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Radical Housing and Socially-Engaged Art

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For most of this month, Gopa rose almost with the sun to tend to her art. Fast-growing paddy and wheat bloom all over desks, chairs, and tables, taking over her studio walls and spreading across the courtyard. A massive roll of gorgeously textured handmade self-pulped paper that she spent days composing out on the hot terrace.

Ever since she moved to Delhi a few years ago, she’s had to recontextualise and often re-scale her land-based practice. Translating her art to the space constraints of Delhi has grown her ingenuity and tenacity, but this past month, she (and her work) have been able to take root and spread out. She has these memories of fertile green abundance and open skies, this communing with nature that she’s bringing to life here at Khoj. She records this spatially-imposing work in a sketchbook where drawings, paper scraps and dried natural elements form a layered, tangible memory artefact. Because of the moisture levels in her studio, she has to tend to this book almost like it is alive, carrying it everywhere with her, keeping it safe in the room we share at night, and thinking about the temperatures it can survive in.

As I’ve mentioned, a month isn’t that long, but it’s long enough to plant seeds and even see a harvest. Frankly, I was more surprised that these plants could spout green that fast than they were growing inside an art studio and all over the furniture. Gopa’s practice is a thoughtful meditation on cultivation, and not just of seeds. To produce land-based art, you must foster respectful and collaborative relationships with gardeners, those who run nurseries, and those who help you lift heavy bags of manure and soil. It runs roughshod over to the socially constructed idea of the solitary artist working alone in a studio.