Performance Art'06

28/02/2006
The 2006 Performance art residency was curated with the intention to bring together...
Performance Art 2006
Venue: 
KHOJ Studios, New Delhi
Date: 
Tuesday, 28 February 2006

The 2006 Performance art residency was curated with the intention to bring together various practices within ‘Performance’ and ‘live art’ and create a potpourri of talents, aiming to re-energise and redefine the concept and practice of ‘Performance’ in India. To be able to pursue this direction, the residency was expanded to include seven artists. Each artist came from diverse trajectories, and each through their practice worked towards opening up newer spaces within the dominant trends of ‘Performance’.

Artist Projects

The objectives of the residency demanded a substantial involvement on the part of the Indian artists, and engaging them with international artists coming from different understandings of Performance. To be able to pursue this direction, the residency was expanded to include seven artists; four international: Diane Torr (Glasgow/NYC), Paulo Nazareth (Brazil), WuYe (Shanghai), Oreet Ashery (London), all belonging to cultures which have a strong tradition in Performance Art. The three Indian artists in the residency were; Anusha Lall (New Delhi), Sonia Khurana (New Delhi) and Sushil Kumar (Delhi). Each artist came from diverse trajectories, and each through their practice worked towards opening up newer spaces within the dominant trends of ˜Performance".


Artits

Oreet Ashery

Oreet Ashery is a London based artist. Her work encompasses live art, video, sound and photography and has shown internationally in various contexts. Oreet is interested in the slippage between art and life and further mutations of current art practices. Her work uses politics of the body in relation to culture and location. She works across a range of media including digital video and image manipulation as well as live art, writing and Internet-based projects. Ashery's work deals with identity, and more specifically, the relationship between personal politics and social politics where the two merge, contradict and intersect.

Paolo Nazareth

"Paulo Nazareth based in the town of Melo in Brazil, carries the fire of Latin American Performance Art. A radical new generation performance artist, Paulo is the new generation Brazilian performance artist, working and redefining a style first mastered by Danniel Saraiva.. His body of work is an ironic commentary on schizophrenia of lower middle class existence in Brazil. Using a calculated impromptu approach, Paulo uses re- contextualised gestures as his principle medium." 

Sonia Khurana

Sonia Khurana, is a Delhi based artist whose work occupies the intangible cross disciplinary space between video and performance. Over the years she has emerged to be one of faces contemporary cutting edge work in video. A video artist whose practice has always been focused on her body, this was her entry into the performance residency. Sonia's works are increasingly informed by the encounters with her own class, gender and sexual identities.

Sushil Kumar

Sushil Kumar's has been a long running radical voice in the realm of Performance Art in Delhi. Taking inspiration from absurdist philosophy, Sushil takes great delight in nonsense, at the same time successfully playing in the realms of our histories and memories. Claiming a subaltern position within the mainstream artist circle, Sushil Kumar lives his ideology performing in the "theater of the absurd".

Wu Ye

Wu Ye is one of the new names coming out of Shanghai's performance art circle. Wu works outside the deeply "political" expressions of Performance Art in China. Earning his bread as a graphic designer, he struggles as an upcoming but understated Performance artist. He uses his body and the medium of video primarily to express his heterosexual anxieties. His expressions are still and poetic.


Re-visiting Performance Poetic Terrorism?

Performance art is a concept metaphor usually used to tag avant-garde/conceptual art which grew out of visual art practice and locates the body and space as the as the subject and the actual material for the artwork. Traditionally it is viewed as an interventionist challenge to Painting and Sculpture, and located in the realm of ephemeral artistic practices which resist the “commodity status” of art products. However Performance Art is also a resistant to main stream practices in theater, and has enacted the resistance through positing the performer as an artist (as against a character) and working in the margins/outside of the traditional understanding of plot or narrative and often actively subverting them.

Over the last two decades performance art has largely gained from trends towards dienchanments about the objecthood of art. There has been a significant growth in interest towards the process; performance art often highlights ‘process’ as an anti-thesis to the ‘celebrated  finished hood’, often situating itself in an anti commodity protest. However it has also diversified into being a ‘new art’ which transcends boundaries of recognized media, encompassing those that have not been previously identified as artistic media....especially within fine art practices.

Although performance art claims a inter media status, it is still claimed from within a particular framework of visual arts practices. In its workings to create an ‘other’ vis-à-vis performing arts, performance art tends to become more comfortable with it’s another ‘other’ i.e. ‘fine arts. The KHOJ 2004-05 November December International Residency was a step towards discovering, locating and showcasing newly emerging practices in an attempt to challenge the concept metaphor called ‘performance art in India’.

We have been exposed to various possibilities in performance through the various KHOJ worhshops where over the years a number of artists have worked with performance art. Even outside KHOJ, artists like Nalini Ramani, Rumanna Hussain, Sharmila Samant, Pushpamala and Monali Meher have been exploring possibilities and re defining performance art. In 2004 we decided to put it all together in a residential ‘process and display’ format and give performance art a new critical impetus through practice. The residency was a significant exploration of ‘performance’ within visual arts.

There is a need to challenge the ‘trans media’ claims of performance art and to interrogate the comfort it enjoys with a certain kind of ‘high’ within visual art practices. If performance art has to engage with allegations about it being a derivative practice, it has to it has to constantly rejuvenate it self ....possibly through pushing boundaries of performing and video. The KHOJ 2005-2006 residency is curated towards putting together artists from across the board in an attempt to rejuvenate the concept and practice of performance art in India.


"Homes for the Absent"

Anusha Lall

"As a dancer who has trained in, and has been performing Bharatnatyam, Anusha Lall has had complex dialogue with the orthodoxies that control the discipline. She has also trained in contemporary European dance, once again negotiating with the classical orthodoxies embedded in it. Anusha's journey into Performance has been through these negotiations with the disciplinary orthodoxies within various realms of the Performing Arts. Over the last few years Anusha has moved on experiment with new media performance art trying to carve out a space of ˜greater artistic freedom".

"Homes for the Absent"

Anusha wanted to carry forward her experimentation combining performance and new media. By the second week, among all the participants Anusha, had the most clearly formulated notion about the display she wanted to put up. She wad already shot a rendition of the Japanese ˜dance of womb" (by Lee Swee Keong, an Malaysia based artist) and was deciding a display strategy wherein the recording of the dance would be sound edited to traditional Sufi music and reflect-projected on the ceiling. Instead of "performing" in the traditional sense, Anusha takes great delight in creating sites wherein the audience is made to perform (and in that sense her work has begun to occupy the transient space between ˜live" and "space" art). Anusha wanted to design her space in a manner that that the image of the audience would be caught by a camera and transferred on to a screen and transferred on a screen (via a DVD projector) and each person entering the space would get to see the images of the people visiting the space before, thus being (suddenly) being made aware that he/she would be viewed by the next person entering thereby imposing the "performative" onto the audience. She also wanted to capture and simultaneously project the audience as she/he was leaving the room creating an illusion that that the person is entering the room just at the point when she/he is actually leaving.Anusha's installation was so big in scale that it could not be accommodated inside the KHOJ building. Luckily her studio was right next-door and big enough to accommodate the structure necessary to execute the installation. One entered through a narrow circular space, and came across 15-inch monitors, showing all the residency artists doing a performance piece inside the constructed space. Then one would step into a big domed enclosure, where dance of womb "Lee Swee Keong" "dance of the womb" was reflected off a water container and projected on the dome. In front one could see a blue projection screen, and as one approached the exit door one could see a projection of their image projected on to the screen. It was a highly poetic construction of space primarily using video imagery.


