By KHOJ International Artists' Association
Khoj International Artists' Association
As a part of Khoj's series on women in culture, this exhibit will follow the work of nine seminal artists -- Mithu Sen, Navjot Altaf, Pushpamala N, Rohini Devasher, Sheba Chhachhi, Shilpa Gupta, Sonia Khurana, Tejal Shah and Zuleikha Chaudhari -- charting their trajectory within Khoj itself.
Through Khoj's residencies, exhibitions and festivals, these artists have continued to challenge established ideas about gender and identity entrenched within the political and psychological fabric of our society-- be it through Tejal Shah’s performative work with gender-queer identity, Sonia Khurana’s interest in revealing the nature of relationships through a psychoanalytically-led therapeutic dialogue, or Navjot Altaf’s site-specific public art projects. Integral to the story of contemporary art in India over the last two decades, the concerns found in their work have become, most notably, a reflection of the programme at Khoj itself.
Simultaneously provocative and attractive, Mithu Sen’s work is populated by representations of body parts, animals, plants and objects that come together to form witty commentaries on gender, sexuality and contemporary life and society. Sen’s artistic practice is dominated by the relational aesthetic of gift-giving; the process of which performatively brings the audience and the artist together as a part of the work.
International Residency (August 2003)
Sen’s relationship with Khoj began in 2003, when she joined Khoj as part of an international residency that brought together artists from across the subcontinent under one roof.
At the residency, the artist referred to the haunting 1973 rape of Aruna Shaunbag in her work; referring to Shaunbaug’s erstwhile comatose state as a ‘twilight zone’. Sen’s finely embroidered work became Shaunbaug’s public testament, engaging the viewer in a dialogue about the self, identity, race, origin and gender.
Free Mithu (2009)
'Free Mithu' first began in 2007 when Mithu Sen advertised a summer dhamaka, inviting friends, colleagues, and acquaintances to send a letter of love in exchange for a free artwork by her in a medium of their choice. In 2009, Sen debuted an exhibition of the items collected over a period of two years at Khoj. Presented as a performative event, the exhibition included the letters received, and the distribution of individual gift-wrapped work made for each participant.
Ideas of Fashion (2011)
“Mithu, enclosed within the vacuum (and limitless possibilities) of an empty room, began to see how the constant creation and re-creation of identity through clothing also represented a basic human nature to enquire beyond visible exteriors towards a core. Here, the peeling/shedding of each layer to reveal the next explains the motivations of exploring life as a continuous process of showing us something new. [...]'” - Critic, Mayank Mansingh Kaul on Mithu Sen’s work, ‘Foreplay’, at the Ideas of Fashion residency (2011)
"Mithu, taking the cue to see fashion as a 'verb', undressed the studio walls and play a game of seduction with them. Known for her provocative drawings, she moved into a distinct, complete abstraction; peeled away layers of her studio wall. Revealing the history of the room itself, from past works on the wall, she spoke of feeling the elation of removing layers of previous occupiers' egos and identities, towards a naked vulnerability. This study of the process of dressing down, instead of 'dressing up' was a novel way of looking a the room as a body, and her work as disrobing." - Mayank Singh Kaul, Critic's Note for the Ideas of Fashion residency (2011)
We Are Ours: Manifestos for The Instant (2013)
In 2013, Mithu Sen participated in ‘We are Ours: A Collection of Manifestos for The Instant’, an exhibition that housed 27 manifestos created by contemporary Indian artists whose practices are founded on a conceptual and philosophical engagement with the ways we live within forms. Sen responded to curator, Himali Singh Soin’s call for work that was a simultaneous symbol of the dawn of industrialisation and its demise in the face of a digital revolution.
WORD. SOUND. POWER. (2014)
In 2014, Khoj held the landmark exhibition, “WORD.SOUND.POWER.” as part of a curatorial collaboration with Tate Modern, London. As curator, Andi-Asmita Rangari notes, “WORD.SOUND.POWER. is about the poetics and politics of voice. It is about the formation of an utterance in relation to the norm, and how, in the process, a voice raised can also be understood as an act of poesies, a creative and aesthetic process that incorporates critique. A particular concern that runs through its themes is to interrogate the inherent privilege in being allowed to voice dissent, reflected in cultural echoes—through art, music and poetry”
In 'I Am A Poet', a work debuted at Khoj Studios in 2014, Sen reclaims her ownership of language by levelling the playing field in a world dominated by the english language.
