Hany El Gowily, Egypt
Un Opened Boxes
A photograph is not just the result of an encounter between an event and a photographer; picture taking is an event itself, and one with ever more peremptory rights to interfere with , to invade, or to ignore whatever is going on. Our very sense of situation is now articulated by the camera's interventions. The omnipresence of cameras persuasively suggests that time consists of interesting events, events worth photographing. This, in turn, makes it easy to feel that any event, once underway, and whatever its moral character, should be allowed to complete itself-so that something else can be brought into the world, the photograph.
After the event has ended, the picture will still exist, conferring on the event a kind of immorality (and importance) it would never otherwise have enjoyed. While real people are out there killing themselves or other real people, the photographer stays behind his or her camera (still or motion), creating a tiny element of another world: the image-world that bids to outlast us all.
But arriving at Delhi in 4:00 AM with the decision to pass-over my plans, I was opening all my receivers to get deeply mixed with all elements of life in Delhi. Through a very condensed time zone, I was able to contact with a group of artists, intellectuals, and kind people full of wisdom .
So, over my artistic expedition I was enriching my both my knowledge and human experience. Working with my colleagues was another invitation to exchange, interpret, and discuss our philosophies and essences of art and life.
I found a great pleasure in working with Pushpamala on her project, browsing through our process we reached for the major lines in our work professionally and creatively. With Farhana, I enjoyed very much the feelings she exported to me by the very first hours of our meeting; I felt somehow that I was responsible about her from the perspective of the big brother. We shared a lot of human and artistic moments and again working with her, on a very social project, was an extend to that rich human experience.
As for Bani, she has been the most active one among us. And yet she had some clear projects that we even shared an afternoon shooting one of them together in the streets of south extension, she was involved in another project to show at the end. Her work showed at Art inc., was more attached to her basic artistic project and I gained a lot of experience through our discussions on video art.
It would have been more than enough for me, all the intimate contacts, but wandering through Delhi and being inspired by the same beat and chaos I live in Cairo. I started a photo/video diary project as an attempt to access that parallel dimension and reveal what lies beyond the visual scene.
Un Opened Boxes has been , and yet working on it, an ambitious attempt to converse with the inputs I detected over 5 weeks in Delhi. And again encouraged by the atmosphere I was able to show an installation for the very first time in my artistic career…..
The signs are not quiet mysterious
The places were open
Direct sun light .. noise .. chaos
Between time zones
I found the signs
Once again ..
I leave behind
Days .. that became
Scratches on my walls.
Sayeda Farhana, Bangladesh
Before particpating in the KHOJ residency program from November 20 to December 22, 2001, I had only taken part in one such intiative. Tjis was in 2000 when I stayed in Hamburg, Germany for three months on a documentary-making program.
Taking place in Delhi, a place close to my home in Dhaka both geographically and also culturally, the KHOJ program offered me a fuller and much more enjoyable experience. In spite of the many similiarties between my native Bangladesh and India, I did experience many things that I had not been able to get through the media.
As a student of photojounalism at Pathashaia , the South Asian Institute of Photography - which is also the educational wing of Drik Pictures Library Ltd, - I have been to know about art phtography as well as how to develop my own style and ideas.
During the month-long residency I got to interact with three other artists: Bani Abidi from Pakistan, Hany el Gowily from Egypt and Pushpmala whose home is in Bangalore. These three artists let me in on their motivtations and thoughts, their working methods and lifestyles as well as their political inclinations. I had never met any artist from Pakistan before. I found Bany Abidi to be of invaluable significance as her presence helped me understand the simmering tensions among the neighbor states. These latent emotions took a turn after the December 13 attack on Parliament House in Delhi.
My project during the residency was the Bangladeshi community in Delhi. For political reasons, I had to deal with members of this community very carefully. Thankfully, I got full support from all my coleagues at the residency, as well as the people as Sarai and KHOJ.
In the course of my work I met many artists who helped me discover Delhi's rich art world . Even now I still miss the excellnt books in KHOJ library, I also miss watching movies and following the subsequent discussions at Sarai. Dear Chandan's breakfast, the several parties we had and also Delhi's unfogiving chilly winter are also in my collection.
Bringing together artists from different sphere and experiences was a very good decision on the part of KHOJ. The residency porgram was KHOJ's first project bringing together photographers and video makers. Hence perhaps the organizers can be excused for the slight operational problems we faced. Much to our disappointment , we did not get to meet any professional photographer in Delhi. The honorarium that we recieved was not enough for a photo project. The fact that three of us had to work in one small lab caused a recieved was not enough for a photo project.
Overall, this was a good residency program and I hope the next one will be much more successful.
Pushpmala N., Bangalore
The KHOJ Residency was a different experience from the KHOJ Workshop in Modinagar which I had attended in 1998. Modinagar is a very small town with two roads and a limited number of options and the workshop was very secluded and highly structured which worked very well in that situation.
I was interested in accepting the residency for several reasons, one that it was a good opportunity to spend a full month in Delhi which is the political and cultural capital of India, and the fact that the artists were all working with photography and video, forming a compact working group.I think finally that all of us did make intense use of being in a city like Delhi, in terms of using the physical city itself and the facilities it offered, in our work, as well as issues and problems and feelings about the city. It was a good idea to link the artists with institutions like Sarai for instance where we spent time attending films, workshops and lectures and got to know the media study group.We all had ideas of collaborating with each other though one month was too short for that, and finally things became too hectic. But there were long discussions at the breakfast and dinner table everyday, talking about the work/ideas of the day, ourselves, our countries etc. Though for my photo romance, I worked with the Egyptian photographer Hany el Gowily. This meant that we spent several days intensely discussing and planning the shoots, going to the site in the old city and supervising the printing.It was definitely a fruitful period and I think we made some interesting work. We also got along well together and made strong friendships and long term connections with other professionals we met.
SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR FUTURE RESIDENCIES
one month was too short., too much like a workshop. Ideally a residency should be at least for three months . It takes a month to feel at ease with a big city.
I would suggest it could be a little structured- with one KHOJ artist in full charge, some outings and programmes being planned or listed- like seeing private and public collections, studio visits, meeting similar professionals, unusual museums, places of interest , relevant shows etc. , since these are things an outsider does not have easy access to.