Nepali Times
City of divine lights



While traveling around Kathmandu, Karl and Pierre found their answer in Darbar Square. As they watched the "social sculpture" of Hanuman Dhoka they realised what made it a sacred space was not so much the architecture but the people.

"One of the most beautiful things created by human hands," says Karl, speaking of the shopkeepers, beggars and sweepers. These people are mostly ignored by visitors taking photographs of the temples. Karl and Pierre noticed how invisible the lives of the people were, but even so saw divinity in their mundane realities. This is where the concept of the 'divinity of the common life' originated.

Organised by the Alliance Francaise, the show at Khula Manch on 7 November will involve 19 artists in five different stages in Tundikhel. Karl Knapp and Tenzin Norbu Gurung, a noted thanka painter, will paint large portraits both before the performance and on stage, of random people around Darbar Square, depicting them in godly positions. Actors from Gurukul will portray those characters, glorifying them to the music of Kutumba and DJ Sharad, while Pierre-Alain Hubert's spectacular firecrackers and Salil Subedi's narration will direct the audience's attention. At one point, two large wheel-like structures will be lit to represent the Kala Chakara.

With so many artists bringing in their own interpretations of the theme: Pierre and Karl describe the performance as a patchwork quilt created by the amalgamation of a variety of different art mediums and approaches of expression, a fusion of ideas. The idea is to arouse a feeling of interaction in the audience. That's why they chose Khula Manch as it is accessible to a variety of audiences from all walks of life. They hope that the common experience will serve even partly to break down barriers.

Following the show will be an exhibition of the performance in the Art Council on 14 November. The photos that will be exhibited will cover the entire process of the performance and the art created during the show.

Khula Manch, 6PM, 7 November. Free entry.

Magician of light


Pierre-Alain Hubert, French pyrotechnic, creates paintings in the sky through the medium of fireworks. More than words, Pierre finds it easier to communicate with his art. In one of his performances, he has firecrackers sputtering out of his hat, and in another one, two thousand wheels alight and revolving. They are all grand, dangerous and mysterious performances, executed with the flair of a magician and a skillful performer.

All his performances are an instant hit with the audience. "I don't know what they understand," says Pierre, "but everyone seems to pick up what they want from it."

With an entry in the Guinness World Records for his 1.6km long fireworks and 35 years of performing, Pierre is one of the most recognised pyrotechnic experts in the world. He was first trained as an architect, and the expertise enabled him to do the detailed sketching for the execution of his fireworks. Pierre is influenced by both mathematics and philosophy and finds the concept of the ephemeral appealing. For this reason and because he is fascinated by light, he chose the uncommon medium of fireworks.

In Kathmandu, Pierre is not only bothered by the fact that the sort of fireworks he wants aren't available here and that he will have to do with 'wedding' firecrackers imported from India, he's also particularly critical about the patakas and winces each time a Tihar firecracker makes a loud cracking sound. "Firecrackers aren't about shooting shells in the sky," he argues, "It's about manipulating light. It's emotional."

Festival of fusion


An artist who advocates the concept of 'fusion' in art, Karl experiments and fuses the traditional with the contemporary, attempting to breathe new life into the art scene. Initially influenced by the ideals of graffiti art of New York, he wanted his work to go to the streets and not be left hanging in museums. He is an installation artist using materials like videos, multimedia, performances and actions to make each of his work come to life and grab the audience. Karl's work is definitely not main-stream, but is an eccentric outcry of expression.

Karl has been an artist for as long as he remembers. Even his grandmother was an artist, and young Karl followed in her footsteps but took a new direction. Graduating from an art school in Pasadena, California, he worked in Hollywood for a while and was involved in bringing creativity to music videos for 2Pac and Neal Young. However, Hollywood wasn't Karl's thing and he moved on, feeling that it wasn't "a place for creative people." At the age of 35, he moved to France, and seven years ago he met Pierre in Marseille. From then on, the two have worked to weave their contrasting styles of art in their several performances.

"Art is not just for the elite," says Karl. He wants his art to be accessible to the larger public, which is why he involves direct interaction with people and attempts to take laypeople's idea of contemporary art to a higher level. If he can't change their ideas, Karl fills his performances with motion, moving the audience, and urging them to participate in the creative process: "If I can't move them mentally, I'll move them physically," he says. In many of his shows, he has moved people from one setting to a completely different place in order to make his point.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)