an international platform and one where a Punjab-specific conversation can take place. The meeting ground between architecture of the different eras represents the ‘art of place’ with strong local and international interpretations, in the present day,” explains Singh.One of the highlights is the special focus on Pierre Jeanneret, the cousin of Le Corbusier, who made significant, though previously-less heralded contributions to the making of Chandigarh. “Two of our panelists include Maristella Casciato from the Getty Museum and Punjab’s own Gurmeet Rai. While the former is a renowned architectural curator and historian with expertise on Jeanneret, Rai is particularly knowledgeable about the fort, as she did her PhD on it,” says Singh.Besides this, the plaza area within Patiala, and also the fort, will turn into screening spaces for experimental films by a dozen international artists. Qila Mubarak will be interesting to see new contexts emerging. “We are exploring ways of accentuating the tone of each piece. For instance, one silent animation work seems really playful, so I am looking at an intimate viewing experience. Another work is super industrial and bombastic, so I like the idea of subverting the message by utilising a ‘space between’ in the fort,” she signs off.
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