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Tushar Joag is a Bombay based artist and activist who injects himself and his ideas into the public realm before creating works that are celebrated in a gallery context both in India and abroad. Joag studied at the Sir JJ School of Art and founded the artist initiative Open Circle, which existed between 1998-2000. This idea of community building has remained with the artist and he creates ironic works which help viewers re-think the constraints of the world around them, and call attention to problems that they might not have known existed.

One body of work that Joag is celebrated for was created under an umbrella organization called "UNICELL." This "Public Works Cell" (PWC) proposed absurd products and initiatives that were “thought-out as a remedy to the abrasive and uncompromising urban conditions.” Joag embarked on ambitious projects through the guise of UNICELL's convincing logos and corporate looking website. One such project proposed to relocate upper middle class citizens from their homes and businesses in order to turn Bombay into the ‘Venice of the East’. The official looking announcements that Joag delivered throughout his neighborhood of Goregaon incited angry responses, and tricked citizens into thinking about the relocation plight of less fortunate citizens who were simultaneously being forced to relocate in the name of “progress.” Another UNICELL project tried to solve the problem of Bombay’s overcrowded trains. Joag designed sculptural handles that served as “Commuter Attachment Systems,” allowing passengers to hold on to moving trains rather than risk their lives by hanging out windows. In addition to the documentation on the  UNICELL website, Joag created paintings, drawings and installationshighlighting UNICELL plans. These works of art could also be looked at as production plans from an artist turned social engineer. In 2013, UNICELL expended to London with the UNICELL Department of Transparency and Communication which undertook a cleaning operation to expose the invisible edges within London using a team of window cleaners.

Joag goes to the furthest extremes to engage with society in hopes of instigating change. In 2010 as part of the West Heavens Project, the artist drove a motorbike for 55 days from Bombay to Shanghai via the Sardar Sarovar Dam in Madhya Pradesh and the Three Gorges Dam in Hubei province in China, two controversial development projects with devastating social effects on the communities surrounding them. Riding his motorbike dubbed Rocinante after Don Quixote’s horse, the artist’s daring act, and resulting digital documentation and paintings, shed light on the neglect both the Chinese and Indian governments are imparting on its citizens.

In a similar act of stamina, Right to Dissent from 2011, the artist spent six uninterrupted days in a small cocoon like structureat the Clark House in Bombay, filling notebooks with the mantra “I will not lose faith in the Indian Democracy and Judiciary.” This act was in solidarity with arrested activist Binayak Sen, and Joag hoped that his actions would awaken the public to their power to change outdated laws in a true democracy.

Diana Campbell

 also visit: www.unicellpwc.org