Reading from a book of asemic text, the exhibition marked Sen’s turn towards collaborative performances that bring artist and audience in unison with one another through the gesture of the gift -- by inviting visitors to record their own readings from the text, she threw into focus the void between utterance and meaning. An acclaimed poet in her native language of Bengali, Sen has experienced a sense of disconnection with language since relocating to the largely anglophone city of Delhi. In this work she invited audiences to share in a language that mutually excludes and therefore includes us all.
“I really hope this work will add some contribution for the noble purpose of Khoj. I have always benefitted from Khoj over the last 12 years and want it to live forever.”
As part its ongoing fundraising initatives, Khoj invited ten artists to donate work for the Christie’s India Sale in 2014. Mithu Sen generously donated ‘In Transit (6)', a work from a series which combines water colour, ink printed fabric, velvet and images from her drawings.
The Mrichhakatika Project -Performance Residency (2015)
In 2015, Sen was part of ‘The Mrichhakatika Project’, an experimental performance art residency that brought Sen, artist Zuleikha Chaudhari, dramaturge Kris Merken and filmmaker Shilpi Gulati to work together on a performance of Sudraka’s iconic Sanskrit play, ‘Mrichhakatika’ (The Little Clay Cart).
Navjot Altaf is an artist who has been working in and outside of Mumbai since the mid-1970s. Altaf has worked across media, the range of which includes painting, sculpture, installation and video. With site-based projects in public spaces that affirm and reveal the nature of the human condition, Altaf’s diverse body of work is both discursive and abstract in its approach, but is ultimately singular in its concern.
Khoj International Workshop Modinagar (1999)
A participant at one of the earliest Modinagar workshops, Navjot Altaf’s relationship with Khoj is almost as old as Khoj itself. During the 1999 edition of the Modinagar workshop, Altaf created a site-specific public art project that both addressed and engaged with the concerns of the community around Modinagar.
Describing Altaf’s project in the 1999 edition of the Khoj Workshop Catalogue, Anita Dube states, “For Navjot Altaf, memories of her childhood in Meerut returned. She combined these with her engagement with the Bastar tribals. The official politics that surrounded the amazing Mahua tree became her focus. Under the only one in the compound, she installed a swing constructed out of railway sleepers…”
“... She told us that forest officers in M.P. have stopped the planting of Mahua trees because its flowers are being used by adivasis (tribals) to distill alcohol, forgetting that its bark is used to make a medicine for arthritis, its seeds crushed for oil, that throughout the year it provided shade. In protest she planned a planting of 100 Mahua saplings in five primary schools with the help of school children. With the compound children she made brightly coloured paper boars that were floated in a water channel near the house on open day.”
Public Art Residency (2006)
Altaf was a part of the 2006 Public Art Residency at Khoj, the aim of which was to expand the definition of public art beyond public artifact by exploring the role and context of art and its audiences within the urban environment. As an artist not native to New Delhi, Altaf chose to situate her project, “DELHI LOVES ME?” around the vicinity of Khirkee and Hauz Rani, activating Khoj’s neighbourhood with a site-specific public art intervention.
Articulating the impetus of the project, Altaf states in her artist’s statement, “At the time when invited to be part of ‘ Public Art Project –2006 ‘ from KHOJ, Delhi government’s dream / plan / action to transform the city into an international city with international standards of public and privately owned spaces was going on in full swing and was often discussed in the media – a number of bastis were being dislocated to vacate the prime locations.”
Working with inhabitants from different socio-cultural backgrounds, Altaf especially interacted with auto-rickshaw and taxi drivers through a dialogical approach, encouraging communication between herself and the participants about their lives in Delhi, the government’s politics and policies of development and the implications of the same upon the quality of city’s life and the environment.
