Amitesh Grover (b. 1980)
A director, curator, writer and conceptual artist, Amitesh Grover uses digital media, installation art and stage performance to explore themes of happiness, grief, memory and social relations in the digital sphere.
Grover studied live and digital arts as an undergraduate at the University of Arts, London, UK. He returned to the city a few years later on a scholarship from the Charles Wallace India Trust and completed an MA in visual language of performance from the Wimbledon College of Art. He is also an alumnus of the National School of Drama, New Delhi.
Since 2007, Grover has conceptualised and directed several plays, many of which have been experimental in nature. His 2007 performance of Falk Richter’s play Electronic City — for which he was awarded the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar for theatre direction — used multimedia and video projection alongside performances by actors. The Last Poet, which premiered in 2020, was presented at SA Virtual, an online festival commissioned by the Serendipity Arts Foundation, and the Tata Literature Festival in 2021. Categorised as cyber theatre, it opened with a short film, after which the audience was given the option of choosing different spaces, called rooms, in which to continue watching performances. In addition to these, he has also adapted and directed plays based on Raag Darbari, a landmark Hindi novel by Shrilal Shukla, and William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. He also curated the International Theatre Festival of Kerala and the Ranga Shankara Online Theatre Festival in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
As an artist, Grover has focused on performance art and installation, often in collaboration with other creators and artists. Among his works is On Sleep (2013–14), a performance which was held in New Delhi and Berlin simultaneously. In each city, members of the audience were invited to participate in different activities centred around sleep, such as a ‘sleep walk’ through Old Delhi, which focused on understanding the challenge of finding a place to sleep faced by the city’s homeless population. On Mourning, an interview-performance staged from 2013 to 2016, included a conversation with a professional mourner and examined the rituals and processes of exhibiting grief in India. Another example of participatory art conceptualised by Grover is Social Gaming (2009–12), an event he created in collaboration with the British artist Alex Fleetwood. Participants in seven countries — Australia, England, India, Mexico, Pakistan, the Philippines, and the United States — were invited to play and interact with each other through a series of tasks.
Within the sphere of theatre, Grover is seen as an exponent and experimenter of the melding of digital tools within the structure of traditional performances. Even in his earliest theatre presentations, such as Memorable Equinox (2007) and Electronic City, multimedia and video were an integral element of the performances. Another significant aspect of Grover’s artistic practice is a layer of commentary, political and social, seen in theatre, installation art and performance presentations. The Last Poet, with its central idea of a missing poet in a dystopian society, referenced the political threats faced by writers and artists. In Wounding (2019), Grover turned a family archive of images into a history of the 1947 Partition, inserting stories of individuals between the ASCII representations of the scanned images, resulting in visual glitches in the images. Where Velocity Pieces (2019–23) utilises the billboard as a medium of expressing ideas of protest and dissent, the performance piece Table Radica (2019–ongoing) utilises archival and gastronomical elements to present the life and ideas of Habib Tanvir, one of India’s most celebrated playwrights.
In addition to the Ustad Bismillah Khan Award, Grover has also received the 2019 MASH FICA Award for new media art practice, instituted by MASH and the Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art (FICA). He lives in New Delhi, where he is an assistant professor at the National School of Drama’s outreach programme and leads a course on interactive design at Shiv Nadar University.
Amitesh Grover. “On mourning.” Accessed April 13, 2022. https://amiteshgrover.com/on-mourning
Charles Wallace India Trust. “Amitesh’s Story.” Accessed April 13, 2022. https://www.charleswallaceindiatrust.com/alumni-stories/amiteshs-story
Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art. “MASH FICA award 2019.” Accessed June 29, 2022. https://ficart.org/wounding-by-amitesh-grover
Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art. “WOUNDING by Amitesh Grover.” Accessed June 29, 2022. https://ficart.org/wounding-by-amitesh-grover
Goethe Institut. “Amitesh Grover.” Accessed April 13, 2022. https://www.goethe.de/ins/in/de/kul/art/fmi/amg.htm
Nath, Dipanitha. “Close Your Eyes.” Indian Express, November 24, 2014. Accessed April 13, 2022. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/close-your-eyes-2/
Nath, Dipanita. “With the stage locked down, a new art form emerged during the pandemic — the Digital Theatre.” Indian Express, December 31, 2020. Accessed April 13, 2022. https://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/art-and-culture/pandemic-lockdown-digital-theatre-7127694/
Nath, Parshathy J. “I make the audience complicit in my art: Amitesh Grover.” Hindu, January 16, 2020. Accessed April 13, 2022. https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/in-conversation-with-amitesh-grover-festival-director-of-the-international-theatre-festival-of-kerala/article30574810.ece
National School of Drama. “Faculty members.” Accessed April 13, 2022. https://nsd.gov.in/delhi/index.php/faculty-members/
Team YS. “Amitesh Grover, Performance Maker & New Media Artist.” Yourstory, July 5, 2010. https://yourstory.com/2010/07/amitesh-grover-performance-maker-new-media-artist/amp