Peers 2010

14/05/2010
PEERS is a 4-week art laboratory for young artists shortlisted from around...
Peers 2010
Venue: 
KHOJ Studios, New Delhi
Date: 
Friday, 14 May 2010

PEERS is a 4-week art laboratory for young artists shortlisted from around India. Every summer, five artists along with a critic work at the KHOJ Studios. For four weeks, these young artists shed the expectations and rigidity of a structured curriculum, working together in a discursive space that stresses the role of free experimentation and risk-taking in art practice.PEERS is supported by the India Foundation for the Arts, Bengaluru.

PEERS 2010 Critic’s Report

Tracing Progress

 The KHOJ Peers Residency programme is known to have artists from diverse backgrounds, and it was the same case this year for the Peers 2010 too. With artists from various disciplines and with me as a critic the term diverse needs to be looked at very sensitively. A residency always demands artists or writers to step out of the regular ways and methods of working and their individual practices, to be a part of a prescribed group such that this act of “being a part” hints at a formation of a situation for intellectual osmosis against that of an isolated working practice. The term “diverse” too needs to be thought about carefully, because this diversity invariably provides opportunities for the members to learn something more, which falls apart from their precincts of knowledge. Therefore the term “diverse” hints not at the dissimilarity but in the possible productive outcomes this assemblage can bring about.

Reading Through Layers

The Peers Residency Programme to us was not just a month long event of working, but of blending along with the new spaces and also of fine-tuning our own working methods. Therefore the residency needs to be read in layers – one, as another milestone in the creative trajectories of the respective residents who have been practicing independently, and the other as their interaction with various physical spaces. The first one, not only maps the ways of working of the artists, from the conceptual level to that of the final / produced works, over their individual timelines, but encompasses the cerebral osmosis an artist constantly undergoes, their close engagement with all that influences their works either directly or those which have left their faint shadow. Such that the residency becomes an event, another cause and a stimulant for their works, works either made for it (residency), or as ideas to be taken forward, which then become specific points to be placed on the same timeline.

Each of the artists have been working in their own capacities, and have a decent volume of work which provides / gives a clear understanding of the artists interest / intent through her / his works. The works done prior to the residency act as points of reference from where the artists have taken a cue, and moved ahead (moreover their selection for the Peers 2010 was done on the basis of these pre-residency works) and therefore need due attention. By employing the term “milestone in the creative trajectories”, I do not intend produce a bald narration of their earlier –to- current works or a text (an explicatory guide) to support the visuals; but to speak about the conceptual core of the works (further their working methods), as framed by the artists and critically analysing the same. Then, the timeline, takes a totally different connotation, moving away from its documentative significance to that of comprehensively sketching or tracing the intellectual brewing, physical involvements / efforts, behind every work (a body of work).

Similarly for the residency, considering its open structure, the works made here seem like a sub-section of their creative experiments undertaken in the stipulated time-period of four weeks, and therefore need to be looked upon, - not as final, finished works but as “works in progress”. Corresponding to which, while undertaking the curatorial project for the Open Day I had to conceptualise it at a visual and textual level, dually. Considering the progressive character of the works of the artists the curatorial note too was titled as “Working Title”, as it had to hint at the inherent character of ongoing experimentation, evolution and progression. At a visual level, there was no one particular thematic thread in which their works could be woven together; each artist had a different domain of interest and terrain of enquires. This loose title provided a large umbrella under which the works could be justifiably be clubbed together. And yet some surprising connections emerged out of the boundaries of the chosen concepts and working methods of the artist which had to be emphasised. Considering their backgrounds, the five artists seemed like an assortment of different disciplines and evidently did not form a co-ordinated project team, or a homogenous group. The rooted heterogeneity led to views and fresh perspectives, such that the contrast existing between them became the enhancing element – further the juxtaposition of their works drew each of them into sharper focus.

In a snapshot the residency seemed to be much more than an integration of - some predetermined ideas, some thought, some dropped / abandoned, some tried and failed, some which took form and were placed for viewing on the open day and some which were thought about but would be worked on later; all the possibilities, which seem to be a congruent part of a residency structure. A structure which not only provides space to experiment – but is well prepared / equipped to accept successful works, just as the failed ones. 

Moving to the issue of spaces - for most of the artists their stay in Delhi played an instrumental role in the formulation of their works. The stay according to me needs to be divided in three parts – the guest house where we resided together, the Khirkee studio where we worked “individually” (yet holding a sense of sharing the space) and Delhi, itself as a new city (to most of us). The reason for such a division is that, each of these spaces individually contributed to the associative experience in their own unique ways. The guesthouse acted as a home, a temporary address, a space which housed all the dinner time discussions / arguments (depending on the direction the talks took), which in a way provided pointers to ponder on. Further Bhavin’s work came straight from the room on the terrace, which he felt was perfect to shoot his video in.