Drag King Workshops

Diane Torr

Diane Torr is a performance artist, writer, director and educator who developed her career in New York over a period of 25 years. In the past three years, she has taken up residence in Glasgow, where she was invited to teach an interdisciplinary course at Glasgow School of Art, and to work with the company Mischief-La Bas, Glasgow, in a new devised production, Painful Creatures. In teaching her gender transformation workshops, Diane has worked extensively in the gay and trans communities in New York, and Glasgow. Over the years she has evolved into a global drag king ambassador.

Drag King Workshop (for women only) presented by Diane Torr (At the National School of Drama with 3rd Year Students)

"Have you ever wanted to dress like a man, try on the male guise and enter the male domain? The drag king workshop is a unique experience in which women take on the role of men, and live as men for a day. Each woman is responsible for the identity of the male she conceives of for herself, and is required to provide the clothes she will need for her male persona. In the workshop, women will learn how to walk, talk, take up space, and assume the sense of privilege and entitlement that goes along with the male gender. They will practice interacting with other participants in the workshop in their new personae. The workshop culminates in a visit to a public space - a strip joint, a sports bar, an art opening, or perhaps a dance club, where we can test our new identities."

The drag king workshop at NSD was with six 1st year students from 11am-9pm on Sunday, March 11. It was the first drag king workshop I presented in India! What excitement! During the workshop each participant gets a makeover with facial hair, five o clock shadow, etc. which is a pre-requisite to their developing a male character. Some of the students went on observational field trips on campus to check out their male counterparts - how the men articulated themselves physically - behavior, gesture, facial expressions, voice, etc. Others in male garb were confronted by some male students, "Why are you doing this? This is a male-dominated culture. You should not be doing this!" (They clearly were offended by this deconstruction of "man") or some male students were sympathetic and wanted a separate class so they could transform to women.

The students participating were...Laxmi Rawat – male character name “Kapil Rao”, Madhu Smriti Shukla – male character name “Bobby Singh”, Rasika – male character name “Anil Sharma” and N. Kritika – male character name “Abhilash Natrajan”

Each of these students was extremely serious in their engagement with the workshop. They are in a reflective frame of mind as their time at NSD is coming to an end. The workshop brought up issues for them about their situation as 5 female students in a class of 15 males, and the struggle they have had to have a voice over the last three years. They spoke about overall sexism in the school – the fact that no female student has ever had a position, as Union Rep, School President, etc. Also about the selection process for the school – that it is predominantly male students who are on the selection panel. Then they talked further about gender politics in the Staff at NSD, which made me realise that sexism was not just confined to the student population. Additionally, the workshop confronted the students with their situation once they graduate from NSD. They discussed being an actress or working in the theatre in a culture where it is not considered respectable employment for a woman and, for some families, is even approximating prostitution. We deviated from the schedule of the workshop in order for discussion to take place.

 

I was assisted in the make-up by Meeta Mishra, an ex student who contributed to the discussion by describing her experiences of working in theatre in other countries, and how this was a possible strategy as a way to develop confidence as a theatre artist. Meeta also had a few new make up tricks like making thick beard and moustaches.... which were not essential for me before I came to India!Laxmi Rawat said in the introduction that she was curious about experimenting with taking on a male character. In her family she does not have a problem being a girl. She feels free. Laxmi spoke in Hindi when she was in her male character, which was fine, though I missed some of what she said as him. Her character, Kapil Rao, is 26 years old and a graphic designer. He is single and has many friends. In developing the male character, Laxmi tended to act as “Kapil” and had difficulty becoming him. Her performance as “Kapil” in the class improvisation was as if she was on stage, and it was not until we hit the streets of Greater Kailash that Laxmi came into his own. Laxmi coupled with Meeta Mishra, and went to a restaurant together. In the restaurant, they discussed their relationship as boyfriend and girlfriend, with Meeta insisting that she only liked Kapil and Kapil declaring his extreme love for Meeta. Their conversation became impassioned, much to the distress of the woman at the next table, who held up her hand as if to shield herself from them. Kapil was thoroughly enjoying the situation and proceeded to kiss Meeta, which apparently shocked those at nearby tables. Meeta played her part and insisted that they be “friends” and nothing more. In the van driving back to NSD, Laxmi was very animated and said she hadn’t ever had so much fun.

Rasika never felt forbidden to do things as a girl, but she sometimes felt that nobody should look at her and give her special attention as a woman. She doesn’t want to be noticed – wants to be part of the crowd. She hoped that as a man she would be able to achieve this invisibility. Rasika is very expressive, and has "fluttering fingers". She uses each finger individually, which is an unusual skill, especially for me – coming as I do from the West. However, this expressiveness in the way she uses her fingers, arms and whole body, is not useful in becoming a man. Her expressiveness is very much a part of her, and she found it almost impossible to be aware of it, and to change it. Consequently, when she went out in public, she found that people were staring at her even more. She was somewhere in between being a man and a woman, and this held even more of a fascination for onlookers than if she was merely a woman. The experience made her frustrated, but also brought her, and Madhu, who accompanied her, to think about people who are trans-gendered – how it must be for them.

Madhu Smriti Shukla in the introduction wanted to develop a different perspective. She wanted to separate from how she thinks as a woman, and wanted to discover, for example, what is a man’s process when he looks at a woman or when he talks to other men. What is it like on the other side? As the male character, Bobby Singh, his parents are from Punjab and he did his education – B.Commerce in Bangalore. His ambition is to become an engineer but he knows that his father will give him money to open his own businees and he is planning to open a woollen factory. He likes girls. Likes to talk to them. He was in a co-ed school where the girls would steal his parathas, but he didn’t mind. He likes girls. As Bobby Singh, Madhu was very successful. It was fortunate that Bobby Singh accompanied Anil Sharma to the McDonald’s at G.K. Market, as he was able to maintain confidence when Anil was losing his. One thing that Madhu noticed was that there was a man eating in Mcdonald’s and he had extremely feminine gestures – he was even more feminine than Rasika. It made her wonder what it must be like for him, and for others who don’t fit into the gender stereotype. This experience gave Madhu some sympathy for them. Madhu was courageous to take such an extreme character as a Punjabi Sikh, but she pulled it off with flair, and was particularly good at maintaining a male voice. Though as a young Punjabi man, her voice could have a light and playful quality, which was not so far removed from her own.

N. Kritika, in the introduction, talked about a production she had done with other students where they were looking at gender and at transformation into something else. Rasika, for example, had played the part of a eunuch. She saw the workshop as an extension of that enquiry. As the director, Abhilash Natrajan, she was impersonating one of the Acting Directors at the school with whom she had been working on a production. N. Kritika is a big woman and very self-aware. The transformation into her male character was not difficult, and probably was made easier because she had worked closely with the person she was impersonating. Her size was useful in exercises like learning to take up space and to hold your ground. I coupled up with her when we went out publicly to G.K. Market. However, first the whole group went to Nathu’s Pastry Shop in the Bengali Market – a daily hangout for the students.

