Anita Dube, Bharti Kher and Manisha Parekh - The architects of the Indian contemporary art experiment at Khoj
"Anita Dube’s wrapping of a tree with the red thread used for religious occasions, became a sweep of colour in a strategically formed work subverting the veneration of the tree so popular in rural India. She added, playfully, an O and U to the natural contours of a Y in the tree and connected with the work she made inside the house. Watching ‘you’ everywhere were hypnotic eyes caught in the oval templates of all the doors in the house." - Khoj Workshop 1998 Catalogue (1999)
Dube ensconces conceptual language within the ‘sculptural fragment as a bearer of personal and social memory, history, mythology and phenomenological experience’. Her work refers to her roots as an art critic; evident in her employment of terms endemic to the language of art history, radically opening up the binary positions that exist between object and subject. Dube’s work has been marked by her early engagement with the Indian Radical Painters and Sculptors Association, a self-styled political grouping of artists in the late 1980s. She has since attempted to work with both an ‘erotics’ and a ‘politics’ that investigates the resistance of individuals and women against the overarching idea of power.
In ‘Disputed Territory’ (2004), donated to Khoj as a part of the ‘Artists for Khoj’ fundraising drive held in collaboration with Christie’s in 2014, Dube created a mesmerising yet flowing pattern of spiralling eyes; explaining the work in ‘ICON/India Contemporary, at the Venice Biennale’, a 2005 interview with Peter Nagy, she states: “I found that when you have a cluster of them [eyes] they carry the energy and charge of crowds of people. The sense of being in crowded places even messy dirty places, an attraction to the violent energy present in these situations, which is either revolutionary or fascist, is the reason I continue to explore this material.”
In addition, Dube has supported Khoj by providing work for the Autoportraits portfolio, most notably contributing her work, ‘Hotel’ and ‘Class Struggle’ for the first and second editions of the ‘A Gift for Khoj’ photography and sculpture portfolios, respectively. In these iconic images, Dube employs a variety of found objects, exploring through them, a divergent range of subjects that address a profound concern for loss and regeneration -- both autobiographical and societal.
A mentor at the landmark Peers Residency in 2003, Kher continues to inculcate Khoj’s belief in the value of art as a collaborative process, inviting the Peers to her studio for visits, critiquing and pushing young artists to develop and pursue their practices uniquely, but not independently of their would-be peers and future collaborators.
“Manisha Parekh alternatively used natural daylight to create a jewel like work. She transformed an animal watering tub into a deep blue receptacle by placing small mirrors inside it. Reflections on the insides of the wall magically came at particular times of the day and then- as magically disappeared.” - Anita Dube, Khoj Workshop 1998 Catalogue (1999)
At a residency that brought together the transformative power of art and fashion, Parekh continued to hone in on her interest in embellishing the everyday, using the opportunity to elaborate upon her existing practice. By referring to the world of textiles and fabric as a means of establishing a link with fashion, possibilities between the realm of fashion and art emerged as the product of a cross-disciplinary conversation at Khoj.
Articulating her thoughts on the same in her artist’s statement presented at the residency open day, she states, ‘it became possible to think of… a larger meaning… as a social statement reflecting time… It became a time to ask a few about myself, explore another language, interact with fellow artists and reflect on one’s own practice.’ Thus, the habitat of Khoj, once again, became the site of a metamorphosis within Parekh’s own practice.
Khoj Workshop 1998 Catalogue (1999)
Khoj Workshop 1999 Catalogue (2000)
Anita Dube, 'Artist's Note', Keywords and Baans (2005)
The Khoj Book (1997-2007): Contemporary Art Practice in India (2010)
'Khoj Marathon with Hans Ulrich Obrist' Catalogue (2011)
Manisha Parekh, 'Artist's Note', Ideas of Fashion Residency (2011)
'A Gift for Khoj: Edition I - Photography Portfolio' (2011)
'A Gift for Khoj: Edition II - Sculpture Portfolio' (2011)
Himali Singh Soin, 'Curator's Note', We Are Ours: Manifestos for the Instant (2013)
'Artists for Khoj' Catalogue (2014)
For more information, visit http://khojworkshop.org/