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Radical Housing and Socially-Engaged Art

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Sound is about archiving. Even live sound is archival by nature, unavoidably so. Fileona declared about mid-way through the residency that she did not get the sound of Delhi, chaotic and overwhelming as it is.  I agree with her wholeheartedly. This city’s sound is crazy-making; it pushes me to my limits even just to figure out my tiny corner of it, aurally. Archiving, on the other hand? You’d be hard-pressed to find a city more suited to recording and collating history. Delhi is a fly-trap for accounting and keeping records. Fileona’s work NonNative Lament is almost entirely composed of imprints – Vilayati Kikar leaves, bug bodies and gears, and screws presenting her impressions of Delhi in cool blue sheets. She wanted to make cyanotypes to take advantage of the constant (and maddening) sunlight and to capture these abstractive traces of her studio neighbours. Abstraction is central to how she approaches her lens-based practice, which can be obsessively archival. However, exploring the ‘non-archival impulse’ as she referred to it asks questions far more relevant to our current extreme weather and climate crisis. “What is the point of all this storage?” asked Fileona a couple of weeks ago at a writing workshop at FICA. A lot of her practice is concerned with ecology, extraction and the climate crisis, which in other words, really means that it’s about time, care and what makes life worth living. It’s not something you can easily compartmentalise. From the day the peers accessed the studios, the idea of opening them up internally was on their minds. At that point, we’d spent barely a week together, but time and friendships were moving in that hazy summer camp way, movie trailer speed. Cut to the middle of the residency when not only were the partitions between Fileona’s, Celin’s and Mahesh’s studios removed, but it makes complete sense that Fileona’s work in corporates and centralises this interleaving of multi-authored processes. It’s the very opposite of compartmentalisation.