Six Degrees of Separation: Chaos, Congruence & Collaboration in South Asia
Gallery Notes I –Artists Biographies and Project
Aastha Chauhan, New Delhi
Vanishing Point, radio installation, 2006/8
For “Six Degrees,” Aastha will showcase a community-centered radio show that came out of many hours spent with local tourist guides at the historic Patan Durbar Square as part of a 2006 Sutra Artist’s Residency. Although the workshop lasted only a few weeks, Aastha was able to gain the trust of the informal community,and record their narratives on hours upon hours of taped interviews. Indeed, by the end of the project the guides had so taken to her project that they began to record stories for each other. At the end of her stay, Aastha was able to condense all of her material into a half-hour radio show which was broadcast over a local Nepalese community radio station (Radio Sagarmatha) to the intense delight of her friends in Patan Durbar Square. Aastha specialized in sculpture both for her B.F.A, completed at the Government college of Art in Chandigarh, and her M.F.A. at New Delhi’s College of Art. Since graduation she has had shows in New Delhi and Bombay, in addition to working with KHOJ to develop their community arts initiative. As leader of this initiative, she has facilitated nine independent art projects aimed at involving the Khirkee community that surrounds the KHOJ studio in New Delhi.Projects have ranged from artist-commissioned temple installations, to local shop make-overs, to clay toy-making with neighborhood children, all completed with community input at every stage. These projects not only ground KHOJ in its locality and ameliorate the somewhat alienating effect of an otherwise potentially elitist-seeming venture, but fundamentally inform the practice of Aastha and other artists who pass through KHOJ.
Anup Mathew Thomas, Kottayam
NCA Library, Digital slideshow, 2006
For "Six Degrees of Separation" Thomas will present a single conceptual work, “NCA Library” done during the VASL Residency, Lahore in 2006. For this work, the artist surreptitiously left thirteen catalogues of his work on the shelves of the National College of Arts Library, Lahore. Each catalogue was addressed to one of the artists in the college faculty. Despite the sixteen surveillance cameras installed within the library, over the course of a week, most of the catalogues somehow disappeared. Conceptualised as a subtle critique of institutional structures, NCA Library is a slideshow ofphotographs sampled from the surveillance cameras. Born in Kochi, Anup Mathew Thomas graduated from the Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology in Bangalore in 2003. He works with photography to create prints and projected installations that explore questions of institutionalization, identity and representation. His ongoing multi-part project on Kerala is a sustained exploration into the plural and syncretic culture that's particular to this South Indian state. His recent solo shows include, "Assembly", Galleryske + Kashi art gallery, Kochi, 2008; "Metropolitan", Gasworks Gallery, London, 2007; "Recent works" Gallery Ske, Bangalore, 2007. He has been part of three international artist’s residencies - KHOJ, Mumbai 2005; VASL, Lahore, 2006; Gasworks, London in 2006. Thomas lives and works in Kottayam and Bangalore.
Anoli Perera, Colombo
Dinner for six: Inside Out, installation, 2007
Perera's work often takes up themes of domesticity, and her piece for "Six Degrees" is a perfect culmination of her concerns. In the artist's words, "the exhibition is all about looking back at the home-maker of my mother's and my grandmother's generation through my nostalgia…I am trying to reconstruct my memory of their presence,how they related to things, how they organized home, their anxieties and the comfort they provided." For "Six Degrees" she will lay out an immaculate table, and enshrine it in a delicate web of crochet-work as mediation on the materiality of her mother's and grandmother's parameters of freedom and agency. Perera completed her B.A. in Political Science, Sociology, and Economics at the University of Colombo. While living in USA from 1988 to 1992 she engaged in adult art education programs at the Santa Barbara City College in California and Artworks: The Visual Art School of Princeton for Continuing Education in New Jersey where she obtained training in stone carving and painting techniques. She has shown extensively through Asia, Europe, and the United States since 1989, and her recent works were showcased at her solo show titled 'Comfort Zone' at the Red Dot Gallery in Pita Kotte, Sri Lanka in 2007. Perera also has an extensive list of publications to her credit. Most recently, she co-authored the article "Men, Women, and Architecture: Gender Identities and the Appropriation of Space" in the edited volume Women and the Build Environment (2007). In 1999, Perera participated in a KHOJ International Artist's Workshop at Modinagar, New Delhi. She lives and works in Sri Lanka.
