Latest on the blog

Radical Housing and Socially-Engaged Art

Read Now

Artist-Curator Rahul Kumar, who has just returned from the Arthshila x Khoj Artist Residency in Parivartan, Bihar, shares his notes on the artists’ work and their creative processes.

Abhijit Deb Nath is most concerned about community and identity. His works use the lens of sustainability. These ideas are communicated in his work through the use of found objects as well as material that’s very local. For instance in some of his works he chose to use the soot of burnt crops rather than charcoal. He likes to gather references (visuals, stories, cultural thoughts) through community interventions. I witnessed a musical-chairs game he played with local women, for instance, as a way to talk about togetherness.

Abhijit uses discarded apparel cloths to recreate images of homes and spaces. Here he is creating installation works as well as imagery on paper. My suggestion for him is two folds: since there a sense of community interaction throughout, he could consider being more intensional about the message for them. Secondly, his standalone imagery on paper needs more resolution if it has to tell the story on its own. 

Chingrimi A Shimray studied at NID, worked in a textile project, and runs a digital magazine. She is exploring the questions of home and identity through her works. She came here with an open mind but realised she was not keen to use studio to make art. In fact, she says that she has a creative block for first few days and needed to feel comfortable (emotionally) to begin thinking. She began to interact with locals here and realised that migration and movement is very common here too. Not just in her community. And that put her on the path to develop a game.

Dice 1 will have five reasons for you to leave home – possibly Money, Health, Love, Fear, Education and sixth side a blank (you don’t leave). Second turn onwards it will be played like good old ludo with Dice 2 with numbers 1 to 6. Prompts will randomly be placed on path (like racism). At this point player needs to decide if they will go forward or track back to go home. There will be no winner and no looser at the end.

Chingrimi intends to play this with local women. The game board is being made using discarded cloth pieces from the factory which she has woven together. The prompts will potentially be images – not yet sure of process. I have helped her develop some nuances of the game above and encouraged her to make art conveying of these emotions. We have also had lots of discussion about the ideas of home and belonging. Her coming from the North Eastern part of the country has been valuable for the cohort. 

Darshan Manjare belongs to a family of farmers. At the residency he spent initial days visiting the villages to observe their lifestyle. Though largely agrarian, it was hard to miss cultural differences as compared to his own community. He began to respond to those in his work here. The yellow tones are derived from the ripe wheat plantation. He likes to juxtapose the many images, leaving them to be discovered by the viewers. He gave way to his usual intricate image making to a more bold presentation in the interest of time, but says that he has enjoyed this quick completion. The choice of media is consciously kept what is naturally available like handloom cloth, handmade paper, and terracotta clay. 

Going forward I have encouraged him to research more on the rituals to gain insights into their significance. And few tips to experiment when using a wide variety of materials. 

Gyanwant Yadav is interested land and its various meanings. His work is very organic and heavily textured. He often adds layers and then removes them to hide and reveal at the same time. He says that land is a living entity and all we do to it superficially, it keeps adding as layers of memory. Here at the residency he began by touring adjoining villages. He is making a diary of sorts wherein he visually records his impressions using material of the place visited. The most interesting way he developed to make work here was to take impressions at location, literally taking his paper surface to the patch of land in the fields and make a real time “print”.

I have encouraged him to study what serendipitously gets created to make meaning. He has planned a performance towards the end of the stay. He will cover himself with a locally made rope. While rolling on ground he will gather dust. And at the end there will marks that will get get created by his action of rolling, jumping, sitting. 

Jaimini Kishor Jariwala has keenly been exploring processes that she is unable to due to lack of access to infrastructure. Her family produces cloth and as such this element is at the core of her explorations. She removes rather than adding to a piece of cloth, something that is traditionally done like embroidery to embellish. The context of a rural setting is new to her. She has documented stories of local women about their deep fears. She has also photographed dilapidated old houses. Jaimini is not sure yet how she could use these.

I encouraged her to potentially print images of the broken structures and complete them by reclaimed thread from her other work. This may open dialogues of metaphorically what she removes from the structure of fabric and how that is added to rebuild what’s broken. She seems to have loved the idea. Also, the pieces of cloth she has used to make her prints could be used in a work. I suggested etching images on glass and then introducing the pieces and sandwiching to make a cohesive display. In her balance days she is using text and I have suggested play with scale since that’s easily possible here. 

Koshy Brahmatmaj’s practice is highly personal, responding to all forms of politics in our society. Unequal treatment of all kinds of minority bothers her. And this is what she uses to emotionally respond to through her works that straddles fashion, design, and art. In the past she has created zines as a form of expression as well as dissemination. Here she was sprung upon a surprise of a pure vegetarian space with no access to non-veg food, something that’s essential to her diet owing to medical conditions. Her work took the form of protest through text based prints. She is also creating a series of embroidered entrance door decorative piece. She is writing text, embellished and decorated, each with a popular non-veg preparation of this region. My suggestions to her were considering digital space to share her text based written works. 

Umesh Singh, again, has agrarian upbringing. Beyond responding to the plight of the farmers, he is interested in the vanishing indigenous skills and ways. He has spent his time going around 15 villages in the area. His interactions and keen observations have revealed a few systems that are uniquely indigenous here and also that most menfolk move to city (many to the middle eastern countries even) to earn. And hence women hold the fort.

His work here is three folds: Lithography and some Linocut prints given the studio facility. The images celebrate the power of women of the region. Second, he is authored a few poems in Bhojpuri. Satire on how people are looking for development and leaving behind some very valuable practices. And finally, he is making his own rope to make an interactive installation where a portrait of a women will hang on the wall adorned with tools, and a seat on the floor for people to sit and read his compilation of poems, which will be kept in a shelf that he is creating with mud. He has also recorded songs sung by working ladies at the factory at Parivartan, one of his own poems that will be available on headphones as part of this presentation. I have encouraged him to bring the satire in his imagery too, and also later it with intellectual understanding (beyond emotion and political alone). And also figure ways to make his ‘saleable’ art deeper so he can financially sustain his ephemeral works. 

The other guidance I offered for Umesh to consider is to make his image based works more independent to stand on their own. At the moment for instance his lithographs are not very engaging. They make sense as part of his larger narrative. But stand-alone their is nothing much to consume or discover.