Collaborative Ping Pong Mural / Chalk on Stone / India, 2011
Rishikesh, India is a special place for me in many ways. Creatively, this small, holy city on the Ganges River in Northern India has become somewhat of an artistic “laboratory” for me; it’s a place where new ideas have the time and space to be tried out and experimented with. Over the past 4 years, I have spent much of my time here collaborating and hosting art workshops with the kids at Ramana´s Garden orphanage. I love working with kids—their thoughts and ideas are unfiltered and their enthusiasm is always contagious.
I have had a strong interest in the ongoing changes of Rishikesh. Only 30 years ago, Rishikesh used to be a small little village with 2-3 guesthouses. Now it’s booming. Where there used to be forest and sadhus meditating, is now a bustling city with crowds of tourists, both locals and Westerners. Many people from the west come because they see it as an ideal place for relaxing at the foothills of the Himalayas while learning something about yoga or meditation. Middle class Indians from New Delhi come for the weekend for a small pilgrimage and for a break from city life. Along with the influx of tourists, much of the city’s development has unfortunately been detrimental to the city’s beautiful natural environment. In fact, just north of Ramana’s Garden orphanage, a new apartment block is under construction that now partially blocks the kids’ views of Rishikesh’s surrounding green hills, as well as a section of the pristine Ganges River.
In response to the changing landscape, I wanted the “Ideal City Project” to allow the kids to imagine just that: their ideal city. What would it look like? A forest full of tents? A luxury skyscraper surrounded by chocolate lakes?