A Moment of Strange Stillness, photo performance—installation, 2006
Nobody’s Walls, Single Channel Video Projection, 2008
Line of Control, Single Channel Video, 2003
Surekha's work explores the omnipresent dual realities of Buddhist referents and everyday violence the artist became witness to, in the course of her THEERTHA International Artist's Residency in Sri Lanka. Over two weeks in 2006 the artist photographed herself meditating in a variety of bustling Sri Lankan environs. Above each of theseimages she has draped one of the omnipresent bullet-shaped pendants she found peppering marketplacesacross the island; questioning extreme violence versus images of peace icons. Hence, Surekha's work for "Six Degrees" offers a study in contrasts that is sadly applicable to much of South Asia's modern history.Surekha was born in Bangalore, and studied at the Ken School of Arts and Santiniketan. She has shown in galleries and museums across India, Europe, the Middle East, and the United States, including the Royal Academy in London, the Kunst Museum inBern, the Bodhi and Chemould galleries in Mumbai,Ecole de Beaux arts in Paris, and the Mason Grove gallery at Duke University in North Carolina, USA. In 2008, she has participated in the Asian Triennale in Manchester, Guild Art Gallery show in New York, visual art centre, Hong Kong and the Devi Art Foundation's exhibition ‘Still Moving Image’. Surekha lives and works in Bangalore.
Salil Subedi Kanika, Kathmandu
Carpe Diem, A Dreamtime to Quixotic Hinterlands, live sound and installation, 2008
For "Six Degrees," Kanika will organize a multisensory live performance that capitalizes on his talents as a theater performer and a didgeridoo virtuoso. His show will be complemented by a photographic exhibition and the screening ofaudio/video collection, and a table of press reviews and essays that help to contextualize his diverse and eccentric practice. All presentation is based on myth, present day realities and the loss of innocence of humanity. www.salilkanika.com.np
Salil Kanika is a Renaissance man with a well developed ear and appetite for social action. He is an acclaimed actor, film-maker, didgeridoo player, and emerging sound performance artist who recently led a mobile radio production team into the remote mountains of Nepal to facilitate a make-shift radio station where rural people could voice their concerns in the public sphere. This project also allowed Kanika to compile a considerable ethno-musical archive along his journey. Aside from his socially-minded adventures to Nepal's nether regions, Kanika performs regularly in Katmandu and New Delhi, and works to develop EarthBeath, an initiative he founded to bring children, youth and elders together through art and music. In 2006 he was invited to participate in a KHOJ international Residency ‘Hybrid Sonicscapes’, where he significantly developed the experimental and theoretical dimensions of his practice.
Masooma Syed, Lahore
Untitled ,Human Hair , 34CM X 29CM , 2008
For “Six Degrees,” Syed presents work delicately constructed of human hair. This is not the first time that the artist has worked in this medium, displaying a hair sculpture as part of ApexArt’s 2003 show “Playing With a Loaded Gun—Contemporary Art in Pakistan” in New York, as well as the culminating show of her 2003 KHOJ residency. For the later piece she even collected her material from her fellow artists in residence.Syed completed both her M.A. and a B.F.A at the National College of Arts in Lahore, and has exhibited extensively across Asia and Europe and the Middle East. In the last three years, Syed has taken part in the Ars Ornata Europeana in Manchester, the Third Asian Art Triennial in Fukuoka, a show at the NGMA Gallery in Bombay and two exhibitions in Pakistan. Syed was one of the fiveparticipants in Khoj’s Summer 2003 International Residency in New Delhi. Additionally, Syed has taught extensively across South Asia, beginning at National College of Arts in Lahore, and currently holding a visiting faculty position at Katmandu University in Nepal.
