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For the moment in Khoj – Residency & Feedback

It has been a month in Khirki extension where this white building stands in search of methods in art which can communicate and bring people closer, though people living just outside seems curious forever. I can say their curiosity is still our inability to have a dialog between us and them though there are moments of connections but the curiosity still remains…
I don’t know if this curiosity will turn into an understanding and acceptance but why do i even want them to ? but i think it is possible,
because i as a person as an observer have something to say and hear , i have questions – they put me in a quest and my questions are out of genuine concerns. I am curious too.
Curiosity is often the primary element in which arrival of questions, judgments, perceptions, identities, comparison evolves and it is very powerful.



       Images from Khirki lanes – tea stall and workers residential space  

I started writing here when i was still in a midway to explore through my art being in the Khoj residency. Any experience here defiantly becomes the part of my life. i feel great to be in such place which provides an opportunity of self evaluation and to grow. i also see Khoj as a very important and rare space amongst any art residency which pushes oneself to find out even more being in their own process by providing many discussions, arguments and ideas. I have been seriously experiencing this from the day one being here and i am thankful to everyone for that. I also like the idea of exploring with young minds because it defiantly will lead everyone somewhere with its full potential and it has a future.

It is surprising to experience such wonderful time in a residency. Everyday here is full of thoughts , questions and knowledge. Khirki itself is so diverse that amazes all of us. To me this is a very different surrounding. There are different combinations in a small village which makes it so chaotic but i think this is the core characteristic of Delhi itself, here it becomes somehow more prominent. I still need to understand it fully. There are old houses with old people living in it, small cottages filled with workers mostly coming from Bihar , Uttar-pradesh , hindu , muslims in equally good amount, Jaats, Panjabis, Marwaris, Arabians, Iranians, Africans, people from South east, Nepal .. wow, I don’t even know who else. I am sure there are many places inside Delhi having such great deal of varieties in terms of cultures, people, behaviours and much more.

This is as a very essential characteristics of Village Khirki which makes it so unique. I think all of us (all the participants in Khoj) coming from a very different backgrounds, are experiencing such qualities of this place and space together. Chaotic atmosphere often carries conflicts within. We being here perceive these conflicts in various manners. Being women, men and human we tried to understand the source of any conflicts and we got indulged in discussions for many times, we listened to the arguments, we put our selves in a confusions again and again to be able to conclude in ourselves that what is it ? why is it ? How should we see it? The first week became so much about what we were looking at being in such place and where do we stand? in connection to from where we come. We tried connecting ourselves again within a new place looking back at what were our previous creations and concerns and how would they make any sense here. Well it takes time because the concern was not just to make sense but express what this place made us truly feel. That’s why until the third week we were all still in little confusion but progressing in our works and understanding of the place.


khoj mei

                      Images from Khirki Masjid and around in Khirki lanes  

Individually if i talk about my experience as an artists working in a place which includes one big comfortable studio space inviting me to create so much and anything i want; makes me temporarily so privileged. Khirki brought me many things to think about. First of all coming from Baroda how different it felt to be in such atmosphere is the primary effect of a space in my mind. Khirki includes extremely expressive streets, narrow lanes, filled with essences, characters , smells, sounds.. The contradictions are visible everywhere so easily between people, between architectural designs, between clothing , attire, between transport systems, between languages, cultures etc. More in that one can feel the social class discriminations in many places in Delhi and specially here in this village. Khirki being seen just in front of the massive urban mall structures which is entirely contradictory and bizarre gives the sense of the existing psychological discriminations too, coming from different class patterns, urban elite idealised structures, notion of so personalised desires fulfilling designs and products, projection of elite, educated, hygienic, ordered, sophisticated, expensive trends in a highly sophistry manners, in the core of such places i find only one concern of consumption and being consumed ; in other side or in contradiction there is a place full of Dirt just in front of the mall, almost an official space of this area to dump all the garbage coming from all over around, chaotic semi urban slums living beside them, mixture of old, new architectures, highly unhygienic open spaces, disastrous drainage system, complete disordered patterns, easily inflammable living structures and the temperaments of the place itself is such, noise, gender discriminations, cast – class differences, conflicts, insecurities and so many other important things that i might miss even here while mentioning, i am sure .. but to me life felt much more energetic and lively on this side. Why would it be ? with such inequalities and unbalanced system, with such spontaneity and expressive temperaments..! Yes they do make the life structure much more loud and visible. these narrow lanes of Khirki are so intense to me.