The Khirkee Studio provided an interesting space to work in. Located nearly a road-cross away from the chic “Select Citywalk Mall, at Saket”, one of Delhi’s largest malls, the Khirkee Village seemed like a contrasting image; and then the central road seemed like a line separating the two worlds, than a functional road, exposing the sharp contrasts co-existing in extreme proximities. The clean white Khirkee Studio structure starkly stood (like an odd one) out in the near-dirt-lane, lined by less impressive structures, nearly shanties. This sense of contrast was further deepened by the presence of historical monuments from the Sultanat period, dotting the same vicinity. Most of these were being refurbished, for the Commonwealth Games. Neha was fascinated by the number of such monuments which speckled across the city, and aligned her work accordingly. Most of these monuments underwent a sudden status transformation – from once nearly abandoned / neglected spaces, to those of high historical value, unexpectedly coming in spotlight.

Even as we started living in our prescribed spaces - at the guesthouse and the studios, a dual / contrasting feeling of attachment and detachment was subconsciously playing in our minds. A small / soft clause was told to us – The studio spaces and the guest house must be returned as it was given. (The clause certainly and justifiably seemed to have been framed on the basis of the extreme freedom which artists tend to take.) The thought of departure in the very first place, hurdled the thought of settling in the space. And at the same time the creative studio space demanded a constant engagement with it. These individual studios, by standing witnesses to the trails of advances and withdrawals in the works, got a status of brooding / breathing spaces for the artists. The architecture (the studio) itself provided various possibilities to explore. I am using the term “architecture” and not a bland label as “building” as this interesting built form lent itself to most of the final works. For the Open Day, these spaces of intimate interaction had to be opened-up to a large audience, as viewing spaces. Further works were designed keeping in mind possibilities offered by it. Moulding / adaptation, of the space, made the space an integral part of it. (explanation for the same is provided below through the description of the individual works)

I mentioned about the Khirkee Village, and the glamorous Citywalk Mall, similarly Delhi itself provided many such spaces / places which hit a chord as we moved through them. For instance in Old Delhi, at a point near Chandani Chowk, I read a board which said “Mirza Ghalib Ki Haveli, Ballimaran” – and that was it. I was sure that I wanted to go there. All the descriptions in Ghalib’s poetry seem live and real. To me it was like a pilgrimage site. Similarly Neha was driven into an ittar shop, and Rabindra and Bhavin to the electronics market. There were many such spaces which lured us, which we visited and re-visited, nearly setting up a cycle of deeper exploration, of a search – and later Rabindra gave an expression to this cycle, through his works.

Noted Down

To me the blog, for the PEERS 2010, had been a tool to note down not just events but what I would call the step by step progress, advancement in the works of the artists individually and also as an associated group, giving an insight to their personal side too. Be it the presentation at the FICA Reading Room, or the walks through Old Delhi, or our studio visits, each day had something worth noting down. By the time I got down to write the curatorial note, the blog entries made it easy to discern – some evident linkages at the experiential and mental level of the artist with their works. The blog had a change in its title from the Absent Ones to that of Do Deadlines Do. The earlier title was thought of, as there was no photograph in which all six of us were together, and therefore I had even thought of introducing the artists on the blog through their absence as “the missing ones” and not through their presence in the group snaps. As time passed the work pressure started surmounting and evidently the new title for the blog was coined. Further this latter title seemed absolutely appropriate as the open day approached, as the definition of deadlines became cleared than ever.

 

For the Last Lap

Neha Thaker’s work came in direct relation to – one, the residency programme and the other to her stay in Delhi. A constant mental tug-of-war, as mentioned earlier, of attachment and a conscious withdrawal from the space granted to her was seen in her work titled, Sanitised Air.  Cartons filled with her experimental works and her paraphernalia, placed outside her studio showed her act of shifting out. Neha set the room, just as the way it was when seen (given to her) at the first time. She took the idea of returning a neat room to another extreme by eliminating all her possible traces, by even purifying the air, by using / choosing camphor – a substance which has a strong religious as well as scientific connotation. The need to do this rose from her experiments with fragrances and different odours. In Unknown Cell she made an attempt to recreate a temporary structure (from cloth), which looked like a structure within a structure. This to her was like the many unknown / ignored monuments dotting the landscape of Delhi. The constructed structure was in a way inspired by the small viewing gallery space outside her studio. She intended to install it in the lower courtyard, but due to technical reasons had to abandon the thought. Further she installed a fragrance in this work made by her. It was of burnt rose petals; again a fragrance to which one is familiar with, which the viewers would have to pump in-order to let it trickle. This work nearly took a different dimension as the viewers interacted with it. Though not intended but the deep red stains of the burnt rose liquid on the cloth, and some of it spilling over the floor, created an intense visual, which stood in contrast to the light pleasing fragrance which spread within the structure. A note Leave Your Trace, told the visitors to leave a written comment of their experience. The functional aspect of the work was not achieved as expected, therefore Neha intends to rework on it post-residency.