Mahbubur Rahman, Dhaka
Give Peace a Chance, live performance, with video, decorative string on camouflage fabric, Folding ladder, lather from army boots, measurement taps, Binocular, glass box, wooden frame, 2008
For "Six Degrees," Mahbubur Rahman has planned a performance/video work that focuses on the multitude of methods one can use to measure oneself. The piece will feature a pair of hands that measure the artist repeatedly from different angles and at different points. Sometimes the tape will measure vertically, sometimes diagonally orhorizontally. The filmed performance will be projected into the gallery space, where the actual severed pieces of measuring tape have been hung from the ceiling like a screen. The messenger of Peace should not do war. Peace can not come to life through the war; it only can grab land and someone’s dream. This work is influenced by a messagefrom John Lennon “Give Peace A Chance” to stop the upcoming war. Rahman was born in Dhaka, and completed his M.F.A. in the Institute of Fine Art at the University of Dhaka. He has 12 Solo Shows and a number of group exhibitions in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Indonesia, China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, U.S.A, U.K., Ireland, Germany, Finland, Denmark, Belgium, Canada and France. Mahbubur has been to several Residencies and workshops in U.K, Germany, Finland, Ireland, Indonesia, Korea, Denmark, India, Nepal, Japan and China. Rahman's work is housed in the collection of Japan's Fukuoka Art Museum, Delhi's Devi Foundation and many others. Mahbubur Rahman is the founder member and coordinator of the BRITTO Arts Trust. Rahman currently lives and works in Bangladesh.
Huma Mulji, Karachi
Sumaira and her Friends, 2008
YAHAAN WARZISH KARNAA MANAA HAI (Exercise Not Allowed Here), 2004 Untitled in autumn, 2005
Do parallel lines ever meet? 2004
In addition to her collaboration Aar Paar with Shilpa Gupta, Mulji will showcase a collection of photographs for Six Degrees. Each of the photographs features a pair of unclothed Barbie Dolls uncanny in their myriad public surroundings. At times ill-at ease human onlookers observe the somehow indecent dolls, while other frames betray their all-toanthropomorphic intimacy in situations of solitude. One photograph, "Exercise not Allowed Here" shows only the pair's bare legs, intertwined amorously in a thicket of greenery. These images perturb the viewer and incite an interrogation of binaries such as public/private, living/dead, and decent/indecent In the last three years, Mulji's work has been shown at ScopeLondon in the UK, the NGMA in Mumbai, fondazionne Sandretto re Raughbug in Torino, Italy, the Pakistan Pavilion at Art Dubai, and the Thomas Erben Gallery in New York. She has also worked as an organizer of large-scale works, most recently facilitating a public art project “13 Satellites of Lahore” in August 2007. In 1999 Mulji participated in an International Artist's Workshop at KHOJ in Modinagar, 45 kilometers north of New Delhi. Today, Mulji teaches at Beaconhouse National University in Lahore, where she lives and works.
Hema Upadhayay, Mumbai
Loco Foco Motto, Matches, vinyl decals, wood, wire, 2008
For "Six Degrees," Upadhyay will exhibit a chandelier-installation constructed entirely of matchsticks. Like much of the artist's work, this piece explores the fraught and in this case literally explosive power of urban development and modernization in India. Intrinsic to the fixture is the potential for illumination, as well as the potential for devastatingcombustion. Thus the chandelier hangs on the delicate distinction between illumination and oblivion. This work was first created during the artists’ residency in Karachi. Upadhyay was born in Baroda and completed both her B.F.A. and her M.F.A. from the Faculty of Fine Arts, in her home town. She has shown extensively across Europe and Asia, and in the last four years had solo exhibitions in Brisbane, Mumbai, and New Delhi, including an installation "Made in China"on which she collaborated with Chintan Upadhyay. She participated in a Vasl International Art Residency in 2003, and was awarded the National Scholarship by the Government of India's Ministry of Human Resources and the Gujarat State Award both in 1996. Upadhyay also won the Tenth Indian Triennial in 2001.
