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Radical Housing and Socially-Engaged Art

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SIMRAT [S]:  Hello! Let’s start with introductions. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

REKA [R]:  I’m Reka Gottlieb, I’m from Hungary. I’m 25 years old and I study fashion and accessory design in Budapest.

S:   Can you tell us about your project?

R:  My project during the residency is a hand-made accessory, and my inspiration for this was the Indian wedding although when you look at the piece I’m not sure that you would immediately think of Indian weddings! I have had lots of conversations with Anjana, one of the participants here about this topic, particularly about Indian weddings and jewellery. But in terms of what I have actually made: I’ve used hand-made techniques to mix Hungarian and Indian shapes and technologies and I visited a lot of museums and craft fairs to look for inspiration.

S:   It’s quite striking when you say that your piece is an accessory because that is not how I would describe it given its size! It’s quite big and fits the whole body right? Can you tell us a little bit about why you see this as an accessory and not a garment? I know you’ve called it a “body object” before, so tell us why do you like to use the term “body object”.

R:  I call it a “body object” because what I’ve made definitely isn’t street-wear. And that’s because of many reasons, including its weight, also its size and material. But at the same time, I don’t think it would be a dress or garment because it doesn’t cover the full body. That’s why I think of this more as an accessory and less as a garment. Also, in terms of how I would approach making a garment and how I would approach making an accessory, when I create closed structures it’s totally different.

S:   You mean to say that you have a totally different approach when you create a closed structure [what you would normally think of as a garment]?

R:  Yes. My approach to the ergonomy [sic] and the shapes for this particular piece was different from if I were to design a garment or accessory for street wear. Although, I still wouldn’t say this accessory isn’t ergonomic because I’ve still paid attention to the shapes, the scale, how the accessory fits the human body. But ultimately, it’s still un-usable as street wear so it’s a body object.

S:   So do you think of this more of a costume or do you see this more as something nobody would ever wear?

R: It’s actually more of a sculpture.

S:   Going back to something we’ve talked about before. You mentioned–and this is something many people talk about when they come to India–that you were really struck by colour when you came here. You had said that the colours you saw really inspired you but now that you’ve started making the body object, you’ve decided to stick with black. Can you speak a little bit more about why you chose to go with black instead of colour?

R:  Originally I wanted to use many colours because when I arrived I realized that there are so many more colours than in Hungary. I looked for material, strings, fabric everything and I tried a lot of things. But as my idea became clearer, I realized that I shouldn’t use colour because the structure is really complicated since I use lots of metallic samples. It would’ve be too much and wouldn’t have seemed balanced, so I stuck with black.

S:   You also mentioned that you were influenced by Indian shapes and silhouettes. And I know that right now the full accessory isn’t ready so it could be a little hard for me to envision what you mean by this, but can you speak about how you’ve included shapes and silhouettes that you’ve seen into what you’ve been making?

R:  I think that the transparent open work forms I’ve seen are kind of making their way into the body object and also the many layers in an accessory [such as the layers of jewellery worn by brides]. Most of the pieces are centre symmetrical and I’m thinking a lot of the sculpture works that I saw in the museums.

S:   Yes, you said that you were influenced by classical Indian sculptures that you saw in museums.

R:  Part of the shapes and structures have come from there.

S:   You’ve said that you usually work with alternative material and this project is no different. Can you describe what materials you’ve used?

R:  I’ve used, for example, a plastic door mat and curtain rings. I’ve actually used some of these materials before but I haven’t used things like chain-links and doormats prior to this project. Usually when I have a new project I first look for materials. I buy everything, many kinds of materials, and then I make small experiments. After that I separate the materials according to shapes and experiment and if I’m lucky I can find what I need for my project. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t make a sketch at the beginning of the project, I start with the experiments. So actually I work backwards. That’s why I say that the structure defines the shape and not the shape defines the structure. First I only make small forms and then they become bigger and bigger until I can put them on the human body. Later it becomes a full prototype.

S:   Is this the biggest piece you’ve ever made?

R:  I’ve worked in a similar size before but it was completely different because the material was totally different.

S:   And last question — your original aim was to find a way to bring Hungarian and Indian techniques together. Do you feel that you have managed to do that or do you feel that you may have perhaps needed more time? Or maybe that if you had more time you would’ve gone in a different direction?

R:  (Laughs) I would have loved more time. But yes, I have been influenced by things I have seen here and not only in what I’ve seen in more traditional, classic craft forms or folk craft forms. Kallol was so kind, at the beginning of the residency, he introduced me to his friends who are designers based out of Delhi  and they use alternative materials. I thought that the textures they develop are very interesting and I’m happy that I was able to have some kind of contemporary Indian design references. But for this particular project  I haven’t used everything I’ve absorbed during my residency. However, I do think I’ve learned a lot and I plan on using a lot of the techniques later when I go back to Hungary.


Conversation has always been one of the most central outputs of the residency process. Often, artist works and trajectories are deeply influenced and shaped by conversations that residents have with each other, with the Khoj staff and with the many other visitors that stop by Khoj Studios. While it is sadly not possible to reproduce all the informal conversations that happen over tea, during cigarette breaks, across the dinner table and in the resident’s studios,  we still think it valuable to attempt to bring some of the residency discussions out of the Khoj building and into a more public domain. So, I sat down for formal one-on-ones with each artist and will reproduce shortened renderings of some of the things we talked about in a series of blog posts. In doing so, we hope to provide some context for the works you will see on the residency’s Open Day.