As a part of the intervention, “we met Auto Rickshaw Union [with 25,000 stickers] near I.I.T. premises for their response and support to approach rickshaw drivers in the city. With the support and participation of three auto rickshaw drivers, art students, artists, community persons, and a volunteer from KHOJ -on three consecutive days we approached the drivers while they waited to fill gas at CNG petrol pumps at various places and at auto rickshaw stands in Delhi. Since we believed that listening is the beginning of communication we individually or in groups listened to their responses / reactions to the stickers as many of them took time to read the text before they conveyed their consent or refusal to let us install the stickers on the back of their auto rickshaws.”
“Being with the participants / audiences ‘outside’ KHOJ premises made me realize the integrity of their participation / contribution and interest. For me, how the entire process brought a number of people into conversation at various stages / levels itself is a work of art. To understand this work and the situation in a larger context is to recognize that process and all associated activities.”
In Context: Public.Art.Ecology (2010)
The public art residency, ‘In Context: Public.Art.Ecology’ sought to address the dialogic relationship between public art interventions, audiences and themes of environment and climate change. Khoj invited Navjot Altaf to participate in the project in its 2010 edition, the result of which was the production of the work, 'Barakhamba'.
Critic, Maya Kóvskaya, describes the project in her note accompanying the residency: “Working in collaboration with environmentalist Ajay Mahajan, and the New Delhi Municipal Corporation, Navjot Altaf set out to create an interventionist artowork that not only symbolized or represented a change, but in fact embodied and instantiated that change."
"Altaf's objective was to liberate the rows of trees, lining Delhi's Barakhamba Road, from their strangling cages of concrete and asphalt. De-choking these trees was at once a genuine environmental action that transformed the quality of life...a potentially precedent-setting example for how the municipal government could better implement greenification regulations and maintain the commons at a higher standard."
Nameless Here Forevermore (2015)
'Nameless Here Forevermore' was an exhibition held at Khoj in 2015. Bringing together artistic practices that beg reflection on our implication in collective suffering, be it political, economic or environmental, the show addressed our inability to respond to the wounds of collective trauma, exploring thus, the possibilities of art as a tool of resistance, remediation and rejuvenation.
Altaf's video project, 'Soul Breath Wind' was a part of the exhibition. A video project in process, ‘Soul Breath Wind’ is based on Navjot Altaf's research on the political situation, agenda of development and the consequent anthropogenic environmental changes occuring in the state of Chhatisgarh.
"The loss and destruction of fertile land and soil, forests and biodiversity have had severe impact on the day to day existence and identity of indigenous communities living there for centuries and decision making... This has led to massive forced and undesired displacements of local inhabitants, resulting in marginalisation of indigenous way of life, their oral tradition of knowledge, cultural environment in which both human, other species and nature could prosper and cultural dynamics are not destroyed.”
“[...] The video addresses the impact of imposed segregation from their live-world in north-central part of Chhattisgarh and dealing with the conflicts between the communities and the police force and the ultra-left forces in South Bastar District... And what is being lost in the process." - Navjot Altaf, from the 'Nameless Here Forevermore' Brochure (2015)
With work that acts as both analysis and relief for the human condition, Altaf was a fitting participant for the 'Crisis and Un/Making Sense -- Art As Schizoanalysis" symposium (2015) held with the support of the Goethe Institut, Max Mueller Bhavan. Part of the programming for 'Nameless Here Forevermore', the event addressed situations of collective trauma and social rupture, examining how expression and sense-making processes result in social transformation.
Negotiating Routes Meeting (2015)
In 2015, Khoj convened a meeting reflecting on the five years since the inception of its Negotiating Routes project in 2010 bringing participants from all 5 editions of the project together as part of a forum for dialogue, exchange and reflection. Negotiating Routes was a public art grant given to 19 projects across India investigating issues of ecology, environmental degradation and the displacement of local communities. Given her experience in this field, Altaf was invited to be a respondent in the meeting.
The Thirteenth Place (2016)
In 2016, Khoj celebrated the launch of 'The Thirteenth Place: Positionality as Critique in the Art of Navjot Altaf'. Authored by cultural theorist and curator Nancy Adajania, the book is the first major-length study of the artist's work. Altaf and Adajania, in conversation with artist and critic, Ravi Agarwal addressed a fully packed courtyard, unpacking the impact of Western feminist art discourse, politics, anthropology, and activism in the artist's work.
