In the middle of the floor of a dilapidated industrial building, a family of chairs sits in a circular workshop. Despite the different levels of damage, these seats with their frames, cane seats and white backs, and the relationships of the rats, betray their relatives. Pulled from gray-green steel, the remains of machines unlike those of their makers, they stand apart from desks and office equipment. others they used to associate with, it appears to be a tent, lonely, uncertain.
The factory, which was built in Mysore in the South Indian state of Karnataka, was once a vibrant factory where the Yezdi and Jawa motorcycles were produced – models that captured the imagination of bikers across India -. In 2004, after almost half a century, the factory stopped production. As the closing remarks spread – bike enthusiasts, scrap dealers, and other oddball collectors flocked to various guns to tell the history of manufacture.
The chairs here – CH-13 Executive Revolving Tilting Chair and CH-7 Chair in Tubular Steel and Cane – were originally produced by Godrej & Boyce in the 1930s. They were among the many things created to meet the needs of the newly formed, independent nation – combining so to speak, ‘work and beauty’.
The new wrought iron chairs in the country office, like other furniture produced at Godrej & Boyce, celebrated the ‘symbol of assembly and the theater of automation’; an example of the socialist ideas of modernism – the spirit of equality, wealth and opportunity.
Street artists weave new cane into the frames of the ‘library chair’, designed and created by French architects Pierre Jeanerret and Urmila Eulie Chowdhury (acquired as first qualified woman from India) in the 1950s for standard use. Public House of Chandigarh.
Jeanerret collaborated with his cousin Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, better known as le Corbusier, on plans for a modern Indian city built from the Punjab countryside. Although the city of Chandigarh shows Le Corbusier’s ‘brutal style’ of modern buildings using large exposed materials – a ‘modern’ material that is not used in traditional Indian buildings – the furniture made by his cousin embodies the common language of the country. Modern style has an urban flair and, often, boring, detailing.
The benches on the highway are, in any case, from a dumping ground in Chandigarh where the city administration disposed of them in the late 1990s, about half a century after they were first constructed. Under the watchful eye of a vintage shop owner, library chairs are carefully restored before being given a certificate of authenticity by an international shop assistant, and then on to dealers, showrooms antiquities, museums and even into famous homes. in cities across the world.
A watchful officer is near to see that they are not true, and that they are well prepared; The wood surfaces are not polished to a shine; the white color goes away and the part from the mark is not touched; The coveted administrative code is still frowned upon, all monuments are proud of their authenticity and their place in the history of Chandigarh.
Spaces like these – abandoned factories and old shops and backyards – have become ‘packages’ of ‘antiquities of Modernism’, which have been accidentally discovered or completely dispersed through auction houses, which – sell antiques or personal collectors.
Can things be called that have a history that is less than seventy years old? Old? Can it be collected? What makes things that have no material value, and are often poorly finished by today’s standards, gain such great demand after a short period of time? Why and how do even reproductions of contemporary masters acquire and retain an ‘aura’? Is their profit from it their associations with design, architecture and folklore?
Three strongholds – or castles – of modernism were born in the middle of the 20th century in response to the call of the state to contribute to the constitution of a new India. Godrej’s CH project in Chandigarh comes from two of the three mentioned in this article – Chandigarh Project, and the company of companies like Godrej & Boyce. Most of the courses of Modernism and design in India are third – National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad.
More than half a century after it was first introduced in 1960, the CH-13 Executive Revolving Chair, a staple of many public offices in India has been replaced by a sleeker, lighter, swivel chair. Still, lovingly restored, the CH-13 finds pride of place as the designer’s home office in Goa; was christened ‘The Champ’ in a high-end mall in Mumbai; and to make a retro style statement in the interior.
Modern avatars are emerging, all of which are in the original series, with natural cane instead of plastic; floral cushions enhance the chairs; the hinge and swivel system make the movement smooth. The cantilevered CH-4 chair (of Modernist designer Marcel Breuer’s iconic 1928 Cesca Chair) is lifted like the CH-13, lifting it from its gray, staid, bureaucratic past with a light coat of paint and upholstery bright and refined style. .
Within a few decades or so of them being in the first production, the Godrej CH chair and Chandigarh chairs are elevated from the public and everyday realm to the unique and collective – clearly without genealogy, small cosmetic changes transform them from practical to iconic, from chairs for office workers and occasional chairs in popular buildings.
Although the material quality of these chairs has little to do with their canon, their lineage in Modernist history, or their role as an engineering marvel in their remarkable time. What cannot be denied is that their high level is in some form invented, the value of the mediators of the type approved.
In the movement to create a complete nation, the first prime minister of India – Jawaharlal Nehru – called for a modernism built on a global perspective, but based on Indian foundations. In response to the state-led decision, Modernism entered the mainstream in India. The industrial policy in 1949, the All India Design Council proposed by MARG (the first magazine of art in India) in 1952, and the four spring exhibitions, are among the various efforts that are very important for the acceptance of cultural knowledge. in the West, marking the entrance. this global modernism in the complex, often fighting, melee of vernacular and colonial discourse in India.
Modernism followed many paths in India – different and contradictory, sometimes overlapping, sometimes merging. Among these, the modern vision adopted by Rabindranath Tagore’s Visva-Bharati University at Santiniketan near Calcutta is important. Founded in 1919, it opposed the traditional importance of Western Modernism to establish a foundation and strong belief in the rich cultural heritage of India, while at the same time demanding a radical change in Western knowledge. Called ‘contextual modernism’ by the art historian R Siva Kumar, Tagore’s ideas of Modernism had humanism at their core, and the university promoted a regional form of Modernism – which was different from which is different from the nature of the world that will, in another thirty years, be. adopted as a country too.
Tagore saw a connection in the Bauhausian appreciation of Indian art and culture; However, he understood the issues within Western Modernism that linked progress and materialism with an emphasis on technology – a concern expressed in Mulk Raj Anand’s editorial in the June 1967 issue of the journal MARG.
Four shows heralded modernity in India. The ’14th Annual Exhibition of the Indian Society of Oriental Art’ held in Kolkata in 1922 – with the participation of the Bauhaus and Indian artists – was the first of the exhibitions to start a discussion on Modernism in India and was a direct result of Tagore’s post-European relations. he was awarded the Nobel Prize.
The exhibition, conceived by Stella Kamrisch, an Australian art historian, was seen as a fusion of ‘Western Modernism seeking spiritual renewal in art after the First World War, and the efforts of Indian artists. for cultural independence during Indian rule. Paradoxically, from the 1930s, the Bauhaus school, with the changes forced on the practice area due to political pressure, did something about conversion – moving away from its interest in hand made – to get metal jewelry.
Although the interiors and customs of European houses in India had helped to create colonial power during the years of colonial rule, by the end of the 19th century, most Indian houses the middle class in cities such as Bombay and Calcutta were becoming increasingly westernized. Army and Navy Catalogs and other books giving advice and instructions to British residents, and Indians who wanted to make themselves fit.
However, by the beginning of the 20th century, in response to the years of colonial rule, a large number of people, urban Indians wanted a new vision – a clean transition from all the past. So, all the way across the country from Calcutta, to Bombay on the west coast of India, when the Indian Institute of Architects organized the ‘Ideal Home Exhibition’ in 1937, displaying ideal homes of this time – up to a hundred thousand guests. went.
On display are products including appliances, furniture, and home decor – all of which produce beautiful, newly imported, innovative ways to renovate a home with minimal resources. Modernism is now built in the West – as opposed to traditional, national, or regional.
Reproduced by permission From Frugal to Ornate: A History of Seating in India, Sarita Sundar, Godrej.