Tuesday, July 17 2018, 03:30:39
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Lavanya Bahuguna


These Artists Took Us Inside A Dollhouse So We Could Reclaim Our Good Ol’ Playing Days

  • IWB Post
  •  June 28, 2017


After I saw Barney Stinson making a list of “I’m too old for this shit” in ‘How I Met Your Mother,’ I, too, made one for myself. In that piece of paper, one of the first things that I mentioned was how I would never play with my childhood dolls and Teddy bears.

Recently, I saw artist Ritu Singh and her husband, Surya Singh, mounting a huge dollhouse at Tapri Ashram inside Marriott, Jaipur, which took me to this forgotten list. They’ve named the artwork ‘Reclaim Play’ and here’s the story behind it. img_4

I spoke to Ritu discussing the idea that triggered the sudden execution of this artwork. Read my conversation with one of my favorite art installers below:

You’re famous for using scrap material in your artwork, and this time, it is the raw materials from the construction sites of the café Tapri Ashram. Talk about it. 

The installation is a temporary setup created using the discards of Tapri café, the leftover scraps from other construction sites and bits of our personal collection at brand Wolf.collage_3


We used scaffolding (a temporary structure on the outside of a building, made of wooden planks and metal poles, used by workmen) along with the usual scrap material like old stools, curtains, ladders, frames, etc. For example, in the kitchen area, we’ve fixed mirrors, perfume bottles, and other toiletries. We sliced an old tub to make it appear like a chair, and stitched wrappers of Parle-g biscuits to form the wallpaper.

How long did it take to bring the idea to reality?

Around two weeks.


What was your vision when you began conceptualizing the installation?

We kept in mind the space we were offered and accordingly used our elements to make it look like an abandoned doll-house. The idea is to make viewers re-visit their childhood memories while reflecting on their present mindset. We want to provoke people so that they reclaim their play-time, be a child again, and pamper themselves with some childish activities. Because, why not?


And why do you think it is necessary?

All of us, irrespective of our age, work hard and eventually get bored. I wonder why we refrain ourselves from relaxing and doing absolutely nothing? I personally want to encourage people to sit idly and experience the Zero-Zone. Let the imagination flow in and out of your system. A playtime, too, has the capability to take you to this zone.

In the age when academics have become a preference for most of the parents as well as, the school authorities, how sure are you of promoting the idea of ‘doing nothing’ among them?


The schools must allow their kids to spend a good amount of time playing both indoor and outdoor games. Most importantly, we need to take them back to any kind of game other than the video games. We, at Wolf, are open for collaborations with educational institutes around the country to set up installations. I hope to make a difference, even at a smaller scale.

How have been the reactions towards the Dollhouse, so far?

While the kids are finding the spot very familiar and can be seen roaming around it, the adults are looking at it with astonishment. They have questions in their minds and so; one of us is always there to describe the idea.


Talk about the other two artists who are a part of this project. 

We’ve collaborated with Nicolas Henry and the artists at Shed.

French photographer Nicolas Henry uses scrap to decorate the background against which he captures compelling portraits of his subjects. He is a fantastic visual storyteller and has clicked pictures of people from all over the world. He was in Jaipur earlier this year and did a similar thing in and around the famous monuments of the city. These pictures can be seen hanging inside our doll-house. Also, one can find Nicolas’s famous book ‘Playhouses of the Grandparents’ somewhere inside the setup.


‘Shed’ is a brand from Surat, Gujarat, that’s bringing up the trend of board games from our childhood. At the ‘Reclaim Play,’ we’ve kept a table for spinning tops, one of the first moving toys of our times, remember? How sad that the technologically-bound games have taken over our very conscious.

While we’re at it, would you like to talk about your childhood play-time memory?


I remember playing with dolls and decorating their tiny houses and drawing storylines around them. I always-always had a script in my mind before fully engaging myself in the activity.


Lastly, what’s in the future?

Just like every year, we are coming up with an art installation during the Jaipur Literature Festival that will be held in the last week of January 2018. It is too early to reveal anything about the concept now. Keep an eye!

You can find ‘Reclaim Play’ at Tapri Ashram, Marriott Jaipur, till July 31st. And while you are there, let the wise words of the Irish Playwright George Bernard Shaw resonate inside your mind – “You don’t stop playing because you get old; you get old because you stop playing.”

Photo Credit: Chaveesh Nokhwal

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