Beginning her career as a sculptor with an interest in narrative figuration, Pushpamala N transitioned into casting her own body as various characters and personae through the medium of photo-performance. Pushpamala’s work engages with postcolonial theory and feminist historical gaze via ‘photo-romances’ and studio photographs that seduce viewers through their spectacular and elusive narratives. In recent years, Pushpamala has seen the expansion of her photographic practice, delving into experimental short films, live performance and sculptural tableau.
Part of the second Khoj workshop at Modinagar in 1998, Pushpamala N began her relationship with Khoj in a golden frock; Anita Dube, describing Pushpamala’s work, narrates, "continuing in the same vein, Pushpamala presented a series of photographs of the archetypal Indian housewife and juxtaposed them with her fantasy role of 'a lady in a golden frock' -- stylish, dangerous and desirable. The work commented on the socio-political straitjackets and the ambiguities of female myth and fantasy in popular culture. There was a sense of 'B' movies in the photos and for the wise and uninitiated she arranged a visit to the local cinema. Dressing for the shoots became a daily ritual.”
International Residency (2001)
2001 welcomed the second edition of the international residency programme at Khoj. Restricted to video and photography, the artists lived and worked in the KHOJ guesthouse that belonged to photographer, Pablo Bartholomew.
At the residency, Pushpamala produced a series of images set within the streets of Khirkee village. Sombre and evocative, the images establish set the stage for her trademark ‘photo-narratives’, weaving a tale at once pastoral and romantic.
In 2011 Pushpamala donated a unique staged self-portrait to Khoj's Autoportrait Portfolio. The funds raised through the sale of these portfolios allowed Khoj to secure its space in Khirkee village.
For the second edition of KHOJLive (2012), Pushpamala N performed 'Motherland' along with poet and writer, Mamta Sagar. During the 6-day festival, the duo explored the idea of freedom and captivity through the work of the first Kannada woman writer and nationalist, Nanjangud Thirumalamba.
A member of the initial programming team, Devasher’s relationship with Khoj began in 2004. Recalling her time at Khoj in a 2015 interview, she states, "I realised very quickly, very early on, that I was part of something very special because when I started initially, it was very much about the people here… we were taking ownership of things together, and making it happen together…. It was that, which was the most exciting thing." A career marked by a transition within the arts, Devasher’s award-winning work stands at the threshold of art, science and fiction; her forms pulsate with primordial life, and are simultaneously, precursors to a space of the future.
Khirkee-Ki-Khoj: Mural Project (2005)
An integral part of the early community art programmes at Khoj. In Khirkee-Ki-Khoj, Devasher helped design murals that adorned the streets of Khirkee; she also participated in a shop makeover project that became components of Khoj's larger site-based community art project in 2005.
Her initiative, along with that of the programming team at Khoj, helped us get to know our neighbourhood better, setting precedent for relationships that have allowed for the development and continuation of Khoj’s ever-growing community art program.
"Employing the products and refuse of the barber's shop, i.e., scissors and old blades, we hope to create a large installation that will stand against [Mohan the barber's shop's] wall surface... Barbers scissors are particularly nasty looking, bringing to mind images of violence and of a certain cruelty. These will be used to fashion a form that will be deliberately sensual, creating a sharp contrast to the hard-edged forms." - Notes on the Shop Makeovers project, part of Khirkee-ki-Khoj (2005)
Peers Student Residency (2005)
The 2005 edition of the Peers student residency at Khoj became an opportunity for Devasher to interact with her contemporaries across a wide variety of disciplines and geographies. As residency critic, her interactions with students from a wide cross-section of diverse and distinct Indian art institutions provided a rare insight into contemporaneous ideology and practices, setting the stage for the changes to come within Devasher's own career.
Art & Science Residency (2007)
2007 marked a turn for Rohini Devasher; a former facilitator of the arts, she was now an artist-in-residence at the first Arts & Science Residency at Khoj. Exploring the intersections between art, science and technology, the residency bridged the gap between science and art by encouraging collaborations between scientists and artists.