Neha Thaker has done her Masters in Painting from M. S. U. Baroda. She has a particular interest in understanding and capturing the ‘process of transformation’, in her works. Earlier she had worked with ice sculptures and has also played with the idea of senses through intangible medium like scents which she has experimented with, some which were made by her.

Rabindra Patra was another artist who strongly reacted through his works to this new space of the residency, and the experiences shared with his Peers. Rabindra who has studied his Bachelor’s at the College of Arts and Craft, Dhauli, Orissa has been working with electronic parts and sensitively conjures them in formulating his visual vocabulary; therefore the idea of power and its play seems to captivate him. The city was not new to him, as he shifted here a couple of years ago and is currently working at the Gardi Studio. He remembers the times he wandered through the city, then the presence of imposing buildings predominantly the structures of political importance, having an inherent character of immense power struck him. Further his act of wandering aimlessly and at the same time the challenging idea of search became crucial to him. According to him a search has varied connotation, from that of - patience, determination, power, to a more philosophical one, which he derives from a quote from the Bhagwat Gita – Karm karte jao, fal ki apeksha mat karo (which may be roughly translated as ‘keep working without expectations’). But re-visiting these lanes with us  -  a journey through the layers of Delhi, its lanes and by-lanes, the intense desire of searching, of finding the intended and the unintended, was a story which he wanted to narrate through his works.

Through the open book – reading this story, hands, etc. covered, rather mindfully set with the electronic parts, which he chooses considering is practical functionality, he associates the idea of power to that of his search (ones strength to search). And it if for the same reason that along with his works, even the simple / trivial objects find space as displayed objects – he exhibited a black polythene bag, which to him stood as a symbol for the objects searched for and found. The door of his studio covered with the photographs clicked (pasted like thumbnails) while he was on constantly on the road, capture people in a state of flux – a state in which he himself was while clicking them. The door itself acting like a structure providing / opening up, further possibilities – results, paths or even a reasons to search further. The notion of transition and non-stagnancy, energy, all to Rabindra have dominant role to play. Rabindra had partially painted his studio – an act which he feels was necessary in order to ‘set the stage’, to narrate this story of search.

It was for the first time that Rabindra had used photographs directly for his works. Speaking about experimentation, Bhavin and Sajad too used different mediums.

Bhavin Mistry’s strong point is his drawing. Bhavin has done his Masters in Painting from M. S. U. Baroda. His works carry a strong metaphysical tone. In his (earlier) drawings, he has been using ubiquitous and found-objects and further he works on them to gives rise to nearly hybrid forms. For the residency he centred his concerns on the aspect of claustrophobia (seen in his drawing too).  Bhaving interprets it in multiple ways – its literal meaning - as an abnormal fear of being in enclosed or narrow places, to that of being mentally suffocated. He feels that artist we believe that they can work with a sense of freedom, but in actuality they carry a certain burden of prescribed, unquestioned and accepted rules, which strangle and suffocate one unknowingly.

In his current work he intended to partially deviate from his earlier ones, mainly, technically. He claimed to have abandoned his regular drawing, sketching and painting tools, as he worked on the video for the first time as a complete work; therefore he chose his body as his medium. The act of layering himself with charcoal, to him, is a near imitation of his regular methods. But what is interesting is that, the visual language of this work still remains closely rooted in his drawings.  He engaged himself in creating, structuring, drawing a space within another. Interestingly Bhavin tried to create a similar sense of depth, and a space with a deep perspective by making drawings on the walls of his studio,  a physical translation of the same was obtained by criss-crossing nylon thread around the viewing frame (for the video). He titled his works Line Form and Composition, though line and form still held relevant, the concept of composition seemed unsettled.

Though this was the final work which was displayed, Bhavin was working on the same idea of claustrophobia, but by viewing it from a different perspective, that of, survival in dire circumstances. He had designed a robe, which was meant accommodate ones necessary paraphernalia. For the same Bhavin sought help from Agat, who is from NIFT, Delhi. Bhavin through this work wanted to question the term necessary, as he looked at its constantly changing version. He dropped the idea for the residency, as he found his video work more interesting to experiment with, but intends to carry it forward later.

Sajad Malik has been persistently working on what has become his core concern - issues related to Kashmir. Sajad who has done his Bachelor’s from college of Fine Arts, Srinagar, works as a cartoonist for Greater Kashmir (a daily newspaper, from Srinagar). While working on his art works and his cartoons he makes sure that none of them overshadow each other. He refrains from employing a sardonic in his art works, which is a necessity for his cartoons and doesn’t allow the mildness of his art works to trickle in his ironic cartoons. To Sajad, who has had first hand experience of all that he tries to portray, it is not the idea of conflict, but the life within the conflict that holds a deeper meaning. There is always a stark difference in working mindfully and sensibly, and in the worst extreme selling sensitive, political issues. He says that by the time of his birth in the late 80’s, Kashmir was already in the grip of crisis, and so he has never experienced peace personally. Peace to him has always been a picture, which he creates in his mind, and re-creates through his works, through nostalgia, i.e. through the narrations of his parents. He has worked on graphic novels on the same theme. 