It was interesting for the students to interact with counter-hands who see them regularly but didn’t recognise them. At G.K Market, Abhilash had a plan, and I followed him through the whole market walking at a fast pace, never stepping aside for anyone and even bumping into some stationary people, without a backward glance. Our destination was a local bar/disco where we had a couple of beers and even danced to the Bollywood numbers, bringing our beer glasses on the dance floor. This last action filled N. Kritika with mirth, as she later recalled the experience. We did not attract any special attention and were generally ignored by passers-by, who got out of our way – two men on a mission! In the feedback session afterwards, N. Kritika said that it was the first day she had not been conscious of the fact that she is fat. She felt it was OK to be fat as a man – that it was not a problem.

On the way back to NSD, N. Kritika bought a bunch of white roses, whilst we all observed his interaction with the flower seller from the van. I was rewarded with a bunch of roses, when Abhilash re-entered the van. That was a special thank you from the students.

Long may they thrive!!!

Diane Torr


Performances

I have been making mainly solo performance work for over 25 years, with the exception of a few collaborations and group pieces. I was very excited to have the opportunity to make new work within a situation in which there was the potential to collaborate with artists from other countries, and to possibly include people from the community around Khoj.

I wanted a working dialogue with the other artists, and to kick start that process, I offered a one day performance workshop at the beginning of the residency in which everyone could participate.  The workshop began with physical exercises, including breathing, stretching, and working in partners to do body lifts and stretch the body further. I had instructed each person to bring a personal object – something of some significance to them.  These were distributed at random to participants who had their eyes closed, were sitting on the floor and with hands behind their back.  Their experience with the objects was a tactile one, as I took the objects back before they opened their eyes. They then used their sense memory of  the object to create a character, and developed movement, voice, gesture, etc. through improvisation.  Each formed character then collaborated with another, and created a duet which was shown to the group.

The exercise following this was a solo performance that each participant then created with their own object, focusing on their essential connection to the object, such as an emotional narrative, eg. one of the residents had brought in a small stuffed toy bunny rabbit which she had brought with her, and was a momento from a close friend.

The second half of the day’s performance workshop was site-specific and took place in the local Khirkee Mosque – a 14th century historic monument which has many arches and domes.  Working in partners, they were given 30mins to work on  an improvisatory performance that explored light/ shade and shadow within that environment.  One pair¸ Oreet and Sushil used the light to make shadow puppets with their hands, and focused on the sound of the bats and birds in the mosque as a sound source; another pair, Anusha and Wu Ye made a series of synchronised movements in which their shadows were never apart, and always overlaid, accompanied to sounds that they each emitted; Sonia and Paulo sat back to back and experienced sound vibrations that they exchanged through their bodies, and they then positioned themselves at different angles to make shadows with their hands along the shade boundaries created by two of the columns in the mosque.  I did a solo where I danced and tried to run away from my shadow, whilst singing the song “Me and my shadow”.

There followed two more performance workshops given by Anusha and another by Oreet, but the other resident participants for a variety of reasons, did not present one.

I was undaunted in my pursuit of working with a group, and decided I would offer a performance workshop for the locals.  I organised signs in English and in Hindi, (translated by Arun) to be put up in the street inviting participants to take part.

There were five men from the village who showed up, and at the beginning all of the residents took part.  I played some music and had everyone dancing alone and then together.  Then with a partner, I asked them to follow each other’s movements, alternating who was the leader and the follower.  Then I asked them to remember 3 or 4 of the movements they had created together.  These were then passed along to the group and we all learned each other’s movements.  In the end there was a complete choreography composed of the movements by twelve participants – six residents (Sonia dcid not participate because of a knee problem), five locals, and Asta, the Community Outreach Worker at Khoj. Everyone enjoyed the experience and there was a real sense of a group dynamics. Each day at 4pm, the performance workshop continued.  However, towards the end of the week, it became clear that none of the locals wanted to be involved in a public performance, and the other residents had moved on to do their own studio-based performance projects.  I had to reconsider the project and with Asta’s help,  brought in 8 of the local kids, who were extremely excited and enthusiastic about the opportunity to participate. I was then able to “PASS ALONG” the movements created by the adults and have each of the kids contribute some of their own.

Is this performance that I conducted with the kids “Performance Art” or a “Community Project” or a “Street Performance”? To present this performance publicly in the street in front of Khoj blurred the audience boundaries as there were both invited guests and a large crowd of local people watching.   The definition of the work was also blurred – it was “performance art” in the sense that I am a performance artist and I initiated and conducted the work, but it can also be seen as a community project and a street performance.

In the last analysis, I achieved my objective – to work with a group in which we collaborate on a performance.

TTT ADVENTURE

This is a truly inter-active performance where the audience has the choice to watch or participate.  Either way, they are the ones who are making the performance happen.

TTT Adventure was developed through a need to have a communication during the residency that was not using verbal language.  One of the residents, Wu Ye is Chinese and one is Brazilian, Paulo, and they speak very little English, but they can both play the universal language of ping-pong!  I decided to present the opportunity for a release from the daily struggle to communicate, and created the Table Top Tennis Adventure.

Here’s how  it works -

Each participant takes a bat and as there are six – this is a game for six players.  Each player moves around the table in a clockwise direction, and aims to hit the ball once at either end.

The skill is primarily in regulating your pace so that you are at either end of the table in time to hit the ball.   You also need skills of co-ordination to hit the ball so that it bounces once on the other side of the table and not on the floor, or the wall, or your opposing number’s chest! As the days went by, some of the administration staff at Khoj got involved and demonstrated their ping-pong expertise.  Then the occasional visitor to Khoj would also participate.

In the TTT Adventure, nobody wins and nobody loses, but we have the chance to demonstrate skill and make fools of ourselves.

ALMOST HIDDEN is a solo performance which explores a liminal erotics.  It derives from the concept of the forbidden glance.  Imagine that you are in a car on a flyover on the highway.  You pass an apartment block, and very briefly you get a glimpse into the window of one of the apartments.  For a moment you become the voyeur of a private fantasy.  A woman in slip, bra, wig and high heels, with her back to the window is dancing to the mirror.  She is engrossed in watching herself as she repeatedly poses and tries out dance moves.  For that second that you notice her, she turns around.  She is wearing a black eye-mask.  You are now not only curious but intrigued.  The experience of the forbidden glance where a secret  intimacy is publicly revealed, generates a fantasy in you that continues long after the car has passed over the flyover, and occupies your imagination as you travel along the highway.

My interest in making this performance is a continuation of an investigation and search for an erotic aesthetic which highlights the sensual in daily life.  It is an attempt to bring awareness to the notion that we have ownership of our bodies and of the erotic.  The erotic and the sexual have been claimed by corporate interests, as if there was a lease on this expression and they own it outright. This is very apparent in New Delhi , where there are taboos about kissing in public or holding hands in public and women can be publicly chastised or admonished for being considered “Immodest”.  Bollywood and MTV are the two places that I’ve found where the erotic is allowed and celebrated.  Television is a cold, voyeuristic medium where the audience looks on but can never physically participate.  However, it is only within that package that this expression is tolerated.  The one exception that I experienced in my time in New Delhi was when I visited “Pegs n Pints” on a Tuesday evening – when same sex couples uninhibitedly danced together like there was no tomorrow.  


