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Radical Housing and Socially-Engaged Art

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KHOJ as an organisation facilitates diverse learning experiences and engagement strategies with contemporary, experimental art practices. As part of a new stream of audience building and alternative educational methodologies, KHOJ began implementing a series of workshops facilitated by Lleah Smith, the international Fellow in 2015. These workshops existed alongside the ongoing programmes at KHOJ and explored the same thematics in a hands-on manner.

Lleah has been developing process based, experiential workshops with students from 3 locations of The Rainbow Home NGO; usually Lleah and a translator visit the home and facilitate the program there. Under this unique circumstance, KHOJ facilitated the workshop at the KHOJ Studios to offer a new experience and interaction with art, to children who unfortunately very rarely have the opportunity to be in such a versatile, interactive, and free environment. The day began with a guided tour of the exhibition Activating Space, as a way to inspire and initiate a lateral and abstract understanding of the space we physically occupy and also to understand how the formal qualities of an object/material such as line, shape, colour, tone, scale, transparency, reflection etc can manipulate our understanding of space and the environment we are in. These ideas were then carried through to a workshop which explored space in a performative and drawing manner.

In April KHOJ invited artists from all over India to investigate the spatial and architectural dimensions of the KHOJ building itself. Artists proposed ideas to explore the various nooks, crannies and open spaces using unconventional materials, to change and shape the audience’s understanding and engagement with space. In the workshop Experiential Space, the participants were equally invited to explore the limitations and possibilities of space, with both their physical bodies and through the act of drawing.

Questions Posed:
What is ‘spatial play’? How do we respond to and feel the ‘space’ around our bodies in relation to the world around us?

Time is strongly related to our experience of space whether it be moving through a small crevice, or walking with our arms out stretched through an open plain. The concept of time was explored through physical action. Experiential Space investigated the performative aspect of the body in invisible and visible space; in addition, instructional actions were directed by the facilitator and performed by the participants in both an independent and collaborative manner. Physical objects were also used as devices for generating meaning between the body and the form.

There were two parts to this workshop:
Part 1 – The Action: The participants actively used their bodies to occupy and move through space.
Part 2 – The By-Product: Extending from these experiences, the children then created spatial, structural drawings.

The students began to quickly understand how time shifts with experience. They were invited to walk really quickly for 30 seconds and then walk really slowly for 30 seconds; after this exercise they were asked during which 30 second interval they felt they had covered the most area. The children were surprised to conceive that when walking slowly they felt as though they had occupied more space, because time felt as if it was going slower.

The participants learnt that space can be divided into visible and invisible space and that the space and relationship between objects is just as important as the physical space being occupied by an object. The shapes that were made collaboratively with their bodies were then transferred into drawn objects, where scale, colour, line, shape, tones etc. all equally became important vehicles for expressing meaning – these drawings were then transferred onto a mural where they had to think about the relationship between the objects. Some students collectively drew, cut, and glued a circle, sharp line, wavy line etc into the same object and then piled them on top of one another.

The outcome of the workshop was incredibly successful – the objective was to expand the students’ understanding of art, to extend upon one’s understanding of space and the limitless possibilities of the manipulation and dissection of space and to also explain how everyday bodily experiences can be transferred and used as inspiration in an artwork.

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