Khoj Peers 2018
The Foundation has supported 5-6 artists at the Khoj Peers Residency for five years now. We believe that the programme is an extraordinary incubation period for young artists to experiment and push the boundaries within their practices.
For this blog post we invited the curator and programme’s manager of the residency space Mario D’Souza, to share with us what makes the Khoj Peers Residency so special.
Peers: The making and unmaking of narratives and practice.
In its 15th edition now, the PEERS programme at Khoj has grown as a unique residency model that incubates young graduates and practitioners at an early stage of their career. Over the past few years the residency has also grown in terms of scope and outreach, with a wider and more diverse application pool. The programme itself comprises of a four-week residency at Khoj International Artists’ Association located in the urban village of Khirkee in south Delhi and aims to provide young artists a forum for experimentation and interaction with the larger creative community.
We received over 350 applications for Peers from around the country for this year’s residency. These applications were carefully sorted and deliberated on by a jury comprising of Tarana Sawhney, Gigi Scaria, Pallavi Paul, and Manisha Parekh.
Peers 2018 brought together artists from Bhopal, Nagaland, Guwahati, Chandigarh, Banaras and Kolkata to live and work at Khoj. The residents are Damyanti Debnath (Central University of Hyderabad), Shreya Shukla (M. S. University of Baroda, Vadodara), Manjot Kaur (Panjab University, Chandigarh), Virendra Maurya, (Central University of Hyderabad) and Dharmendra Prasad, (Government College of Arts and Craft, Guwahati) and Throngkiuba Yimchungru, (Santiniketan, Viswabharti University, West Bengal).
Given the new breed of artists that apply every year, we are constantly refining and updating the residency model to ensure that it is able to facilitate every kind of art practice imaginable. The programme is populated a gamut of art-related experiences such as interactions with artists, studio visits and curated exhibition walkthroughs. This year the Peers had the opportunity to visit the studios of senior artists Subodh Gupta and Dayanita Singh. Gupta was candid with the artists as he spoke at length about his practice, the materials he uses, aspects of creating and executing his visions and the struggles that he faced as a young artist starting out in Delhi in the late 90s. He encouraged them to be ambitious, take risks and patiently answered the numerous questions that came his way.
Each year the programme is mentored by an artist, who frequents the studios, providing feedback and suggestions to the Peers. Gigi Scaria was the mentor for Peers 2018. He was able to give critical feedback while carefully addressing questions and uncertainties the young minds were facing. He constantly prompted the artists to look outside their comfort zone and test the limits of their practice.
The Peers 2018 studio spaces were filled with diverse themes, materials. Shreya Shukla transformed her studio into a live organism with its walls bulging, dripping and weighing down upon. The work was an ephemeral sensory experience, the memory of it being the only thing she could take back from the residency.
Dharmendra’s work incorporated references from contexts of land and agriculture, rural knowledge systems, memory, technology and personal narratives. It locates itself in a context of the future while posing the question, “what will futuristic rural and agricultural landscapes look like?” The work references the concept of storage as a metaphor to past knowledge systems and memories in the modern context. This is realized through the materials bringing the past to the present as an exotic element.
Manjot Kaur employed animations as a medium to move forward or back in time and to generate a fictitious phenomenon. The elements from the paintings move in space to create chaos by deconstructing her paintings itself. The work was an intervention between real, virtual and created, which rolls in-between the layers of order and chaos, macroscopic and microscopic, zooming in, and zooming out.
Virendra Maurya’s practice questions the future of humans living in small and congested spaces. Inspired by Khirkee and its suffocating architecture, his work questions the aspects of desire and freedom and humans living as objects in restrictions.
On the other hand Damayanti Debnath’s work investigated space from her personal perspective. In her immersive installation with light and sculptures she instilled the absurdness of order to reveal the suffocation of being in an unreal perfect structure.
Throngkiuba Yimchungru’s paintings dealt with several subject matters such as politics, mythology, religious intolerance and coercion of faith. His paintings took the iconography of the Hanuman in the light of the “Angry Hanuman” stickers that have gone viral and created caricatures with messages of peace and social repair.
The residency concluded with an Open Day, where residents showed their works in progress and interacted with the art community and other audiences. We received over 300 visitors.
The success of Peers in so many ways is about the freedom it allows - to make, unmake and break - something that is not possible (yet) in the academic and market structures of art making. The diversity of media and backgrounds also sparks debates, conversations and contests that truly are the essence of these residencies.
As Khoj Director, Pooja Sood notes “when a group of different people come together, something begins to happen”, Peers perhaps is the site that makes this “coming together” and the “something” possible.
Title image: Manjot Kaur