"Imagining Sarmad"

The 6 weeks residency included 7 artists; 4 of us from China. Brazil and Scotland/NY and myself from Jerusalem/UK. We all lived together in a guesthouse that was comfortable and in a great area. We made our way to Khoj studios and office on a daily basis using auto rickshaw, the sense of travelling through the city was an experience in itself, of which we spoke and documented.

The other three artists were from India and I personally got a great deal from the exchange with them and feel very privileged to have met with them. Same goes for the people who work in KHOJ and the Delhi based artist Anita Dube who is on the board and whom we met with on a regular basis. Meeting these people gave me a great opening into Current Indian culture, local concerns, thought processes, insight into the art world in Delhi and the issues that are currently relevant to it. I also got insight into the very complex history and the religious make up of India through many passionate conversations.

Apart from the meetings we held as a group in KHOJ with or without other participants, there were also other activities as part of KHOJ programming including talks, presentations and film screenings. KHOJ felt like a very vibrant place at this point, as an alternative space to a more commercialised art spaces, where people from Delhi and abroad seem to gather up on a regular basis. Some of the discussions I took part in were the most passionate I have encountered in any of the countries I visited in the past or London where I live and work. I enjoyed the level of involvement people feel regarding art and performance.

At some point during my stay I went to a conference at the Goethe institute on counter culture where I met with Shuddha from Raqs media-collective, I ask him about Jews in India for some reason, and he gave me a quick and well informed over view, including the mentioning of Sarmad the Saint. I followed this lead and found out bit by bit about this 17th century saint. According to a small book in Hindi that I found he was born to a Jewish Rabbinical family in Palestine (although in another source says it was Persia) he came to India as a merchant, gradually became a Muslim but mainly a Sufi, he believed in direct contact with the divinity rather than any form of official religion. He fell in love with a young Hindu man Habichand and even though the authority and Habichand's parents tried to separate them, their love was stronger and eventual they were allowed to live together. Sarmad taught Habichand everything he knew about religion, poetry and translation. Sarmad became a known poet and a saint, a spiritual master. He used to walk naked, but people did not bother about his body- they listen to his wisdom. In 1660 he was beheaded by the last Mughal ruler Aurangzeb and was buried in Jama Masjid. I found his Tomb with the help of Hemant the residency coordinator who took me to a fascinating place in Old Delhi, one of the last letter press publishing house were the owner is researching and preserving the history of old Delhi and Jama Masjid.

The Sarmad's tomb is still visited by many worshipers. I really appreciated spending many hours with Sushil and Anusha and Rahul, the writer in residency at KHOJ, translating and discussing the story and its cultural implications. I am very much hoping to get a proper translation of the Hindi book into English.

Since arriving back I got a book in English about Sarmad called Sarmad Jewish Saint of India, which has a slightly different approach to the subject. This is what I find interesting about the story, that it is so much based on myth and interpretation.

"Imagining Sarmad"

I had based my performance in KHOJ on this story. The performance is an adaptation of the story told in eight letters written by Sarmad to his imaginary sister. In the performance I lie in the middle of the space on a box and "embody" the story through drawing, clothes and other props, whilst 8 people from the audience are sat around me and read the 8 letters.

In the open night I did the performance twice and felt there was interest and focus in the room and that it went very well. This story and the performance open up an avenue to whole new project I want to develop around Sarmad. For which I am very much hoping to come back to India and continue the great connections with the people I met. I would like to make the adaptation into a film. I am thrilled that the performance I did in KHOJ was already invited to be shown in APT gallery in London, the Freud Museum In London and the Gay museum in Berlin. I am happy that the work I made and this initial research had a further life outside the residency where further discourse can take place.


Public Performances at Dilli Haat and India Gate

With what degree of transversing would one be satisfied?

"Dressed as a conservative.... slightly shabby nearly middle-aged Jewish lower middle classmate. Oreet was out being tourist in Delhi. The act of gender crossing had shielded Oreet from the male gaze...'letting her be' for a while. Oreet had her portrait sketched...one could see that the portrait artist assumed Oreet was male...a sharply depicted angular jaw line sealed this observation. People dropped in to see what was going on...drawn in by the odd looking Jewish man and the cameras. A while later she returned to the artist, only this time with a Palestinian scarf over her/his head... This time s/he attracted much more attention. The catchy red and white pattern.... and the scarf gave her gender identity an interesting twist. Some of the onlookers could actually sense that it was a difficult portrait to sketch...and soon a small crowd gathered around the artist to watch him render the portrait. It was apparent that the artist was by now completely confused about Oreet's gender identity....perhaps even a little disturbed. This infact went on to affect the quality of his work.... at the end we got a confused sketch...." Rahul Bhattacharya

During the residency I also went to Dilli Haat, where I asked a street portrait drawer to draw me whilst I was dressed as Jewish Man and than to draw me as I was dressed with a Palestinian or Arabic Kafia. This is part of my interest in the cultural cross over between Judaism and Islam.

The visit as a whole was of tremendous importance to me. My work deals generally with cultural identity and cultural anxiety, visiting India give me a first hand experience into a non-western perspective, something I only experienced before in my birth place at the Middle East.

Now In England, where Asian artists form a very important part of the cultural diverse art scene and where I am currently mentoring a second generation artist from Punjab for Fierce performance festival, this experience seems fundamental to my development as an artist with interest in cultural diversity.

I an hoping to come back and develop the relationship further by trying to talk to the Live Art Development Agency and the Surry Institute, where I am a visiting lecturer, about the potential for some exchange programme, or a programme of Indian performance work visiting the UK.


Performances

Important Public Notice / Important Noticia / Mahatvapoorna Soochna Janata Ke Liye

Paolo's practice has always been situated in the public sphere, outside the confines and constraints of a gallery or institution. During the 6-week residency, he walked everywhere taking in the sights sounds and reality of life in Urban Delhi. Through the 6 weeks Paolo did a series of performances that were intended to be spontaneous and located specifically in the public domain. He chose to perform at Nehru Place, as the hub of pirated software and other goods, was the ideal site for a performance that aimed at subversion, albeit on a small scale of the European Market monopoly.

Dressed in a trampish coat, Paulo carried two placards with him one stating "Anyone who guesses my profession will get hundred rupees" and the other stating "anyone who guesses which country I am from will get one rupees". Accompanied by Hemant, Manoj and Aastha, he went and sat in a crowed courtyard and instantly started drawing a crowd. Paulo was giving them an alien spectacle and typically they did not want to miss it. Many tried guessing the answers to the questions raised but only one succeeded (enough to earn one rupee). After a point the police came in to disperse the crowd, putting an end to the evenings burst of activity.

Pure Water for Secular Men / Agua Potauel Para Homeng Profands / Saada Paani Dharmnipreksh Admiyon Ke Liye The open day evening began with Paulo enacting his performance "Pure Water for Secular Men / Agua Potauel Para Homeng Profands / Saada Paani Dharmnipreksh Admiyon Ke Liye" the performance involved Paulo walking down the narrow lanes of Khirkee with a wooden water container tied to his chest and armed with some glasses he walked around distributing clean drinking water free to people. As usual Paulo evoked a strange sight, and baffled his audience with his play of contexts.

