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Radical Housing and Socially-Engaged Art

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Anne Marie Culhane and Mariusz Soltysik’s projects

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Culhane and Soltysik chose as their work an impersonation by themselves of two photographic images that were prominently displayed in the living room, of the founding father and mother of the Modi business empire. The artists replaced the original pictures in the frames with the photo images of themselves dressed up as the male and female Modis. Here, it is necessary to explain the immediate social context in which the artwork was done. The workshop site is a large house situated in an extensive area of land (named ‘Sikhribar) belonging to the Modi family, one of the wealthy industrial families of India who were also the founders of the Modinagar city. The house is given annually to Khoj as their contribution to the art event, where all the artists reside and work. All service personnel at the site as well as services (food, cleaning etc) are provided by the Modis, which also invariably includes numerous hierarchical relationships entertained by staff within the premises. During the workshop, the artists experienced numerous service related problems to which the Modis’ were held responsible, more or less. At the same time, some of the artists genuinely felt uncomfortable with the feudal and hierarchical power structure operational among the staff.

Second Project

For Anne Marie and Mariusz Soltysik, searching for materials, the same street became a nightmare. Stoned by a group of school boys having some cruel fun, they tried to escape from this encounter during the course of the workshop. They invented a surreal romantic masquerade, an 9rientalist fantasy in which Mariusz was an exotic man – bare forso – haram pants and Anne Marie a saree draped princess. Photographed near the pond, in the cotton field – they showed slides of their collaboration. A debate began around Said’s critique of orientalism – on why their fantasy was routed via the Arab world During the workshop Anne Marie made a thread web-work on a mango tree, a fragile and temporary home to feel secure in. She controlled the tension in the thread, in the abstract lines and negative spaces, and as she bound herself in, she intuitively performed her way out. Mariuz’s anger against the ‘Modi Mafia’, for the chaos of the town, for the failures of electricity and water simmered. Ann Marie and he again collaborated on a photo project in which they photographed themselves as Gujarmal Modi and Dayawati Modi, replacing the patrons photos bearing down on all of us. Another debate began here around the ‘freedom of the artist’ and the rupturing gesture of the avant garde. We asked them about their awareness of local national histories, about responsibilities even within the avant garde.

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