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Radical Housing and Socially-Engaged Art

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Imagining four weeks in a space that is shared by orientations that range and derive from a rather diverse set of ideas, intentions, apparatus and thereby working sensibilities and processes, can already forecast a complex narrative at the very onset. Here, at this very point of arrival one is greeted with visual possibilities that oscillate between the occidental or the traditional, contemporary and/or emergent courses (maybe), creating a flux that may lead to an eventual order or raise anarchy; neither or both. Either way it holds the possibilities to augment conversations, dialogues (debates maybe) which is what reconstructs the team as a tinderbox; an arrangement that is capable of giving and taking while not necessarily agreeing or disagreeing to each other’ practices. Here is where it facilitates the creation of a premise that can derive from and contribute to their very own and to each other’ discourses artistic or otherwise. Here it directs itself to echo the very intention of Peers, which functions as an incubator where their diverse vocations coming from unalike teaching pedagogies, nurtured in dominant styles and techniques or reactive of its home turf; of dissimilar media and contraptions, articulations come together in a space of individual as well as collective interventions and introspections.

khoj shailesh

The mythology of the drawing/sculpture/machine based work of Sailesh B.R.’ corresponds to the seemingly Blank Verse of Utsa Hazarika’ Video Practice. For Sailesh who was trained at both CAVA and the Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University of Baroda and coming from a background of 14 years in Sanskrit studies his similes reappropriate mythologies in a contemporaneous context supplemented by fragmented words while being aware of its erroneous spellings and grammar, yet uninhibited. The connections as well as the communications are fairly simple and in a childlike vein. His drawings then supplement as the blueprints towards the creation of an eventual machine. Deconstructing that term and the weight it entails, he uses simple titles then to nullify the same. His Philosophy Machine then moves in a circular fashion where one end is ignited by a flame propeller and the other end has a blower that diminishes this flame. This simple phenomenon talks of the advent and demise of philosophical thought as it emerges, holds ground and eventually meets its demise or reappropriation.

Video Still, The Glass: morning: afternoon: night, 2014
Sequence 5
Video Still, Chorus, 2014

Utsa’s work veins on the other hand stems from the idea of impermanence, of the missing, of exits examined from either an interior or exterior view as her lens wanders rather casually. These videos meet her co-protagonist in the sound pieces that make her work rather jarring sonically creating a discomfort and making the eye wander while you assess and access the sounds. The tropes involve a constant murmur, as the camera romances the domestic settings, visually like a home video but characteristically not. Enunciating then like fragments there is a sense of the theatrical, but not dramatic as she constantly validates a representational elimination. Utsa, who is a self-taught video artist, shows little reticence and sharp clarity to render sequences and title them so as well.

Title- Moon City Medium- Water Colour, Burnt Matchsticks, Sun Board on Paper Size- 48″x 48″ Year-2014

Both, the urban legends of Digbijayee Khatua and the lore of Mithun Das then come from traditional practices, however Digbijayee who initially studied at the B.K. College of Art and Crafts in Odisha and later shifting to the College of Art, New Delhi works within the metres of Watercolours and matchstick inflictions and inclusions. A Santiniketan postgraduate, Mithun practices in Oils, installations and sculptures. The greatly adaptive shift from Odisha to the city of Delhi, there is an antagonistic value imbibed in his work, which enunciates as an installation in its format, greatly for the marriage of Painting with paper cuts, three-dimensional modeling, usage of objects (both conscious and found) to articulate the structuralism of the city and its operation. In his work then objects become metaphorical for buildings and vice versa as he explores the character of the city in opposition to the rural, the politics of the urban and its (mis-)givings. The fragmented narrative of the city connects to Utsa’ trope as well, however is intrinsically different in the idea that the recesses and complex sun-board compositions are intended to dramatise the narrative.


Mithun positions himself in a phantasmagorical space, wherein images are brought to life onto walls in a theatrical sensibility. After my conversation with Mithun, I chose to research Magrahat, in West Bengal where he grew up. There was a consolidated connection then to the horrors of what it would be like to grow up in a badland such as this, where murders, clashes, gang wars are a thing of everyday. His work chronicles this gore, between the blacks of fear, the whites of desire and the grey in between. There is a sense of agender to the figure often rendered lifeless and obese; grotesque and distorted. These inappropriate figures in the sense of the aesthetic and classical, connect to the inappropriate existences of the women in the euphemisms of Faiza Hasan’ oeuvre. Trained in the disciplines of Painting and Art History, the University of Hyderabad Graduate works with women-centric themes (not necessarily Feminist) rendering them in a space of domesticity. Her own personal history connects to these other women who form the backgrounds of an image and are in a way frozen in these inappropriate gestures. Using domestic canvases then along with paper, she uses kitchen napkins and upholstery to embroider these pleasing motifs that draw the eye to the work only to surprise them with the realities of the image, sort of shifting the focal point from the embroidered ornamentation to the striking water coloured visual. These images of the subalterns, the unassuming other in their unconscious frenzy becomes the protagonist to a narrative. Text borrowed from the various patronizing sound bytes finds way to the price tags in order to commodify the sale of appropriateness whilst parodying it.

To have your cake; And eat it too? Watercolor on 300 GSM paper, Approximately 12.5 inches in diameter, 2015.
“Burqa of Secularism” Water Colour, Fabric and Embroidery on Paper; 42 cms in diameter, 2014.

The visual alliterations and conceptual contraptions work together on several levels creating a seemingly uncomfortable and oxymoronic range of practices together in a space of innovation. Walking in from the sun-blazed exteriors into the white walls of Khoj, these were one of the first preset thoughts that deconstructed itself in conversations and interactions over the past few days. The rather bustling area of Khirkee with its identity as a dense urban village where houses almost merge and lanes contrive as tunnels that get narrower as you venture into this cultural broth of people, has found its way reactively to all our thoughts and processes. It has worked as a visual icebreaker for most. The streets mask and don various roles throughout the day, with an ascending number of participants in this carnivalesque frenzy where the well dressed, the cross-dressed and the “under-dressed” come together to create an ambience that is ironically and tangibly placed right opposite one of the largest Malls and recreation spots of the Megapolis and is dominated by the rather up-street. This is where the debate of the individual and collective artistic differences meets the Khirkee factor – a spatial existence that is so potentially reactive that one cannot ignore it or its character. The fabric of the locality unevenly, intrinsically and/or extrinsically contributes to the conditioning of practicing within Khirkee, which too like the Peers comes across as the awkward assemblage. The possibilities of a location and its existential awareness that corresponds to the Peers as well, is set to contract in its own measures into our work fabric as several conversations. The vicinity will form a certain co-narrative or may be a mega-narrative, for the rest time will tell.