˜What Do I Make With India / O Que Faco Con A India / Main India Se Kya Karta Hoon + What India Made Do With Me / O Que A India Faz Comigo / India Mere Se Kya Karta Hai "

For Paulo visiting Delhi and India was a rare experience, he had never been outside Brazil before, and he could sense that this cultural exposure would have a significant impact on how he viewed intervention. In his work for the open day, Paulo wanted to create a room for himself, constructing a utopia where he would live and work. Right at the onset Paulo was clear about the specificities, he wanted to construct his "utopia" with. In an attempt to communicate his own lived ambiance, Paulo desired to construct his space with some lime paint, a hammock, a radio and certain items of daily use. Within that space Paulo wanted to build in a narrative sealing up the rooms window with ply board, Paulo wanted to structure his performance around using a rudimentary cutting tool...and through the evening of the open day breaking the ply sealing open.


Performances

"Bag Lady"

Sonia has been a leading video artist, who has increasingly used her body as a site for articulating metaphors. Being a part of a Performance art residency generated a desire to use her body as a live medium. Humour and "self" have always been an intricate inspiration for Sonia. Sonia had not been able to come to KHOJ and participate in all the meetings and discussions, which had generated various degrees of unhappiness among the other participating artists. Sonia wanted to play on this and work around the theme of presence and absence. Sonia was pursuing another idea, that of "playing" a "bag lady" outside an up market place, getting a friend to video-document the performance and play the footage on the open day.

"Don't touch me when I start to feel safe"

Sonia's "Don't touch me when I start to feel safe" was staged in a partitioned room and also involved a video camera with a projector. Sonia sat behind one partition and as people entered her space, they could see her through the projection, she could be seen sitting engaged with herself, and periodically coming out carrying a paper in hand, the paper was an invitation for members of to come join her in her room for a glass of wine and some light chat. For Sonia it has a significant performance, the first time she crossed the divide and actually performed "live". The "Bag Lady" video played in a small television screen in a passage outside Sonia's studio space.


Performances

"Lesson 1... Lesson 2"

Lesson 1, mimicked a punishment given to lower castes and students in India, which involved crouching in the "chicken posture" and hopping a distance, crouched in that posture. Sushil began his Lesson 1, from outside the Sai Baba Mandir, through the lane leading up to KHOJ. Sushil attracted a huge crowd as he took up the physically exhausting task mimicking and parodying the demeaning punishment. Sushil's first performance smoothly flowed into the next one (Lesson 2), as he entered the building of the KHOJ studios, he asked the members of the audience to remove their shoes, and putting them on the shoe rack borrowed from a temple. Before people could realize what was happening, Sushil had upturned the rack and sent the shoes tumbling down in chaos.

"Human Chain"

The artist sat nude on a chair with his boots on his lap, there was a chair positioned in front of the artist which stood as an invite for any member of the audience to come and sit on it and establish visual contact with Sushil. There were two video cameras attached to two television monitors facing diagonally outwards into the audience. Sushil and the person seated in front of him held hands and looked into each others eyes, each time one of them blinked, the chain was declared broken and the person had to get up and make way for another member of the audience to come, sit and take the chain forward.


Critic's Essay

"It is easy to gather a crowd in India what really matters is what one does with them" - Diane Torr

At one level, there is the agency of the curatorial project, however there is an intangible limit to this agency. Somehow the energy that invigorates experimental curation simultaneously undermines the curatorial agency. "Experimental", because it plays with the urge to define, consciously making an effort to loosen the structure, making room for the curation to take its own form, and perhaps develop a critique on the intentionality of the original curatorial idea. The structure of programming of KHOJ workshops and residencies, have over the years upheld the curatorial practice of programming with a definite agenda; while structuring the program loosely enough to ensure a free space of operation for the participating artists.

The 2006 Performance art residency was curated with the intention to bring together various practices within "Performance" and "live art" and create a potpourri of talents, aiming to re-energise and redefine the concept and practice of "Performance" in India. Nalini Ramani, Rumanna Hussain, Sharmila Samant, Pushpamala, Monali Meher and Anita Dube have been recurrent names when one talks about "performance art in India" there is a need to discover new talent, renew energies.

The objectives of the residency demanded a substantial involvement on the part of the Indian artists, and engaging them with international artists coming from different understandings of Performance. To be able to pursue this direction, the residency was expanded to include seven artists; four international: Diane Torr (Glasgow/NYC), Paulo Nazareth (Brazil), WuYe (Shanghai), Oreet Ashery (London), all belonging to cultures which have a strong tradition in Performance Art. The three Indian artists in the residency were; Anusha Lall (New Delhi), Sonia Khurana (New Delhi) and Sushil Kumar (Delhi). Each artist came from diverse trajectories, and each through their practice worked towards opening up newer spaces within the dominant trends of "Performance".

Mapping the Artists

Diane Torr is a performance artist, writer, director and educator who developed her career in New York over a period of 25 years. In the past three years, she has taken up residence in Glasgow, where she was invited to teach an interdisciplinary course at Glasgow School of Art, and to work with the company Mischief-La Bas, Glasgow, in a new devised production, Painful Creatures. In teaching her gender transformation workshops, Diane has worked extensively in the gay and trans communities in New York, and Glasgow. Over the years she has evolved into a global drag king ambassador.

Sonia Khurana, is a Delhi based artist whose work occupies the intangible cross disciplinary space between video and performance. Over the years she has emerged to be one of faces contemporary cutting edge work in video. A video artist whose practice has always been focused on her body, this was her entry into the performance residency. Sonia's works are increasingly informed by the encounters with her own class, gender and sexual identities.

Oreet Ashery is a London based artist. Her work encompasses live art, video, sound and photography and has shown internationally in various contexts. Oreet is interested in the slippage between art and life and further mutations of current art practices. Her work uses politics of the body in relation to culture and location. She works across a range of media including digital video and image manipulation as well as live art, writing and Internet-based projects. Ashery's work deals with identity, and more specifically, the relationship between personal politics and social politics where the two merge, contradict and intersect.

Paulo Nazareth based in the town of Melo in Brazil, carries the fire of Latin American Performance Art. A radical new generation performance artist, Paulo is the new generation Brazilian performance artist, working and redefining a style first mastered by Danniel Saraiva.. His body of work is an ironic commentary on schizophrenia of lower middle class existence in Brazil. Using a calculated impromptu approach, Paulo uses re- contextualised gestures as his principle medium.

As a dancer who has trained in, and has been performing Bharatnatyam, Anusha Lall has had complex dialogue with the orthodoxies that control the discipline. She has also trained in contemporary European dance, once again negotiating with the classical orthodoxies embedded in it. Anusha's journey into Performance has been through these negotiations with the disciplinary orthodoxies within various realms of the Performing Arts. Over the last few years Anusha has moved on experiment with new media performance art trying to carve out a space of "greater artistic freedom".

