As you enter the newly renovated Khoj Building — standing tall and pristine white on a dusty, rugged street of Khirkee Village in New Delhi — you come across dozens of hanging white ribbons forming a kite-like silhouette in the open courtyard. As you move closer, you notice that each of these ribbons passes through razor blades. This is an art installation by Juhikadevi Bhanjdeo, one of the five art graduates who have been invited to create out-of-the-box art as part of Khoj Studios’ annual Peers Residency programme.
The other artists for the Peers 2013 show are Pratik Bhattacharya, Parag Sonarghare, Sashi Thavudoz and Niyati Upadhya who are showing works made in diverse mediums. Ranging from a life-size installation depicting a construction site made of found packaging material to installation art using wheat flour (atta) to videos depicting Delhi’s political power struggle versus aam aadmi’s life, the show is replete with experimentation.
This is the tenth edition of the Peers Residency which is an annual education and outreach residency programme that brings together five recent graduates from art institutions all over India. For four weeks, these young artists shed the expectations and rigidity of a structured curriculum, working together in a discursive space that stresses the role of free experimentation and risk-taking in art.
Says Pooja Sood, director, Khoj, “This programme provides young artists a forum for experimentation and interaction with the larger creative community. The artists are encouraged to move out of the physical environs of the studios and explore the area and its community.”
Says Juhikadevi about her aerial installation made of ribbons and razor blades. “I have been working in fabrics with various objects for the last four years. I chose ribbons and razor blades this time because I wanted to portray the softness and harshness in a girl’s life. From far, the work looks like a feminine, white installation, but when you go closer, you see the sharp razor blades and therein lies the contrast.”
Pratik Bhattacharya makes a video installation titled The Presence of Absence that has captured images from the raw and rugged bylanes of Khirkee Extension. At the same time, he is showing drawings with folk tales that depict Delhi as centre of power. “I wanted to portray the contrast between Delhi as the power centre and this life here in Khirkee which thrives equally well in such diverse and varied conditions.”
Sashi Thavudoz fills his studio space with a life-size installation made of found packaging material to resemble a construction site. “I am looking at the city as a built space where each one of us is trying to create more space within a limited one.” Says Niyati Upadhya about her work made up of matchboxes, “Over the past few years, my interest in contemporary urban street culture has led me to watch, observe and document the lives and work of many kinds of practitioners of pre modern, unorganised street crafts. During my residency here, I interacted with some Shadipur’s singers, puppeteers and magicians, spending my time documenting their work, their lives and their home.”
(Poonam Goel is a freelance journalist who contributes articles on visual arts for unboxedwriters.com)