His video titled, Hopscotch is a construction, in which he sensitively used the idea of an innocent game played by a child, to hint at the larger political issues. Here the line plays a central role – at a primary level it seems a part of a harmless game, and he furthers it by portraying its negative form – as that of one dividing nations. The motifs chosen, initially seem de-contextualised, arabesque motifs, barbed wires, innocent animals and the map of Kashimir; but these nearly detached elements slowly interwove, as the film reeled, to lend a conjoined meaning. In a short and succinct manner Sajad mindfully speaks about things which he has been living through. A shattered mirror was placed on the floor, but it somehow seemed incongruent to the sensitivity of the animation. It is for the first time that Sajad has experimented with Cel Animation, to make this 2min movie. 

Agat Sharma too transformed his unkempt studio into an attractive, spotlessly clean space filled with cosmetics designed by him, like a cosmetics section within a mall, which housed his interactive work titled, I Guarantee In The Next 15 Minutes You Will Change & You Won’t Know. The work played with the idea of human emotions and sentiments through the use of cosmetics. He assigned various emotions to each of these cosmetics and assured its effect (inculcation of the quality within the user) after its use, as per the prescribed instructions. Generosity, Grace, Honesty, Elegance, Guilt, etc. were filled in attractive tubes, designed by Agat, further he chose specific colours which he felt appropriately portrayed the emotion. The design of the tube and the instructions coined by him, nearly called the viewers to pick them and read them. Agat had refrigerated these tubes to further add on a comforting feeling. The intention of the work was to actually make the viewers use the products, - use the soaps, both cakes and liquids, wash them off and to view themselves. Due to some technical problems the viewers couldn’t use the products, but nevertheless were keen enough to carefully read the instructions, and many actually asked Agat if such cosmetics were available in the market. He also hints at, rather teases, the thought of desire of the consumer for instant results, that is, a use of a simple cosmetic, can improvise a human personality, by washing off guilt, adding grace, installing optimism, expecting ease, etc.

As seen in his earlier works, the city again played an important role in his current work. He observes and analyzes the changes a city undergoes and its obvious ripple effect over various faculties including its inhabitants. Through which he addressed the idea of consumerism and human sentiments, as seen in this work too. Well packaged products, placed in a spotlessly clean space, spaces to try out the products, all focused on the idea of saleability. He feels that there exists a vicious circle – as to what a city and its residents have to offer each other, and they get invariably caught in it. Agat has done his Masters from the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Delhi, which perhaps explains why his work makes a constant reference to the human body. In his earlier works Agat studied the changes in the city and even the technology and how largely assumed and accepted notions, definitions and ideas alter drastically with different spaces.

At the end of it, the residency could be put together as more than a summation of multiple episodes and events, which had a near to causal / reactionary effect on the residents, leading to the body of works of the artist and also to the text written by me, which slowly took shape. To me it’s more like a filmstrip edited together, such that the chronology of the events loses its importance but what remains, rather crops up / out is their preferential / selective assemblage of events. The experience at the residency came to all of us as not just a different space to work in but as of a space which allowed us to take path slightly diverging from the regular one; of exploring things which would have not been possible while sitting in our respective studios. The act of moving out of our cushy territories, and to enter an un-ventured working ways, yet justifying the divergence as it still remained within their respective ideological spectrum. Then the thought of success or failure was not of as much importance as that of the mental shift and of realignment required while undertaking the newer ways of working – being ready to take its criticism (both positive and negative) in a balanced and right sense. Then the need for presenting final works (art works and texts) for the residency and the open day seemed irrelevant as, it evidently has been more of an experimental span – which witnessed the executions of ideas which were brewing on our minds, and required a neutral / unprejudiced working space, which the residency provided, than a working span aimed at achieving a specific finished work.

Vrushali Dhage

Critic in Residence, Peers 2010

(Masters Art History and Criticism, M. S. U. Baroda)

Peers 2010 Artists' Talks

FICA Reading Room, 21 May, 2010

The Khoj Peers Residency programme is known to have artists from diverse backgrounds, and it is the same case this year for the Peers 2010 too. With artists from various disciplines and with me as a critic the term diverse needs to be looked at very sensitively. A residency always demands artists or writers to step out of the regular ways and methods of working and their individual practices, to be a part of a prescribed group such that this act of “being a part” hints at a formation of a situation for intellectual osmosis against that of an isolated working practice. The term “diverse” too needs to be thought about carefully, because this diversity invariably provides opportunities for the members to learn something more, which falls apart from their precincts of knowledge. Therefore the term “diverse” hints not at the dissimilarity but in the possible productive outcomes this assemblage can bring about. The presentation at the FICA Reading Room was a good platform through which the artists could speak about their works in a public space. Regular discussions at the guest house are certainly beneficial but a discussion with people apart from the group needs a bit of a preparation. 

