" A city within the city reveals thousands of cities inside "
What exactly contributes to a city's boundaries to exist? Answers to this question span from a thousand page book to a two word statement. In either case key words such as feudalism, migration, modernization/industrialization, colonialism ,are some of the important points of reference.The 'city-structure' as a phenomena spreads across the outskirts and merges into the rural landscape where one may not find the exact demarcation of the city wall as it was more visible in the old times.The 'boundaries of a city" function today more as a metaphor than specific geographic locations. The emergence of a new economic power alongside aspirations of urban life ( in near future?) , existing old cities have been surrounded by newer habitats. Walls around the cities, once built to protect the ruling class and the citizens from fighting regional power players as well as invaders from outside turned into protectors of old customs, values and tastes.
Walled cities have common characteristics in many parts of the world. Known or considered 'old' cities in the present world, the discrimination of the title 'old' came into existence largely because of newer settlements around the erstwhile older ones. The term "old" is also used as a metaphor to refer to the magnificent historical past. Apart from the above definitions, in the case of Delhi the term "old" works in many layers: the communities it holds, the variety of the markets it provides, the economic revenue it generates and the social status it marks are but a few such markers.
According to 'Delhites' in the walled city of Delhi, things are different or happen differently. But walled city of Delhi also poses certain questions on the "modern'' identity of an urban citizen. What exactly makes the old city different? Is there any common thread which connects the old and new cities? Has the emerging new urban modernist emptied his/her historic baggage with that ease? Is the old city as 'old' as we imagine it to be?
A city has a thousand characteristics : The moralist could lament its lack of character; The cultural police can get angry with the way in which the city functions.A city within the city reveals thousands of cities inside.
The idea is to intervene or understand the city in which we all live more closely with ( an expanded artistic equipments.? through artistic practice) In this process we might even rethink and question the possibilities of our common practices to produce a work of art. The intention is to interact with the people in order to understand certain social norms and ways of life which contribute to the contemporary culture ( to be alive?).
Art,as we think and understand it, has accommodated many more properties and drastically changed it's persona during the last few decades . Rather than speaking from its own pedestal as a meaning generating machine, we , as artists , feel the need to be involved in this new discourse not as observers but as participants.
In order to realize or even to attempt to realize the above mentioned idea we need an intense involvement with the walled city for some period of time. Though it will be an on going project with long term plans we would like to start the project by living in the walled city for a month. We will hire a haveli within the city boundaries to feel, understand and explore the surroundings. The interaction with the people around ,understanding the historical relevance of the many places within the city and exploring the sense of "local" as well as the "global" in a contemporary cityscape are a few of the many areas through which the project will proceed.
Three artists will be invited to take part in this first phase of the project. They are free to choose their own subject or else they can work out on one common project. Though it will be an open ended project in terms of mediums our major focus would be on video, film, photography and performance. Since it is an artist initiated community approach we would arrange one or two events to involve other artists in the city to generate debate and discussion during our stay in the haveli. By the end of the month there will be an open day in which the progress of the projects (materialized during the one month period) will be shared with the public.As an extension to the project, these projects may also travel to other cities in India for a broader understanding and sharing.
This project is supported by KHOJ International Artists' Association which is an artist led organization committed towards experimentation and exchange in contemporary art practice.
Atul Bhalla, Mahmood Farooqui, Himanshu Desai, Gigi Scaria.