New Delhi artistRitika Sharmaexplores social behavior through people's daily travels on the capital city metro system, giving expression to the passengers' mute interactions and complex emotional states.
This recent body of works evolved with the idea of pleasant and convenient travel on the New Delhi metro, which is used by all sorts of people, from different classes and generations. My figurative compositions are the representation of observations and experiences of traveling in a chaotic environment.
Concisely concentrating on the idea of traveling, these paintings are an effort to understand the social behavior which tracks the invisible thread or hidden dialogue among strangers, and that often encounters the growing insensitivity and insecurity in our society. It also brings forth the women’s safety crisis in the capital city of India. It is an effort to track the essence of a journey through various elements leading to a continuous shift in emotional states.
Belonging to a middle class family and living on the outskirts of the city, traveling on public transportations has been a substantial part of my life. My habit of observing, and sketching people while traveling, accelerated the idea of painting the immediate reality that I was observing. It is then that I started to paint the series ‘Traveling with Insecurities’ and ‘Tangled Journey’, delineating the un-comfortableness of the female traveler and the ignorance of her fellow passengers.
The idea of the composition is accessed from my own experience of eve-teasing and the role of caitiff acts for changing emotional states. Being the cheapest and most convenient mode of transport, a lot of people, whether lower or middle class, educated or uneducated, the innocent or the pervert, travel all together on public transportations, creating a helter-skelter; my paintings are structured to showcase this ‘mobocracy’ of our society by creating harmony in chaos.
These paintings look beyond the gender caused insecurity to the privilege of having a ladies' coach¹, often highlighting multiculturalism, class based differences and dialogues among various age groups.
The pertinent portrayal of sign boards and advertisements adds another layer to this dialogue between the represented space and renditions. It also draws a sarcastic commentary on performing the prohibited activities inside the metro premises in a very stylized manner which are also referred as “Vain-Glory” in some compositions. The recent composition “Recalcitrant Bevy” is an example of this exploration. The aversions, ignorance and anxiety existing in today’s fast paced life style acted as a catalyst in the creation of these works.
Most of my paintings speaks in the medium of oil colors with some of them exploring the acrylic on canvas or reversely painted acrylic sheet.
Note ¹: the New Delhi metro offers women only coaches at the end of each train, where women travellers can feel safer.
Ritika Sharma is an artist based in New Delhi, India. She has received a MFA (2015-17) and a BFA (2011-15) in Painting from College of Art, Delhi University.
She has participated in numerous art exhibitions, workshops, camps and residencies including, International Artists Residency 2017 with Art for Change Foundation; Moving Images with FICA and Serendipity Arts Trust; National Artist’s Camp 2017,at Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath, and she recently showed her works at NGMA(Bengaluru), Lalit Kala Akademy (New Delhi), Serendipity Arts Trust (New Delhi), NIV Art Centre and Kanoria Centre for Art (Ahmedabad). She has been awarded with “Sahitya Kala Parishad Award 2016”, Young Artist Scholarship by Ministry of Culture, and award in “All India Women Artist’s Contemporary Art Exhibition 2015” by Artscapes Chandigarh. She currently lives and works in New Delhi.
Dig into some of the history of Día de los Muertos, a huge celebration that pays homage to loved ones who are no longer living.
The celebration of death and the dead is often considered morbid and dark but these festivities have been present in many societies/civilizations since ancient times, and have kept on as a strong tradition in many cultures today.
Día de los Muertos or the ‘Day of the Dead’, as it is known in English, is one of the liveliest celebrations in Latin American culture, bringing together family, friends, and the spirits of deceased loved ones for a couple of nights a year. It is a time to honor and remember ancestors for the love they showed and the lessons they taught when they were still alive. Families show appreciation for everything their ancestors did to make sure their families would be taken care of for generations to come and, most importantly, to let the spirits know that they will always be loved and never forgotten.
The ritual begins on October 31st and continues through November 2nd, with skeletons, skulls, and spirits shown outside of houses and in public places, so it is often confused with Halloween. But they don’t really have much in common. Halloween has lost track of its origins in the Celtic Samhain; a celebration of the harvest and fertility that was Christianized as All Hallows' Eve, and has now become a commercial holiday. Unfortunately the celebration of Día de los Muertos is now mixed and confused with that of Halloween.
Those who do not hold positions of power in a society rarely get to write their own side of history, so the memories of the origin and true meanings of celebrations are often lost. It is important that we re-appropriate the knowledge of the origins of this holiday to preserve its sacred and spiritual character, before it becomes just another Mardi Gras.