As an artist when you observe these differences you put yourself simultaneously in constant queries that why and how something can become like this ? , And may be there are still many layers and more informations to it that i might have not even touched in my one month stay in Khirki just by observing. After entering into a kind of overwhelmed state when i was trying to understand; many answers, reasons started appearing about few things and the confusions too, that how should it get related to my process of creating art ! Confusion was not just regarding how to work but to chose among many of the possibilities concerning the limited period of time. It was the fourth week almost when we were all committed to what we chose to create. I had a thought of creating a space – a crowded space in which one enters and feels surrounded by something whether the feeling of being surrounded is coming by existing objects in the space, or by the idea and the appearance of the object itself, or the congested feel of the space or simply connecting with the visuals containing referential elements which reminds of some kind of place. I didn’t know how much it was possible to construct this space in such a manner to bring the feeling of being surrounded; but for that i could only think about different faces, conceiving various characteristic qualities. These characteristics were my prime impressions of the Khirki in my mind and here in faces they become my mental representations through images. I experimented and created them in the from of three dimensional masks using newspapers, glue, thread , whit water colour paper’s



                                                 Making masks in process in the studio space at Khoj peers 2016 

Pieces, jute, plaster of paris and water – acrylic pigments. When i say about the prime impression as characters in different faces, it also refers very strongly to their gazes – to the way they look or stare. Each and every mask becomes alive when these gazes are painted on them and i strongly felt that the visual representation of the eyes were enough to create their presence in a space. The effectiveness of creating such surrounding also depends on the numbers of the objects to be kept in that space, their being multiple though became necessary and so with this reason i could complete around hundred of them.

When we look at gaze as an individualistic element to understand that how many layers and references it combines. Its been six years that i have been working with gaze and social mentality in my art mainly looking at it from a woman’s perspective. Here for the first time i am trying to look at many more layers that it includes and with time its meaning and definition can spread even further. Simply when i try to understand, the Gaze and the mentality becomes more about being intensely curious at first stage ; or if not curious at all so it can be even an expression of apparent blankness. Curiosities in terms of gaze are being derived from questions, from encountering something different, popular, unwanted, surprising, adulterate, odd, unusual, positive – negative identification and even something which is been desired or a sexual – attraction and so on. It even can go beyond genders and i don’t necessarily think that it’s only about two opposite genders in our country when it takes the form of mentality and morals it becomes the huge umbrella including women’s mentality with men’s. In modern western psychoanalytic theories “the gaze becomes the term which relates mainly to the kind of visuals and sexual attentions or implications in the images that contains embodied/gendered human perceptions”. Which later is been questioned and elaborated by feministic perspectives for its limiting the potentials of images or visuals itself. Because woman herself started to talk about women’s body, self, sexuality, genders – discriminations etc, which also became important aspects to look at and to understand the term.


                                        Process of work in the studio during the residency in Khoj Peers 2016


Gaze with its multiple interpretations, also entered into the significance of looking and gaining pleasure from the visuals which has been termed as “voyeurism” – basically the quality of being sexually perverted but in urban modern contemporary time we can relate different aspect to this notion, it is now a days much more political and the idea of controlling the mass like being almost under the government, private or electronic surveillance is of the similar kinds. In contemporary urban society consciously or unconsciously these observatory restrictions are responsible for changing the pattern of human behaviours when they are under their controlling systems. Though such systems have different angles to it in which they do not necessarily deal particularly with voyeurism but is more about restriction of the activities, tendencies and phenomenon by using the power of control. While reading i also came across one theory within gaze which talked about the very existence of the object itself which can conceive the notion of gaze with its presence in the space and thus it’s able to fulfil the idea of being gazed by the object. I could so much relate to this theory because i was creating those masks thinking they could give some kind of appearance to the viewers. It simply creates the awareness that one can be viewed and it’s possible only because between two one is actually able to view and one is an idea of viewer. Psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan suggests that “this gaze effect can similarly be produced by any conceivable object such as a chair or a television screen”. – And so the painting and sculpture. Somehow i had the similar notions about my masks that i kept making and later i could connect to this theory too.