Bani Abidi, Karachi
Security barriers, Inkjet Prints, 2008
Reserved, video 2006
Befitting the theme of connectedness, Abidi has taken up the challenge of representing the myriad of barriers that define and demarcate the streets of Karachi. Such “Security Barriers” are indeed emblems of isolation and fear, yetthey are also common to everyday experience not just in Pakistan, but of citizens across South Asia, hence they unite even as they obstruct. Abidi’s other work for “Six Degrees” is a video installation, “Reserved,” that similarly addresses the oppressive omnipresence of the state. Children kick their patent leathered feet and bureaucrats twiddle their white-gloved fingers as they wait for a faceless V.I.P. to arrive Bani Abidi completed her BFA degree from the National College of Arts, Lahore, Pakistan and her MFA from the School of Art Institute of Chicago, USA. Abidi has worked primarily in video for the past 7 years. Her videos have been exhibited widely in international exhibitions like the Gwangju Biennal, South Korea; the ZKM, Germany; the Singapore Biennale; the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Italy and the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia. In 2001 she participated in the KHOJ International Artist’s Residency. She currently lives between Karachi and Delhi.
Syeda Farhana, Dhaka
In the year 2000,
Farhana started working with women migrant workers of Bangladesh. At the KHOJ International Residency of 2001 in New Delhi, her work took a new turn with regards to subject, technique, and presentation. Alongside the single frame, she brought in text, sound, moving images and objects. Thus the down the borders between documentary and fine-artphotography, she continued to work with the concepts of nation, the partition, borders, migration and citizenship. Wandering around the streets of Delhi, she had wanted to find out why the Muslim poor from Bangladesh came to thiscity. The resulting project, "Dilliwale Kaun/Baharwalle Kaun", unearthed some answers that pushed Farhana against a wall.After a lengthy silence that ensued, in 2007, she found the story of the "Three Addresses" floating to her over the wall from across the seas. She heard a different tale of exile from the Biharis in Karachi, who migrated twice, first from India and later Bangladesh. In 2008, a small boat brought Farhana to Gwahati, the capital of Assam on the banks of River Brahmaputra. In this city, the migrant is a 'wanted' person. Migrants are needed to nourish and rejuvenate the city. And they are also necessary to sustain an artificial fear in the psyche of the city's original inhabitants. Farhana was born in Khulna, Bangladesh and worked as a researcher before she began her career as a freelance photographer in 2000. She has since exhibited her work in Dhaka, Delhi, Berlin, Stuttgart, Amsterdam and Assam and participated in art residencies at KHOJ and the Sarai Media Collective in Delhi, VASL Art International in Karachi and Desire machine @ KHOJ in Guwahati, Assam. Currently, the artist lives and works in Dhaka
Riyas Komu, Mumbai
Undertakers, Used wood, iron and automotive paint, 2007
For “Six Degrees,” Komu will present a sculptural installation, “Undertakers” that features mobile wooden tombstones with engraved hearts. These specters of death refuse to show signs of decay or to remain sequestered by the delimitedbounds of the graveyard. Each one is on wheels. Hence, the tombstones have invaded the gallery space where they seem to keep a solemn vigil punctuated by bloody stars that hang on each grave— an invocation, perhaps, of Komo’smemories of communist Kerala where he grew up until the age of 22. Komu was born in Kerala, and received both his B.F.A and M.F.A from the Sir J. J. School of Art. His work featured in the 52nd Venice Biennale, and he has shown extensively throughout India, Europe, and the United States. In 2004, Komu completed an International Artists Residency with VASL in Karachi. He is also the recipient of the Hebbar Foundation Scholarship and the Bombay Art Society Award. Currently, the artist lives and works in Mumbai.
Abhishekh Hazra, Bangalore
Index of Debt, 14 mins, Single Channel Projection, 2008
Index of Debt tries to open up, albeit in a slightly tangential manner, questions around circuits of capital and conditions that enable artistic production. Is there a way to bypass questions of "pure" and "impure" money and engage with specific contexts that instantiate the globalised nature of contemporary cultural production? The work talks about contemporary academic scholarship (South Asian Studies) and the conditions of its production along with parallels in the art context. Abhishek Hazra is a visual artist based in Bangalore. His work explores the intersections between technology and culture through animated shorts and performance pieces that often integrate textual fragments drawn from real and fictional scenarios. He is also interested in the social history of scientific practices witha particular focus on colonial India.