Sushil Kumar's has been a long running radical voice in the realm of Performance Art in Delhi. Taking inspiration from absurdist philosophy, Sushil takes great delight in nonsense, at the same time successfully playing in the realms of our histories and memories. Claiming a subaltern position within the mainstream artist circle, Sushil Kumar lives his ideology performing in the "theater of the absurd".

Wu Ye is one of the new names coming out of Shanghai's performance art circle. Wu works outside the deeply "political" expressions of Performance Art in China. Earning his bread as a graphic designer, he struggles as an upcoming but understated Performance artist. He uses his body and the medium of video primarily to express his heterosexual anxieties. His expressions are "still" and poetic.

The Artists in Residence

It has been a challenge to map seven artists, with such diverse approaches to artistic practice, and each possessed of a strong personality. In this period of six weeks, they exchanged ideas, collaborated in workshops and explored the city. Three city based artists helped, there were visits to the qwali evening at the Nizamuddin darga, Sufi nights at the Lodhi Gardens, and various such rich cultural explosions that exemplify the late winter culture-scape of Delhi.

In a six-week international residency, it is important to introduce a system, which ensures that the artists coming from different backgrounds find a working chemistry, and get a feel of each other's practice, from the point of view of the in-house programming, it was also important to impart a feel of the various strands of Performance Art as they have taken shape in India.

In the introductory meeting a consensus was generated that each of the participating artists would lead workshops at a pace the group felt comfortable with. The workshops were essentially done in the mode of the workshop coordinator doing pre-deciding improvisation based exercises, which were either team base or individual, and helped the participants to grasp each other's artistic flavors. The first three weeks witnessed one workshop each lead by Diane Torr, Anousha Lall, and Oreet Ashery. Beyond that point the workshops became redundant, having served their purpose as stimulator's facilitating the initial exchange of ideas and personality clues.

By the third week of the residency, the resident artists had already begun to work on their concepts/ideas around the work they would be doing in the residency, and how they would be structuring the display on the open studio day.

Wu Ye and Paulo had been busy walking around the city and video documenting, primarily concentrating on people and public spaces. By the end of the second week Wu had decided that his work would be centered on his video experience of people and the city, for Wu this residency was his first venture outside China and he was looking forward to articulate his feeling of being present in this strange city (with which he was increasingly falling in love with), and yet not really belonging. At that juncture Wu had decided against doing an actual performance, and wanted to primarily present a video work using his body as a metaphor.

Sonia has been a leading video artist, who has increasingly used her body as a site for articulating metaphors. Being a part of a Performance art residency generated a desire to use her body as a live medium. Humour and self have always been an intricate inspiration for Sonia. Sonia had not been able to come to KHOJ and participate in all the meetings and discussions, which had generated various degrees of unhappiness among the other participating artists. Sonia wanted to play on this and work around the theme of presence and absence. Sonia was pursuing another idea, that of playing a bag lady outside an up market place, getting a friend to video-document the performance and play the footage on the open day.

Anusha wanted to carry forward her experimentation combining performance and new media. By the second week, among all the participants Anusha, had the most clearly formulated notion about the display she wanted to put up. She wad already shot a rendition of the Japanese "dance of womb" (by Lee Swee Keong, an Malaysia based artist) and was deciding a display strategy wherein the recording of the dance would be sound edited to traditional Sufi music and reflect-projected on the ceiling. Instead of performing in the traditional sense, Anusha takes great delight in creating sites wherein the audience is made to perform (and in that sense her work has begun to occupy the transient space between live and space art). Anusha wanted to design her space in a manner that that the image of the audience would be caught by a camera and transferred on to a screen and transferred on a screen (via a DVD projector) and each person entering the space would get to see the images of the people visiting the space before, thus being (suddenly) being made aware that he/she would be viewed by the next person entering thereby imposing the performative onto the audience. She also wanted to capture and simultaneously project the audience as she/he was leaving the room creating an illusion that that the person is entering the room just at the point when she/he is actually leaving.

Diane had decided to carry forward work of being the drag king ambassador she however let the pedagogic in her take over and, was experiencing concern as to how language divide coming between the artists in residence and a sustained intellectual interchange/exchange, borrowing an idea from Oreet, Diane decided to get a table tennis board, and develop a non-hierarchical version of ping-pong, thereby making the table tennis board as a site for meeting and exchange. In continuation with her role as a drag king ambassador, Diane had begun conducting Drag king workshops in the National school of Drama. For the open studio day Diane wanted to choreograph a "chain dance", involving the people from the neighborhood of KHOJ (Khirkee village and extension) whom she wanted to train over a fifteen-day workshop.

Sushil, keeping up to his radical absurdist stream of thought, refused to plan meticulously in detail, even by the third week “I will do anything was his standard reply to any body asking him as to what work he wanted to execute. However if one spent more time with him one would get to know that he had an anarchic act coming up. Sushil had decided to perform as a temple shoe keeper, collect the shoes of everyone who came in as an audience on the open day, and then eventually to suddenly up turn the shoe rack, and generate a chaos leaving the standard art viewing audience crawling and hunting through a disarrayed piles of shoes trying to retrieve their lost ones. Sushil wanted to execute three such radical interventions, however the rest two he was yet to develop.

For Paulo visiting Delhi and India was a rare experience, he had never been outside Brazil before, and he could sense that this cultural exposure would have a significant impact on how he viewed intervention. In his work for the open day, Paulo wanted to create a room for himself, constructing a utopia where he would live and work. Right at the onset Paulo was clear about the specificities, he wanted to construct his utopia with. In an attempt to communicate his own lived ambiance, Paulo desired to construct his space with some lime paint, a hammock, a radio and certain items of daily use. Within that space Paulo wanted to build in a narrative sealing up the rooms window with ply board, Paulo wanted to structure his performance around using a rudimentary cutting tool...and through the evening of the open day breaking the ply sealing open.

Oreet wanted to carry forward her long running engagement with the Jewish masculine identity(s). Her research and interaction with Shuddha from Raqs media-collective, informed her about Jews in India, including the mentioning of Sarmad the Saint. Oreet had decided to base her performance around her journey as she hoped to explore and discover more about this fleeting community its legends, its saintly hero, and the questions around their identities. As is characteristic about Oreet's approach to work one could sense that it would be very methodically worked out with a great attention to research and would be located within the realms of cultural identity and cultural anxieties.

As the third week drew to a close it soon became apparent that a new work mode was emerging, a mode more focused into giving shape to what the mind had abstractly conceived in the preceding weeks. However even within the work mode there were differences in approach and how the artists showed their various approaches between process and finish.

The kind of display Anusha wanted to execute ensured that she was neck deep in her pre production mode right from the word go. A lot of what she wanted to execute was outside her domain of technical expertise. Naturally her work began with researching expertise and technology, on the other hand she idea was also trying to device means to solve the most nagging technological problem in her construction...the projection illusion of the audience leaving as they were entering. Eventually she had to leave the idea and concentrated completely on getting the project in place.

Paulo's approach was more process oriented and he spent his days devising strategies for newer kinds of interventions. Paulo started writing a pamphlet through which he wished to express his meeting with India. For Paulo India was this land that was so different yet so close to his country. Among the foreign artists, it was only Paulo who treated India with so much familiarity quickly realizing the overtness of the differences in language and food habits. Of course there was also the historical accident of Columbus discovering the Americas in his quest to find an alternative sea route to the fabled India. Paulo wanted the pamphlet to be printed in Portuguese, Hindi and English. Soon the text was finalized, and the process of translating and designing the pamphlet began.