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                                                                       Wall in front of the Khirki Mosque 


If i come back to my process in Khoj thus i would say that it was about creating A space in which with some performative actions – narrations i could complete the whole process of constructing the space with its surrounding; which includes the society and resistance, gaze and freedom, personal and public spaces, morals and perceptions, identities and politics, behaviours and control, boundaries and beyond and many more aspects if you want to relate, but for which one has to defiantly get encountered by both experiences – the space and the performance, to get the essence of the whole idea. Both the process are very much interconnected. Without performance or i must say “The use of the space” which i created; the space wouldn’t have made any sense apart from just being a decorative white cube space filled with masks. Though i also respect the fact if someone is willing to see both the process separately and is considering only one from the both. It would be their own perspectives. After all when it’s done it’s not mine apart from the ideas and energy which is been poured in it, that is all what remains in the work of art in the end. It gets layers by endless perceptions and which has again an endless potentials.


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                                           Anuradha Upadhyay during her performance on open day- Khoj Peers 2016


It’s a never ending process and theories which will keep me curious and it will remain in a quest. Khirki leads me to these discourses and Khoj exists as a very important supportive hand to help me encounter these process in art of understanding our surroundings. I don’t know may be in future i might come again to start with new subjects or complete with what i’ve already started.

I was also very happy to come to know more about my own people coming from my own fine arts college like Johnson. His intense temperament and awareness of being responsible as an artist made me fall in love with his process , i really admired him as a person throughout the residency period. Similarly i knew Satyajeet but through Khoj i came to know more about him and probably i understand him a bit as a person. He has a lot of potential as an art historian or art theorist. I liked the way he took certain things as a challenge and then he did not hesitate to put himself in a struggle. It happened also once we were visiting Kutub Minar and the kind of energy we saw in him , was wonderful to experience. IN our first visit at Kutub Minar Styajeet kept updating us with several information while roaming around the Minar and Mosques, why the whole journey also become so meaningful. Here I met a wonderful woman like Smita and i loved her simplicity and the way she is as an artist with beautiful heart and strong willpower. I think we became sisters and we stayed as one together. I wish to keep meeting her and keep knowing about whatever that she will be doing in art, in her life. Another very charming person Manojeet Da because he was supposedly elder to all of us in the residency the reason why we added Da (big brother) to his name. The most sweet, caring, hardworking, romantic and loyal towards his partner as a lover and as a person we have experienced him throughout the residency. And at last Ariijeet (Roopam) the youngest amongst all of us and the most cheerful personality in the residency, always made us laugh and entertained – specially me, whenever i saw him dancing ; but apart from that i think as an artist he is too having lot of potentials. One can see that there is a lot he thinks about and i am sure in future with experience and certain process he can develop himself both as a person and as an artist. I also want to thank specially Promona, our residency incharge and curator at Khoj. She kept communicating with all of us from the very beginning with her super energetic personality. We were all amazed always to discuss with her and i personally appreciate the way she always expressed herself so powerfully and intensely while putting her thoughts. All the Khoj team people were so supportive and helpful until our final day showed up I heartily thank to Manohar, Adil and Suresh and their Sir. In the end i have a suggestion to all young student – artists who could read me here , to please try to get an opportunity to involve yourself anyhow with Khoj at some point of your life because it is in so many ways will encourage your own understanding about art, art systems , artists , process , society and life all-together.


                                                                      Khoj Peers participants in residence – 2016



My apologies for missing the last feedback session somehow and so i thought that there is no better way to conclude apart from writing here. So once again;

Thank you very much.
If any suggestion , question or comment please feel free to write here.


Written by Anuradha Upadhyay – Artist in Residency – Khoj Peers 2016