Neha Thakar who has done her MFA in Painting from the MSU Baroda, was the first one to present her works. Thakar through her works plays with the idea of a ‘form’ and the change it undergoes. Her core concern is that of capturing a ‘particular process of transformation’, that is a shift, a move, from existence to non-existence; such that the form becomes or gets a status of a language. In order to show this transition Thaker has been using ice as (one of) her medium and moulds different forms from it. The ephemeral character and the tendency of ice to return to its original form is what appeals Thaker the most. During the presentation Thaker was questioned about the selection of the material (ice), to which she said that it accurately caters to her need for understanding and capturing the notion of temporality; further she grants a sort of symbolic connotation to them, as in her work titled Process - Dark black apples slowly melt, losing their form and finally disappear. In Delivered, ribbon tied - gift boxes, made of ice, lie “delivered”, and finally what remains are the ribbons which were once wrapped around the gifts, through this work she looks at the idea of growing commercialization.

An interesting aspect of her work is that of its final result. When asked about it she said that since there remains no physical evidence of her works, the documentation of the process itself becomes an art work or what can be called as the final tangible product; which she usually does through videos and photographs like in her works titled Process, Purified and Delivered. Apart from these works, some of the works which Thaker has been working with and intends to carry further in the Khoj residency is that of fragrance/ various scents. In the post presentation sessions, Thaker was told by a member from the audience, that a process is just a part of the entire work; there is a lot more to it.

 

After Thaker, Sajad Malik presented his works. Malik has been working as a cartoonist for Greater Kashmir, a Daily English Newspaper from Srinagar, for nearly eight years. He has done his BFA from the college of Fine Arts, Srinagar. Coming from a region which has a highly volatile political and social background, Malik’s works address various issues – spanning from wider political one to those of absolute personal experiences.  Being a cartoonist the idea of narration stands out as a dominant element in his works. 

Further being a cartoonist the need for a sardonic tone becomes necessary element in his works too. In the work titled 1990, the underlying political unrest is evident. Few photographs, showing ‘Old Kashmir’, show armed men standing in a square, and a bridge on which one could once stand fearlessly. Some of his works which account his personal experiences hint and question the widely accepted notions of identity and of censorship. During the talk Malik mentioned that he has been inspired by Marjane Satrapi and Spiegelman. Apart from these works, Malik has published a few graphic novels too. For the residency Malik intends to work with animation. 

For this presentation, while choosing the order in which the artists would present their works, one point of caution was noted, that no two artists with the same visual language were placed correspondingly. Rabindra Patra, who has done his BFA from College of Arts and Craft, Dhauli, Bhubaneshwar, shifted to Delhi a couple of years ago and is currently working at the Gardi Artists Studio, New Delhi. While presenting his works Patra gave a background to his works – saying that in his hometown, every child is told to fund their own studies after basic schooling. So like others Patra too took up a job which dealt with electronics. What is of importance is that he uses this knowledge of his as he sensitively conjures it in formulating his visual vocabulary. Since Patra shifted from a town like Bhubaneshwar to a Metropolis like Delhi, he could evidently feel the strong pulse of the city – which oscillated between its commanding power and its lively energy. His works like Ande ka Funda and Jo Jita Wohi Sikandar, too revolve around the idea of survival and the understanding and experience of power-play.

When questioned about the need for the employment of electronic parts in his ceramic works, Patra says that he is well versed with the fundamental functioning and properties of every component that he chooses; and he uses the parts accordingly/symbolically. For instance in his landscapes, Patra uses various parts to construct a city. Further provides an aerial view, and renders a nearly abstract form to the scape. Therefore the intention is not to erect a particular city, but to suggest the inbuilt character of power (it possesses or lacks) at various nodes within a given space. He claims to have an (personal) outsider-insider experience of the Metro; earlier as an imagined space in which he was intending to shift and the actual experience of the city in which he is living.

Most of the artists form the Peers 2010 have attended Art Schools but Agat Sharma, has done his Masters from NIFT, Delhi and therefore his works need to be looked at from a slightly different angle. Sharma through his study has been looking at the changes in the city and even the technology and how largely assumed and accepted notions, definitions and ideas alter drastically with different spaces. 

Through his works like Fear and Fashion, Panoptic Modernity of the Metro, he addresses the facts about surveillance in public spaces. In the Metro (railways) he examines various signage systems which nearly install a feeling of fear. How does technology for example the X-Rays, which was once invented for the benefit of humans, today is used against them. Further he looks into the definition of a commuter, which is nearly framed in a manner that every individual person is looked upon as an object of suspicion, as individuals capable of spoiling and causing damage (therefore constantly frisked), to the space around her/him, and he tries to relate this to the notion of guilt and nostalgia. Considering this the body invariably rather subconsciously becomes a central part in his work. Sharma’s works like 11th Hour and Geek Gods were part of his master’s works.  During his presentation Sharma was questioned about two things - one that all his works seem to be currently at a conceptual level, and since he is a student of design, how does he imagine an actual expression, a tangible form to it. And second one was regarding his project on the Metro, that his work intends to speak against rather replace the existing model, but he too is intending to go against a system by setting another one, which is like a vicious circle, since there would never be a system which is complete on its own. 