Oreet by then was neck deep in research on Jewish communities in India. She discovered a colonial period synagogue, and visited it. Faced with conservative apprehensions about a middle-aged woman touring India alone made Oreet feel like an outsider in a cultural space she had anticipated being an automatic insider. So I visited the synagogue with her, disguised as a Jew and performing the role of her husband. While performing my wife Oreet soaked in the easy acceptance. As the week passed Oreet began to find more material on Sarmad. Evenings were spent going through the Urdu narratives aided by Anusha and Sushil. Oreet also discovered Sarmad's tomb and was pleasantly surprised to find it is still visited by many worshipers. By then she had also started being very clear as to how she would stage her performance.

Wu Ye too by then had begun to be to walk round town with his video camera and locate the spaces he would be using in his work. Sonia was enacting her "bag lady" outside PVR Saket as she was fine tuning strategies of executing her display strategies. Diane conducted drag queen workshops in the National school of Drama; she had also put up posters in the neighborhood of Khirkee advertising the dance workshop leading up to the performance. The posters generated a lot of excitement it offered the exotic opportunity to attend a dance workshop conducted by a white lady culturally it also offered the possibility to step into the "other". Very soon the workshops started, very few people actually showed up, and the workshop threatened not to take off. It is at point Diane decided to change her strategy, and work only with children. Using the inroads made in to the community through KHOJ's community outreach program, the workshop was re-formulated to work with kids valuable days were lost and Diane needed to speed up her training mode. Sushil spend this time developing two more ideas and trying to source a temple shoe rack for him. Uncharacteristically Sushil wanted to do something involving a heavy use of technology and was trying to generate a self-awareness as to how he wanted to execute his concept.

The Open Studio Day

The open studio day was scheduled for Saturday March 25, 2006. Positioned as the show case climax for the residency program, KHOJ's open studio day has over the years become a much-awaited event in the city's culturescape. The performance art residency's open day even more so as there has been in a lot of latent interest in the concept and practice of Performance Art in India without there being adequate opportunities to engage with cutting edge Performance art. By the time the open day approached there was already a significant shift in the intentionality behind the Performance residency.

Initially conceived as a residency which would rejuvenate the practice of "Live"-"Body" Art in India, by the time of the Open day, KHOJ had re adjusted it aims and was looking at the Open Studio Day as an event through which one would attempt to explore prevalent notions of Performance Art encapsulating the shift from pure body art to utilizing mediatic interventions to create a platform for audience interactions within the peripherals of 'body communications'. This shift was primarily because of the encounters with the resident artists, who were by and large at a point wherein they were dissatisfied/concerned with the manner in which Performance art as a discipline was being formulated and were committed to re engage with it in a completely different manner.

The following are the list of list of Performances lined up for the Open Day:

OREET ASHERY -Imagining Sarmad

ANUSHA LALL-Homes 4 the Absent + Blind Date

SUSHIL KUMAR-Lesson 1... Lesson 2... Human Chain

DIANE TORR - TTT Adventure + Pass Along + Almost Hidden

WUYE -My Religion

SONIA KHURANA- "Don't Touch me when I start to feel safe" + Volga + Bag Lady

PAULO NAZARETH- Pure Water for Secular Men / Agua Potauel Para Homeng Profands / Saada Paani Dharmnipreksh Admiyon Ke Liye + What Do i Make With India / O Que Faco Con A India / Main India Se Kya Karta Hoon + What India Made Do With Me / O Que A India Faz Comigo / India Mere Se Kya Karta Hai

A lot of initial conceptualizations were modified substantially, where as certain new ideas had taken roots. Sushil Kumar had developed two more ideas, Lesson 1, which mimicked a punishment given to lower castes and students in India, which involved crouching in the "chicken posture" and hopping a distance, crouched in that posture. He also developed the idea for a "Human Chain", which involved the artist sitting nude on a chair with his boots on his lap, there was a chair positioned in front of the artist which stood as an invite for any member of the audience to come and sit on it and establish visual contact with Sushil. There were two video cameras attached to two television monitors facing diagonally outwards into the audience. Sushil and the person seated in front of him held hands and looked into each others eyes, each time one of them blinked, the chain was declared broken and the person had to get up and make way for another member of the audience to come, sit and take the chain forward.

The open day evening began with Paulo enacting his performance "Pure Water for Secular Men / Agua Potauel Para Homeng Profands / Saada Paani Dharmnipreksh Admiyon Ke Liye" the performance involved Paulo walking down the narrow lanes of Khirkee with a wooden water container tied to his chest and armed with some glasses he walked around distributing clean drinking water free to people. As usual Paulo evoked a strange sight, and baffled his audience with his play of contexts. As Paulo finished his walk and returned to the KHOJ building, Sushil began his Lesson 1, from outside the Sai Baba Mandir, through the lane leading up to KHOJ. Sushil attracted a huge crowd as he took up the physically exhausting task mimicking and parodying the demeaning punishment. Sushil's first performance smoothly flowed into the next one (Lesson 2), as he entered the building of the KHOJ studios, he asked the members of the audience to remove their shoes, and putting them on the shoe rack borrowed from a temple. Before people could realize what was happening, Sushil had upturned the rack and sent the shoes tumbling down in chaos.

By this time an unprecedented number of people had gathered inside KHOJ, and the gates had to shut for the purpose of crowd control slowly the rest of the Performances got under way. Diane Torr's TTT Adventure, was designed entirely an audience interactive performance involving a as a Table Tennis board which was kept for the members of the audience to come and play a new version of the game which involved people running around the table and playing a non hierarchical no win no loss version of ping pong. Her "Pass Along" along was the showcasing of the dance workshop conducted with the children from the neighbourhood of Khirkee, this was staged just outside the KHOJ gate and involved the children dancing to a song of their choice. The dance had been evolved through a collaborative process, wherein each participant had evolved a set of steps and taught them to the rest of the group.

Paulo's "What Do I Make With India / O Que Faco Con A India / Main India Se Kya Karta Hoon + What India Made Do With Me / O Que A India Faz Comigo / India Mere Se Kya Karta Hai" was setup in one of the upstairs studio spaces, and was a fantasy recreation of his visit to India living, working meeting and experiencing. It was the most open-ended of all the performances; anyone could come in and interact with Paulo as he enacted "living" inside his installation sleeping on the hammock, craving away the sealed window, or just adjusting the things around. Wu Ye's piece for the evening was primarily a video. "My Religion" showed the artist dressed in an white (monkish) flowing garment, standing in various spaces in the city, suddenly Wu would disappear from the frame as if he was never present. It was an extremely poetic take on presence absence and identity. Later into the evening he did a naked performance inspired by his experience at the Khirkee Masjid, however the performance did not really hold because the strain of being tied to ropes and suspended in space was too much physical strain.