During the residency, Devasher worked with Prof. Mohan Ram and Dr. Rajesh Tandon at the Department of Botany at Delhi University. An exploration in plant morphology following J.W. Goethe's search for "that which was common to all plants without distinction", conversations with them led to, as Devasher states, "compare plant structural similarities at a macro and microscopic level. With their collaboration, I was able to use complex images of plant surface features as viewed under a scanned electron microscope, including hair like trichomes, highly ornamental pollen structure; and stomato with mouth like apertures."
Other significant projects include the 'Filament: 6 Years of the Peers Residency at Khoj' exhibition at the Vadehra Art Gallery in 2008 as a part of Khoj’s 10 year celebrations.
Part of the KHOJLive performance art festival in 2012, Devasher presented the work, ‘Shadow Walkers’. Her chronicle of eclipse chasers -- a subculture of people who are addicted to walking in the shadow of the moon -- is a product of her collective investigation with amateur astronomers in New Delhi. She asks, “How does one create a sense of engagement with someone else’s experiences? Is it possible to be a participant once a work is complete?. As an amateur astronomer herself, Devasher was keen to explore the dual role of the artist as both 'participant' and 'observer'. Shadow Walkers is one vignette within this project.
Deep Time (2013)
In 2013, Khoj held Devasher’s solo show, ‘Deep Time’ in its newly refurbished exhibition space. ‘Deep Time’ drew on research and fieldwork that began three years prior as a part of an ongoing project that, through the lens of metaphor, sought to map common points between astronomy and art practice. The work included in the show exists as an exploration of a strange terrain where myth and fiction blur the boundaries of the real and the imagined.
Devasher has continued to be an active member of the Khoj community; a recurring mentor and guide during the Peers student residency, she has opened her studio up to young artists and critics, serving as a source of guidance and conduit for experimentation and dialogue.
The Undivided Mind: Art & Science Residency (2015)
In 2015, Devasher returned to Khoj for the art and science residency, now in its new avatar as ‘The Undivided Mind: Art and Science Residency’.
“[My first residency] was also an art and science residency in 2007. That was 4 weeks and the most recent one in 2011 was just about 2 weeks. It may equally be the result of a maturing practice and the serendipity of finding remarkable synergy and commonalities between the residents, but ‘The Undivided Mind’ was a very significant residency for me. Not only were the conversations and interactions very productive, but the work that emerged was completely unexpected and has opened up new areas of exploration.” - Rohini Devasher (2015)
“I began as a documentary photographer and activist, deeply engaged with the women’s movement in Delhi. Across the 1980’s, I built a visual history of the movement within, pointing the camera one moment, shouting slogans the next. I photographed women protesting against rape, dowry, and religious fundamentalism, domestic and state violence. These were important images, necessary images, but ones that, in the very act of interrogating dominant representations, became themselves stereotypes. Angry eyes, raised fist, shouting mouth.” - Sheba Chhachhi, ‘The Khoj Book’
Khoj International Workshop Modinagar (1999)
With work that critiques the present as much as divines the truth which lies under the surface of objects, Sheba Chhachhi is an artist whose socially and historically led practice has, in the years since the beginning of her relationship with Khoj at the 1999 Modinagar workshop, been an important part of the articulation of Khoj’s own concerns about the relationship between the image, artistic practice and the larger ecological and urban environment.
Describing ‘Itbari Khan ke Haath’, an installation produced by Chhachhi at Modinagar, the artist herself states, “One of my early experiments with the projected image was at the Khoj workshop in Modinagar in 1999, with ‘Itbari Khan ke Haath’. The work was fuelled by the severe disjunction between inside the estate of the Modi family where we lived and worked, and outside, an ex-industrial town seething with the resentment of laid-off workers, closed factories and massive unemployment.”
“The installation collapsed this separation into a single space, articulating my discomfort with the dislocated, sometimes solipsistic nature of art practice. Emblematic of the failure of the Nehruvian model of industrialization, and the swift relocation of capital, the work is a requiem for the dignity of the artisanal, a testament to the disenfranchisement of those unequipped to reinvent themselves in the new economic regime.”