Bhavin Mistry was the last presenter. Mistry has done his Masters in Painting from MSU Baroda. His earlier works were focused on attaining a particular textual quality. He would observe various patterns and textures formed on the walls, and would capture them to give a landscape like feel, and moved ahead to explore various intuitive aspects in them. Over time, Mistry’s work has undergone a considerable change, but one cannot say that it is completely divided from its past. Now he uses ubiquitous and found-objects and works on them is a way that he gives rise to nearly hybrid forms. Various tools and objects of utility undergo a process of distortion – rather recreation to attain a new form. Most of his works are Untitled. He gives these new forms a sort of an unrecognisable character such that they can be granted – nearly supernormal or an alien like status.

The post presentation session went on with the artists interacting with the audience on a personal basis. Going back to the beginning of this writ-up and carrying it further, I feel that this residency will act like a space in which we all can take a step back and let those people look at and speak about our works with whom we are sharing most of the working time together. Considering the questions which were raised during the presentation and the personal talks it is evident that each one of us would be forced to rethink about one’s work. Further – be it about artists or writers- it is taken for granted that one must continuously experiment, but we need to understand that all experiments need not necessarily succeed, however high the probability of success be. But a residency like this with its open structure provides space which nearly justifies the process of such experiments and even its outcomes. 

Vrushali Dhage

Critic in Residence

Artist's Statements

RABINDRA PATRA

I always experiment with materials as well ideas. The central theme of my work is the notion of power. My constant involvement with people and their lives led to an urgent need to interrogate various existing power structures and expose the systems and the actual practice of justice in multifarious socio-political negotiations. With this I hope to explore the idea of the self that is located in the world from my vantage point, thus also deriving from the intimate resources of energy in human lives. These concerns have shaped my practice and intensified both my social commitment as well as my inner journey.

During the Peers Residency at KHOJ, my studio has been a relentlessly changing environment. I have used the architecture of the chosen space as a part of the work. I used the door, put colour on the walls and try to treat the space as a personal theatrical experience, where charecters  are introduced, blend and altered. I have been consciously working toward distorting the dimensions of the room and trying to generate new meanings.

My KHOJ project has been a personal investigation of the power contained in the urban experience; about the journey of cities. I have lived cities for the last few year, so cities are not new for me. As I moved from one city to another, and as I moved within the city, I was forced to feel its power at a psychological level (karm karte jao fal ki apeksha mat karo).

I take photographs and collect objects where ever I travel and each object is given distinct life as the artist purposefully blurs ontological boundaries between works of art and commodities. In addition, there is a strong element of fantasy instilled in the visualization of form. The material itself formulates my visual vocabulary; for instance the use of material such as electronic waste/ parts communicates the notion of power in an abstract way. The manner in which power plays out in journeys through the layers of cities, the lanes and bylanes, the intense desire of individuals searching and finding the intended and unintended- these are stories that I try to narrate visually.

Working at KHOJ as a Peers resident with other artists was a very interesting and exciting experience for me as a person. I learned a lot of things as an emerging artist, professionally and practically. It was first big project which was shown to the public and the interaction with a larger audience that Khoj provided was valuable. After finishing my residency I feel like departing from one level to another level of my journey as an artist and I am thankful to all members of Khoj. It was a nice experience working at KHOJ and with KHOJ members.

KHOJ provide ample space and freedom for individual research; experimentation and practice for an artist like me, with the feeling of freedom it provided during residency instilled in me the strength to do something new and relevant at the same time.

BHAVIN MISTRY

Objectives: an in depth artist’s statement about the practice undertaken during the residency.

I have spent almost all my artistic years working in Baroda so the news of a Residency with KHOJ was a great thing and I was quite excited and looking forth to communicate with the co artists and make maximum use of their respective backgrounds. We were artists from textile designing, sculpture, new media as well as a cartoonist. The challenge to be able to conceive an idea in a new environment and execute it was sort of scary at first but I knew that I had to show my best here. I quickly started sorting out the possibilities.

Once at KHOJ our time table was scheduled. On the very first day we were told of our regular visits to artist studios along with ‘Delhi Darshan’, so we had to manage our working hours accordingly.

First was the Khirkee Walk with Andy. Andy is a social worker living and working in Delhi. She showed us the surroundings with the tinge of her social perspective which was helpful in understanding the local politics; for eg. The local mosque is an acclaimed heritage site and according to the rules any construction in and around it is prohibited. However none of this has been practiced by the locals and the authorities have turned a blind eye to the extent that one finds a massive mall just across the road.