Oreet's "Imagining Sarmad" was a two show performance based on the stories of Sarmad the Saint and his lover, a young Hindu man called Habichand. The performance was an adaptation of the story told in eight letters written by Sarmad to his imaginary sister. In the performance the artist lay in the middle of the space on a box and "embody" the story through drawing, clothes and other props, whilst eight people from the audience are sat around me and read the eight letters. The performance was very strong in its narrative and formal engagement, both the shows left the audience spellbound. Sonia's "Don't touch me when I start to feel safe" was staged in a partitioned room and also involved a video camera with a projector. Sonia sat behind one partition and as people entered her space, they could see her through the projection, she could be seen sitting engaged with herself, and periodically coming out carrying a paper in hand, the paper was an invitation for members of to come join her in her room for a glass of wine and some light chat. For Sonia it has a significant performance, the first time she crossed the divide and actually performed live. The Bag Lady video played in a small television screen in a passage outside Sonia's studio space.

Anusha's installation was so big in scale that it could not be accommodated inside the KHOJ building. Luckily her studio was right next-door and big enough to accommodate the structure necessary to execute the installation. One entered through a narrow circular space, and came across 15-inch monitors, showing all the residency artists doing a performance piece inside the constructed space. Then one would step into a big domed enclosure, where dance of womb Lee Swee Keong "dance of the womb" was reflected off a water container and projected on the dome. In front one could see a blue projection screen, and as one approached the exit door one could see a projection of their image projected on to the screen. It was a highly poetic construction of space primarily using video imagery, even if one notes that Anusha was not able to execute initial conception.

Dian's performance "Almost Hidden" was a subtle exploration of voyeurism,and the liminal erotic. The artist recreated the experience of the forbidden glance where a secret intimacy is publicly revealed, generates a fantasy in you that continues long after the car has passed over the flyover, and occupies your imagination as you travel along the highway.

Late into the evening the programming drew to a close, leaving us dazzled by all the crowd all the new articulations of Performance and for me it was a reminder of how much theory had to progress if one had to critically engage with such range of artistic practices.

Rahul Bhattacharya


Program Details & Outreach

Program Details & Outreach

An integral part of all the KHOJ Residencies, outreach encompasses slide shows and presentations, artist's talks and an Open Studio Day where the artist's practice is open to viewing by the public. The following initiatives were organized in order to help the artists connect with each other, and get a sense of the various strands of Performance Art as it has taken shape in India.

  1. Talks & Presentations
  2. Workshops
  3. Public Performances
  4. Community Outreach
  5. Open Studio

 

A. TALKS & PRESENTATIONS:

  • Introductory Presentations

Each artist was invited to present significant works and discuss their practice with fellow artists-in-residence and before an audience of artists and students. This is vital to each artist gaining an insight into each other work and the direction it may take during the course of the residency.

  • Diane Torr Talk at the National School of Drama

Diane gave a two hour presentation at NSD comprising of a presentation on the development of her practice in New York, Europe and England over the last 25 years, a video of her 'Drag King Workshop' and concluding with a performance and a Q&A session.

  • NO ESCAPE

A forum where artists are invited to share a significant artwork and or an aspect of their practice, followed by open discussion with the audience. In order to feed into and generate debate around the performance residency, the "NO ESCAPE" for March 2006, was centered on performance art. Three Delhi based artists working in Performance, (Shantanu Lodh and Mrs Manmeet & Inder Salim) showed videos of their works and received critique about their performances at the KHOJ Studios. NO ESCAPE generated a lively discussion over a variety of issues that are crucial concerns to the practice of Performance Art in India. Concept metaphors like nudity, morality, and derivation were passionately interrogated.

  • Talk by Paolo Nazareth on Performance Art as manifested in South America and Europe 16th March

An informal discussion and visual presentations on Performance Art as manifested in South America and Europe, specifically Brazilian Avant-Garde performance, with a specific hope to debate and explore how such approaches to Performance may transform within the Indian scenario.

  • "An Evening with Diane Torr" March 21, Talk at KHOJ Studios in collaboration with the NIGAH Media Collective

Nigah is a Delhi based group that works towards an articulation of diverse understandings of politics and social activism, and of issues around gender and sexuality. It has since evolved into an attempt to use different forms of media to initiate discussions around issues of gender and sexuality, replacing the silence around these issues with progressive and inclusive debate. http://nigahmedia.blogspot.com/.

B. WORKSHOPS

  • Artist-led-workshops:In a six-week international residency, it is important to introduce a system, which ensures that the artists coming from different backgrounds find a working chemistry, and get a feel of each other's practice. In the introductory meeting a consensus was generated that each of the participating artists would lead workshops at a pace the group felt comfortable with. The first three weeks witnessed one workshop each lead by: Diane Torr, Anusha Lall and Oreet Ashery. Beyond that point the workshops became redundant, having served their purpose as stipulators facilitating the initial exchange of ideas and personality clues.
  • Drag King Workshops by Diane Torr at the National School of DramaDiane conducted three Drag King Workshop at NSD on Sunday Feb 11th, 18th and 25th for Foundation, First and Third Year students of NSD. The workshop was an intensive 10-12 hours where the participants enact and become 'Men for a Day'.

C. PUBLIC PERFORMANCES:

  • Oreet Ashery at Delhi Haat and India Gate
  • Paolo Nazareth at Nehru Place and Jama Masjid

D. COMMUNITY OUTREACH

PASS ALONG: Diane Torr's workshop and performance with the children of the Khirkee. Diane Torr conducted several workshops with children and adults of the Khirkee community for PASS ALONG, one of the pieces she presented at the Open Day. Please visit http://KHOJcommunity.blogspot.com/ for more details and images.

excerpt from blog...

"Diane wanted to work with members of the Khirkee community towards her performance for the Open Studio Day. In order to garner some interest from the street and its residents, we put up a notice on the outside and waited for a response.

After an unsuccessful attempt at bringing the people of the street to participate in a dance workshop conducted by Diane, we invited the children of Khirkee to come on board. They, unlike the elders had no inhibitions, danced with no cares and always showed up before time for the rehearsals. The workshop revolved around movements that had been initially created by the adults and then further movements were generated by the children during the workshop and then improvised them into a performance.

There were 8 enthusiastic participants. Some who had been a part of the earlier workshops at KHOJ and some fresh faces. They had just finished with exams and had all the time in the world. There were times when they would show up at eleven in the morning when they were called at four in the evening.

This performance with the children was later presented on the open studio day as a part of Diane's performance work. The children were very excited with their costumes (satin ponchos and silver frills). On the 25th of March, the open studio day, there was an impressive audience, from the KHOJ guest list as well as from the community. The children performed outside KHOJ on the street. The crowd around them was so thick, that a number of us could not see their final display. The children did not have time to recover before they began dramatizing away in a street play workshop by Yatin Upadhaya. The workshop began on the 24th of March and will culminate on the 31st."


"My Religion"

This residency was WuYe's first venture outside China and he was looking forward to articulating his feeling of being present in this strange city (with which he was increasingly falling in love with), and yet not really belonging. At that juncture Wu had decided against doing an actual performance, and wanted to primarily present a video work using his body as a metaphor.Wu Ye's piece for the evening was primarily a video. "My Religion" showed the artist dressed in an white (monkish) flowing garment, standing in various spaces in the city, suddenly Wu would disappear from the frame as if he was never present. It was an extremely poetic take on presence absence and identity. Later into the evening he did a naked performance inspired by his experience at the Khirkee Masjid.