Photography Residency (2005)
Part of the Photography Residency in 2005, Chhachhi produced ‘Tales from the City’, a series of four objects that bridged the line between a bioscope and a television set. The project was informed by an impetus to turn, as she stated, the photographed object into a ‘pure’ object. Operating atop two electrically rotating motor coils, the ‘objects’ resembled mini television sets through which two vertically parallel coils literally looped photo sequences. The sequences themselves were photographs superimposed and printed onto a transparent plastic, juxtaposing angular, latitudinal satellite images of the city with images of people living on the fringes of the urban metropolis.
'In Context: Public.Art.Ecology' Public Art Residency (2010)
Chhachhi was an integral part of the expansion of Khoj’s socio-ecologically led public art programme, participating in the seminal ‘In Context: Public.Art.Ecology’ Public Art Residency in 2010. Chhachhi contributed her video, ‘The Water Diviner’ to the project, installed on a large scale in the large public plaza at the mall across the road from Khoj.
As a part of the residency, Chhachhi also created the interactive installation, ‘Bhogi/Rogi II (Consumption/Disease)’. Housed at Select Citywalk Mall, Chhachhi’s red wave became a site of transformation -- offering the viewer an experience of himself/herself as constituted and transformed by what he/she consumes, be it food, goods or words. The installation explored the continuum between consumption-production-homogenization, with particular reference to transgenic foods, through a series of real time transformations of the body of the viewing self.
In 2011, Chhachhi was one of the artists invited to be a part of the Khoj Marathon, a series of public interviews held by Hans Ulrich Obrist in collaboration with Khoj. The Marathon, part of a series of events conceived by Obrist at Stuttgart in 2005, was a milestone that initiated one of the most exciting conversations around art in contemporary times. The Khoj Marathon was the first of its kind to be held in the subcontinent.
Chhachhi also generously contributed an autoportrait to Khoj’s funding drive 2011, creating a unique looming, mountainous landscape of chimeras and bodies stuccoed onto towers that lie in the muggy ochre warmth of an apocalyptic desert with a serene disquiet.
Crisis and Un/Making Sense -- Art As Schizoanalysis (2015)
Along with Navjot Altaf, Sheba Chhachhi too was a part of the 'Crisis and Un/Making Sense -- Art As Schizoanalysis" (2015) symposium held with the support of the Goethe Institut, Max Mueller Bhavan. In a conversation with curator, Leon Tan and artist, Sonia Jabbar, Chhachhi discussed the fissures, both political and psychological, rife within the landscape of Kashmir and beyond. Through configural worlds, cracked yet bound in/by affective relationship, the book conveys a sense of recursive reflection in the circulation of its images, concepts, concerns by referring to the manner in which little seems to be permanently abandoned within Chhachhi’s work.
Arc Silt Dive Book Launch (2016)
In 2016, Khoj celebrated the launch of ‘Arc Silt Dive’, Kumkum Sangari’s beautifully compiled book on the work of Sheba Chhachhi; mapping her methods, the book refers to the modes of address and inquiry in Chhachhi’s photographs, animated lightboxes, videos and installations.
“It has been an honour to be associated with Khoj, which is a rare and unique space, deeply cherished by artists. All through its decade and half long journey from a workshop to an institution, Khoj has offered a platform for artists to experiment, and constantly search for ways of looking and understanding their practice, becoming vital to the eco system of contemporary art in the region.” - Shilpa Gupta
Shilpa Gupta is an interdisciplinary artist who is interested in human perception, she employs interactive video, websites, objects, photographs, sound and public performances in her work to probe the ideas of borderlines, labels, censorship and security. Gupta blurs the boundary between art and the culture of everyday life, prompting questions about how we think and who we are.
Khoj International Workshop Modinagar(1999)
Gupta participated in the Khoj workshop at Modinagar in 1999, by reconstructing a dilapidated toilet used by local women grass cutters ; and adding back to back, on its inner and outer wall, a cast of her breast in cement. She adorned the breast with motor wire in the place of hair and playfully added a string of lights found in the local market, in a geometric line. While broken walls were mended, water piped in, the space painted, and two marble slabs with drawings were embedded in the washing area.
Khoj International Workshop Mumbai (2005)
In 2005, Gupta was part of a group of artists who facilitated the Mumbai-based iteration of the Khoj workshop. Taking place at Jindal Vijaynagar Steel Ltd, Vasind, it brought together artists from Bangladesh, South Korea, Germany, Pakistan, Turkey, Sri Lanka, France, UK, Barbados and South Africa, inviting them to work alongside artists from Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Cochin and Kolkata.