After this experience a lot of ideas poured in. however, every one of us was looking for that perfect stimulator. Another hurdle was of getting the resources, without the knowledge of which one cannot work freely; our next planned trip was The Old Delhi Walk. Himanshu Verma volunteered to be our guide. Thanks to him to make the experience whole. He took us to Chandni Chowk, Chaudi Bazaar, Khadi Baouli etc. and with that the question of knowing where to get what was over. Now the mind had really started rolling.

As it was the first time I was visiting Delhi, the heat took a toll on me, what I saw was a lot air coolers working as heat relievers. These machineries formed a part of every architecture. No sooner I reached my studio, I started working on the same idea, some paper works which then were supposed to be transformed into functional installations. But the idea was very raw; I had to filter it before reaching to any conclusion.

My encounter with the second idea happened when I saw this really small room on the roof of our guest house, these rooms were pretty small 6ft h x 5ft l x 3ft w. When I inquired about those rooms I found that they are given on rent and many families have already lived there.

I wondered how can one whole family live in a space where one can’t even stand and sit properly. From there my whole concern of what I wanted to do started changing. While moving around one can find many migrants managing their livelihood on the streets. For example the food stalls will carry a gas burner, dishes and other ingredients required and can serve end number of people. The garage does not have any wall but just a box of tools on the street and they are ready for work, all this to me is “jugaad”. Jugaad is what? It is like changing the primary use of any object to suite one’s particular requirement. Since this practice has been a part of my daily life on a personal level, so nothing better than extending into a work. So I started walking around Delhi and Khirkee looking for such jugaadu elements, clicking images and forming it into a composition. As I said that the particular practice can be observed everywhere, but for me its more striking when I come to a metro city like Delhi.

With the photography on one side I also planned a costume which I had now started working on, and after trying a lot of tailors who would either refuse to do or would ask for too much money, I zeroed in on the one who works just opposite to the KHOJ Studios.  This robe has a number of compartments which can carry all my things which I normally use in the whole day, along with it I had also planned to meet the locals there to understand their daily requirements and designing more costumes. However this idea could not be made into a finished work and since the working days were less and I had to make a decision to move away from it as for me to execute any idea it has to reach a level of maturity which it lacked at that moment.

However the final work was totally different. It was not any display of these costumes and jugaadu photographs or any functional installation which I mentioned as my first idea but it is a sound and video installation using the small room on the roof of the guest house.

The video consists of the tripod shot footages of myself performing in it. This video runs around 30 layers in time duration of 3 minutes. The video is a nearby sarcasm on the process of any activity undertaken for e.g. If a painter is painting a canvas his performance will go like this... He will get a canvas, a stretcher, stretch the canvas on it, will then apply the coats over it, prepare it thoroughly before starting to paint.

The footages also run in a similar manner. All the necessary brooming and washing is done, a bulb is fitted with loose hanging wires acquired from here n there, then there are a few clippings where am rendering my own body with charcoal and this whole process completes a day. The video is titled as Line Space Composition Etc… since in our academic learning these are the first things which are taught also because I have tried to create a space and worked with over all composition through the editing of footages. The video is projected on the floor within a white wooden frame. The four walls of the room consist of line drawings which create a second space. The drawings are minimal representation of the surroundings. The threads which are connected with frame on the floor with the drawings on the wall result in creating an atmosphere of claustrophobia. The projected video is now overlapped with the minimal line like shadow of these threads passing over it conjoining the various spaces.

I had managed to have friendly relations with the members of host institution as I mostly stayed in my studios during the second half of the residency. Its difficult to justify their help and what role they played during our stay at KHOJ. But I can say without them this residency wouldn’t have been be successful for me.

Manohar and Ramesh helped me always to find out the nearby resources and many a times getting the work done for me. Whenever I needed technical guidance in editing my video, Saran was always available. And of course Latika who made me think over and over again on an idea helping me to shed away the excess and keeping the relevant.

KHOJ has nearly helped us in developing in all the professional aspects. The idea of presenting one’s work to an audience creates a dialogue which also helps in understanding the significance of his practice through others and of course the change of location adds to the differing sensibilities towards interpreting the works, this aspect gets clearer when khoj managed for us to visit studio of contemporary artist like Manisha parek and Jagannath Panda. Apart from all the other shared knowledge from them it was inspiring how they presented their works to us. Moreover, when it comes to the work done in residency, I have broken many notions about my own capabilities by attempting a video art.

Presently I am back to my base in baroda, all geared up to take further the experiences of the residency and realizations of my own capacities. This was a much needed break in my practice. I shall keep you updated about my future engagements and leads.

Thanks for the wonderful experience to all of you.

