In 2013 I had travelled to West Bengal to research the folk art tradition of Patuya Sangit.
Bengalis have a rich way of answering questions with parables and stories, so when I asked what their definition of an artist was, I was given this;
"A saddhu was sitting with his students when one of them asked, "What is an artist?" The saddhu answered:
"Two birds sat in a tree. In Bengal, people believe feeding birds brings luck and soon someone came and scattered seed. One bird flew down to peck, calling to his friend, "There's plenty, come and eat!" But the other bird only looked on. Soon the first bird called again, "Come on! Come and eat!" But the second bird just watched.
"In this world", said the sadhu, there are two kinds of people. Most are the bird eating. Some are the bird watching. The artist is both."
I see peripatetic art practice as about being with the world in its immediacy. For me the story of the two birds reflects the idea that art can emerge through experiences of life, culture, and environment in ways significantly entwined with the lives of others.
My feeling for peripatetic art practice stems from senses of being on the move for millennia whereby my family lost language, culture, and identity through their migrations and peregrinations. I have no firm senses about where I belong.
Turning this predicament on its head, peripatetic practice is about holding the idea that if I don’t belong to a particular place then perhaps I belong to the work of storytelling. My process thereby becomes about touching places through involvement. I reach out, take the proffered hand, and trust that I am where I am supposed to be - listening, being with, standing in solidarity. The state of transience is uncertain. I am always ending up in contexts where I may not know the language, environment, or culture. My work seems to be one of hanging in unknowns, opening to influences, listening to the story that wants to be told.
This form of practice invokes archetypal notions of the Storyteller, Wanderer, Alchemist, Volunteer, Healer, and Activist. It is about embodying the idea of being a chronicle-maker and witness. It is about distilling moments of connection, revelation, bewilderment, and ambivalence into tiny images on scrolls of paper that I carry with me and make along the way, each scroll picking up more or less where the last one left off.
The idea of being an instrument of change, belonging to the story that needs to be told, is powerful for working out and through “the anxiety of rootlessness”. With this in mind, I am always in a sense returning home.