Khoj Marathon with Hans Ulrich Obrist (2011)
Along with Sheba Chhachhi, Shilpa Gupta too was a part the Khoj Marathon (2011), discussing her work with curator, Hans Ulrich Obrist in the lush setting of the Lodi Gardens, New Delhi.
In 2011, Gupta contributed an autoportrait to one of Khoj's first fundraising initiatives. Garbed in a camouflage coat, Gupta’s self-portrait refers to her existing interest in the relationship between borders, both political and personal, as entities that decode variances -- blurring the lines of distinction that exist between object and subject as independent entities.
In 2014, Gupta once again showed her support for Khoj through her contribution of work to the 'Artists for Khoj by Christie's' fundraising initiative. ‘WheredoIendandyoubegin’, written in a cursive and continuous typeface, foregrounds the formal qualities of words and script. Using a font and materials associated with commercial store-front signage, the artist moves beyond simple notions of high and low in art.
Sonia Khurana is a visual artist based in New Delhi. Working primarily with moving image and performance, her practice includes drawing, text, sound, music, voice, architecture and installation. Khurana’s practice deals with interiority and embodiment; and the self in relation to the world. In a practice where art becomes therapy, she tries to persistently explore and re-define the space of the political within the psychological.
Khoj International Workshop Modinagar (2000)
At the Modinagar workshop in 2000, Khurana found the genesis of her series, ‘Flower Carrier’. A little green cart with pink forget-me-nots housed formed part of a video performance. Khurana states in the Khoj Catalogue (2000), "She would go out into the streets holding the flower before her eyes, staring at it tenaciously, so as to see only that single beautiful point to see it as the last thing she wanted to preserve for herself from a world she had ceased to love, she would walk like that through the streets she would soon become a familiar sight; children would run after her, laugh at her, throw things at her, and would call her the crazy woman with the forget-me-not."
At the 2008 edition of the KHOJLive performance art festival, Khurana debuted her live video performance, ‘Don’t Touch Me When I Start To Feel Safe’. Referring to her work in a 2010 conversation with Sarah Bancroft in The Khoj Book, Khurana describes the development of the piece in 2008, “Sometimes when one thinks of an idea that must be tested, it takes a long time to be comfortable with it. This thing about letting people into one’s own space is new and scary. In a more recent version of the piece I invited people to come and meet me, one-on-one, in my own living room. The meetings were extremely brief and intimate -- a real contrast to the noisy, busy festival, Khoj Live, they took place in.”
Psychoanalysis and the Arts in India (2011)
With an interest in art as a therapeutic conversation, Khurana often sees her practice as a mode of therapy, stating in the same 2010 interview, that,”... in performance mode, where I am being with people, I am a mediator for something they might experience in other situations, and that is perhaps one of the roles of the therapist.” Khurana was thus, a fitting presenter at Khoj’s symposium, ‘Psychoanalysis and the Arts in India’ held in 2011 at Khoj Studios. The objective of the symposium was to foster discussions and cross-fertilisation across the analytic and artistic fields, enabling analysts to present contemporary thinking in psychoanalysis on one hand and artists to present artistic theories and practices in India on the other.
The Undivided Mind: Art & Science Residency (2016)
In 2016, Sonia Khurana was a part of ‘The Undivided Mind Art & Science Residency’, the theme of which was ‘health’. During the residency, Khurana created an iteration of her ongoing work, ‘missing womb: narratives’, which in her words, “expresses the profound encounter between science and the representation of female reproductive processes.”
"Proposing a series of conversations, or “‘womb’ narratives,with individual women who have undergone hysterectomies, as well as with social scientists, psychologists and medical practitioners who are deeply engaged on the ground level with hysterectomies and its physio-psycho-social effect”, Khurana’s work at the residency highlighted some of the hard facts regarding gynecological morbidity, physical, emotional and economic consequences of hysterectomy.