MALIK SAJAD

The one month long residency In KHOJ Studio was an incredible experience for me to grow as an emerging artist. During the residency I was able to concentrate on the new forms of visual communication. Interaction with the other young artists from diverse cultural and educational backgrounds provided an advantage of  experimenting with fresh ideas and techniques to communicate with the wider audience through my art. Being form Kashmir where curfews, censorship and causalities dominate the daily life, Delhi provided me an opportunity to share my experiences in the form of art with the people from different parts of India that are unknown to them. I used the creative platform at KHOJ to focus on a short cel animation movie about Kashmir. It was because of the cross-cultural interaction with other artists in the guesthouse and Khoj Studio that I was able to shape the narration and execution of the movie to communicate to the wider audience.

The animation movie titled “Hopscotch” is about the Line of control (LoC) that divides Valley of Kashmir into two parts. In Kashmir thousands of families are divided due to this loop of concertina wire. The LoC has also affected the fragile eco system in Kashmir and many species of wild life are endangered now. The 2 minute long animation movie made with 800 hand drawn images, depicts the impact of the loc on Living being be it human or wild life.

Apart from the artwork, the presentation at FECA and visits to the advanced contemporary artists inspired me to delve into the new advanced forms, ideas and techniques of art.

During the residency i made new friends and broadened my networks that I need in future to grow as an emerging artist.    

During the residency the guidance and the helping hand of the members of the host institution made our Journey easy. But I missed a critic to deepen my knowledge of art.

I am working on a Graphic Novel about experience of living in Kashmir. 

I have planned to pursue my MFA abroad so that I can have the experience of global contemporary art and culture. This will also provide me a platform where I can see my homeland and culture from distance so that I can concentrate on my artwork with a global perspective.

AGAT SHARMA

As a graduate of design, participating in an art project was a conscious step to understanding inter-disciplinary practices and the alternative process based practice that comes out of it. The main purpose of undertaking the residency was understanding the city, its relationship to consumption and people. Through understanding the city and its nuances the residency created a space to look at consumption and its role in the lives of urban dwellers.

The visits of the old city and the markets organised by Khoj provided a great deal of insight to the project since the area of interest was the city. To understand the evolution of an artist, and to create one's own body of work, the interactions with artists like Jagannath Panda and Manisha Parekh worked as eye-openers, dialogue about the concepts for the residency with them helped in the development and process of the project. Interactions within the residents and their projects put in perspective one's own project within the residency and its relationship with the city. 

We live in a make believe world created by consumerism. To create a sense of order we base it on models, which create rules and etiquettes, which we must consume to fit in. The project reflects on this gap between the ideal and reality. Consumption is pushed through images that seem to be model, where one is expected to be perfect by consuming in the right way. It places a sense of power in the consumer, where one is able to believe that one can get whatever one wants. The residency and the project looked at the city and the role of consumption in filling the voids of the urbanists' lives. By initially looking at cosmetics and make-up and refering to words like foundation which are emphasised both in the city and on the consumer, the project drew comparisons at both parallels. Through the course of the residency, the project evolved into a reflection of consumption its role in the life of the consumer in the city. Taking the 9-10 emotions and feelings like envy , empathy, optimism, guilt etc. .... that are sometimes lax or become naturalised to our identity because of the effects of the city; the project looked at evolving consumption into a mode of introspection.

Interacting with people through the course of the residency and on the open day, many felt that these cosmetics could exist in the market, and the project achieved a sense of ambiguity that it was trying to create. These positive but somewhat ambiguous reactions to the project will be explored through future work for which peers residency has provided the foundation. 

Peers 2010 was a great learning experience and I hope KHOJ will continue to support emerging artists and practitioners in the time to come. 

NEHA THAKAR

The whole program was really good, as it was meant for beginners. The Old Delhi walk,visit to the Lalit Kala Gallery,visit and talk at well-known artist studios etc. I think the artiststudio visits were the best part because we got a chance to see how they work and also getsuggestions for our own works.

I was visiting Delhi for the first time and the people at the host institution were really veryhelpful to me—in my search for strange chemicals for my smell preparations etc. Also, Iwould not be able to create a tent for the final Open Day on my own. The co-ordinator alsohelped me to develop my idea to its final stages by having a regular dialogue with me.

For me, the most important achievement on a personal level is that the residencyprogram improved my confidence by giving me space to work on such material. Theinteraction with the other artists in the residency and with the co-ordinator and thecritic helped me to understand my works. All artists came from different regions and KHOJ was extremely helpful both in terms of technical help and also in searching formaterial.

I displayed two works on the Open Day; but what was more important for me was theresearch during the residency. At the first stage, I was inspired by the Masale WaliGali in Old Delhi and wanted to create work that was inspired by that visit and alsosubsequent trips to search for material and mechanisms. The direction it evolved inand the form it finally took taught me the importance of research and the role it playsin the final presentation (the repeated visits to old perfume shops, interviews anddialogues with the critic and co-ordinator etc).

I am presently working in a studio space in Baroda. I plan to apply for other residencies andwish to further develop the project that I worked on at KHOJ.