We entered the basement of The Hosteller, New Friends Colony, on Saturday morning with a pink rose in one hand, ‘The Phosphene’ stamped on our inner wrist, and a name badge with our pronouns. As a few mellow tunes played in the background, a number of people were seen browsing through items—crafted by Delhi-NCR-based artists—such as digital prints, trinkets, stickers, etc., that were stacked neatly on tables installs. Visitors—there were many individuals from the queer and DBA community—congregated at this pop-up exhibition organised by the team of The Phosphene, a city-based literary magazine run by Vani, Parth, and Rush. People got together to shop, connect, and attend a series of performances.
Later in the afternoon, we witnessed similar excitement at Janpath’s Informal By Imperfecto, where MozArt, a newly-established art platform—co-founded by Sanjana Agarwal, Himanshi Asnani, and Simran Ahuja—organised a pop-up event. Here, we group of emerging artists from the city assembled to showcase their creations so as to reach a larger audience. “I am looking forward to interacting with a lot of people and making friends,” commented Tvisha Garg (20), a digital artist from Faridabad.
Barring the no-event phase due to the COVID-induced lockdown, pop-up events have gradually become popular post the pandemic. One might also notice how every event is carefully curated, thus making the experience one-of-a-kind for the audience. “Pop-up events allow us to meet the creator and also try out the product before we buy it. We wanted a range of products at our event—jewellery, soaps, clothes, etc. This also provides brands with the exposure and allows them to expand their audience,” said Agarwal, co-founder, MozArt.
Nurturing budding creators
Hriday (they/them) from Punjabi Bagh exhibited their digital artworks for the first time at The Phosphene. “Art is very personal and conveys a lot of messages. As a trans-person, enabling that [through pop-up events] is beautiful,” they (19) shared. East Delhi-resident Tanshi Agrwal, who was at MozArt, echoed Hriday’s thoughts. “If this goes well, I think I will be more confident of my work and of pop-up [events] as a medium to showcase art,” said the 19-year-old, who was looking forward to selling hand-painted tote bags and bucket hats.
For a long time now, art has been perceived as an elitist sphere, often promoting ideas and techniques that exclude the public. In fact, art spaces such as galleries too have been criticised time and again for being exclusionary and limiting. Such art pop-ups, in a way, help break those restrictions, and provide a space to artists without their work being judged. Adding to this discourse, Vatsalya Goyal (24), a Noida-based artist we met at The Phosphene, commented, “We [artists] need this validation from people. Social media validation does not always help. Pop-up events help us get exposure. It is not easy to get to know like-minded people otherwise.”
A safe sanctuary
Another purpose of such pop-up events is that they help foster a space that promotes free expression. Addressing the same, Vani, co-founder, of The Phosphene, shared, “This event is not just a safe space for queer artists but also for caste-marginalised communities. Fifty per cent of artists here are from the DBA community. The art culture in Delhi does not give space to artists from marginalised communities. We did not want that to happen here.”
Among the performers was Pratyn Chakraborty (18), a poet from Shaheen Bagh, who likes to pen down his experiences as a queer person. While earlier, Chakraborty mentions being at spaces that have restricted him from performing their poetry as is, he mentioned that The Phosphene allowed him the space to be uncensored. “I did not feel judged here.” Shaheen Bagh-resident Sanjana (20) chimed in, telling us that they usually avoid going to crowded events. However, since Saturday’s event at The Hosteller attempted to create a space for queer and DBA individuals, they were at peace. “This is the safest place one can ever be,” Sanjana concluded.