Tejal Shah is a multi-disciplinary artist primarily working with video, photography, performance, sound and installation. Shah has exhibited widely in museums, galleries and film festivals. In 2003-4, they* co-founded, organised and curated along with Natasha Mendonca, Larzish – India’s premier International Film Festival of Sexuality and Gender Plurality. Having recently come out as an ecosexual, they think of themselves as ‘some kind of artist working on some kind of nature.' (*The artist avoids using personal personal pronouns as an experiment and expression of retirement from gender conformity.)
Performance Residency (2004)
Shah first participated at Khoj in the 2004 edition of the Performance Art Residency, producing the work, ‘Sleep‘. Shah was strung out on a hammock outside the window of the first floor studio holding a cord connected to a hammock placed in the middle of the room where the audience was expected to lie down one at a time.
Hemant Sreekumar, in his critic’s note for the residency, states, “Right above the interior hammock was a projection which bounced off a 45-degree mirror with the projector on the floor. The footage was beamed directly, constructing associations with multiple female identities within the context of a common task as it had shot footage of women sleeping, mumbling, and singing with their head on the pillow. This footage was edited into a loop and projected on Shah’s body.... and the entire procedure was then shot from a stationary camera on a tripod. Beautifully constructed and composed in the unlit studio space ... the only light was ambient, filtering in off the street casting a larger than life shadow of Tejal across the projection.”
In 2011, Tejal Shah contributed to Khoj's funding iniative by providing an original work for the Autoportrait portfolio.
Khoj International Workshop Dharamshala (2012)
In 2012, Shah participated at the Khoj Dharamshala workshop. On the edge of the Himalayas, Shah collaborated with a set of artists from across the world, creating ‘Interdependence’, a charged work that addressed concerns about conformism and political subversion via the Tibetan independence movement and its consequent struggle for political independence from the Chinese state.
“The artwork in this project lies in the place of action, where it activates a discussion with and amongst the local population in public spaces.
I started by stamping currency notes of my fellow artists. While no one objected to participate, very quickly several intense discussions erupted amongst us in the first few days --
Does the currency note still retain its monetary value?
What if shopkeepers don’t accept the note?
Will the bank accept these notes?”
“If you are excited by this idea, please take one stamp or make your own stamp in the local language of your area and use liberally.” - Tejal Shah, Artist’s Statement, Khoj Dharamshala (2015)
Frozen World of the Familiar Stranger (2016)
Shah's work, ‘Between the Waves’ was a part of the 2016 exhibition, ‘Frozen World of the Familiar Stranger’, held in collaboration with KADIST San Francisco. A multimedia installation, Shah’s video and collage articulates sensual, poetic, heterotopic landscapes within which they place subjects that inhabit personal/political metaphors -- embodiments of the queer, eco-sexual, inter-special, technological, spiritual and scientific.
Zuleikha Chaudhari is a director and lighting designer from New Delhi in India. She made a name for herself as a director with stage productions of Ibsen, Brecht and Heiner Müller, among others. In addition, she has worked on several installation projects and has received several prizes for her work. Zuleikha Chaudhari has become a familiar face at Khoj in the last five years, most recently as a part of our gaming and performance residencies. However, Chaudhari’s relationship with Khoj began in 2003, when she was a part of one of the first few iterations of Khoj's international residency programme.
International Residency (2003)
Over the course of an intense six week period, the residency became an expanding, accommodating platform that offered support and encouraged exchange between individuals from diverse backgrounds, disciplines and practices.It was here that the erstwhile lighting designer set the precedent for her current practice as an artist.
During the construction of her first light installation, Chaudhari made an attempt not to use theatre light equipment, juxtaposing actual light sources, i.e., tube lights, with projected light sources, i.e., images of tube lights photographed in shops at Loknayak Bhavan, Khan Market. Referring to her roots in theatre, her project was based on an extract from Heinrich Muller’s ‘The Father’.
Between 2006 and 2008, Chaudhari worked on a series of projects with Khoj, i.e., ‘Arabian Night’ (2006), ‘On Seeing the 100% Beautiful Girl One Beautiful April Morning’ at KHOJLive (2008) and ‘Propositions on Text and Space’ (2009); questioning the position and role of theatre within contemporary art -- coming to terms with what it means for the viewer to participate and engage with art in an intimate and emotive way.