Día de los Muertos originated as a Mesoamerican indigenous tradition, celebrated in what is now Mexico, Central America, and parts of South America. One of the biggest celebrations happens in Oaxaca, Mexico, where there is still a very large indigenous population. During this time of year, people gather together weeks in advance to prepare for the festivities by making beautiful decorations, cooking the deceased’s favorite foods, baking ‘pan de muerto’ (bread of the dead), buying and growing cempasúchil flowers (marigolds), and preparing elaborate altars as gifts to pay respects to the departed.
These gifts to the spirits are called ‘ofrendas’ or offerings, and are one of the most important parts of the celebration. The offerings are placed on the spirits’ altars, alongside symbols of the four life elements and images of the deceased. This is to represent the entirety of life: water (in a vessel), wind (papel picado), earth (food and flowers), and fire (candles and incense). Those who truly celebrate – not ‘party’ for - the Day of the Dead believe that during these two to three days, the spirits will return to visit their families. They come back to their homes, guided by the good smells of their favorite foods, the strong scent of cempasúchiles and incense, and the lit candles leading up to the altars that their families have built and dedicated to them.
These preparations are later followed by a procession to the cemetery, where families clean and decorate their loved ones’ graves, then eat, drink and play live music in memory of the deceased, bringing the whole cemetery to life. There is nothing somber, macabre, or mournful about this festivity. It is quite the opposite, since the main aspects of it are love and respect, which make it a unique and colorful celebration of life itself. Some customs and traditions change depending on different locations, but these are the most common ways that Día de los Muertos in the Americas are celebrated.
For centuries, Indigenous people have believed that death is part of the journey of life—a duality that does not bring life to an end, but instead offers a beginning to a new and eternal life, one of peace, detached from all of earth’s suffering. Death as a negative concept was not part of Mesoamerican indigenous culture until the Spaniards came to their land. With them they brought Christian concepts of Heaven and Hell, and thus the idea that the afterlife could be a place of suffering.
Originally, pre-Columbian societies celebrated Día de los Muertos during the whole month of August but, upon its hybridization with Christianity, it was moved to the 1st and 2nd of November, so that, given the similarities in the celebration of the dead, it would coincide with All Saints day and All Souls day of the Christian calendar. However, the celebrations that occur today are proof that the new religion brought by the Spaniards could not tear the indigenous people away from their traditions and their memories. Instead of trying to ban Díade los Muertos—which would have been futile— the church used the holiday to its advantage, so that the ‘conversion’ to Christianity would be more appealing to the indigenous people.
The iconography of the holiday was also hybridized with Christian symbols; an ubiquitous image for this holiday, like the sugar skull, was introduced to the indigenous by the Spaniards, and was originally an Italian custom for All Saints and All Souls days… This cultural syncretism shows the depth of the influence of colonization on the indigenous traditions.
Despite all of this, Día de los Muertos has managed to preserve its meaning after hundreds of years, always going back to what is important: the love and respect for our ancestors and the memories and stories they have passed on to us. It is an acknowledgement to the fact that, if it were not for them, we would not be here today. So even if you do not particularly believe in spirits or life after death, I invite you, on this 2nd of November, to humbly light a candle for the memory of your friends and loved ones who have passed, and reflect on what they did for you and your family when they were living.
Vivien Ahrens, cultural anthropologist and educator from Munich, Germany, explored this question during her Master’s program research in Museology and Social Sciences at the Universidade de São Paulo in 2015/16. “I am fascinated by current debates and projects within New Museology, a movement seeking to broaden the discourse and practice of museums, emphasizing their potential for social change.” Vivien shares here some of her experiences with the Ecomuseum of Campos de Sāo José.
My eyes follow a beam of morning sun light falling through laced curtains onto the living room table. Here, a cell phone lies, ready to record the conversation of us eight: four women, a man, two boys and me. A small digital camera faces Nilcéia, the eldest of the women. She sits upright, her hands folded, resting on the table top. Intently, she looks into the faces of the others. Renata, the youngest of the women begins to speak:
Have you heard of the city park? In that park there is a museum, the Museum of Folklore. The objects in the museum are valuable, right? (…) Now, the idea of the Ecomuseum is as if the whole area, the whole Campos de São José were a museum and everything inside it is important, like these objects. Just that they don‘t have to be objects any more. It can be people, their memories and stories, the school, the Park Alambarí, the creek, the square… everything that people consider their heritage. The goal is to value the heritage of the neighborhood. And I mean handcrafts, cooking, the cake you learned from your grandma, farming. What‘s important for the person in their life, you see? And from there we can make things happen in the neighborhood, starting from what is valuable.
Hesitantly at first, Nilcéia tells her story. She describes how, when she was only 16 years old, she and her husband moved from the Northeastern state of Piauí to Campos de São José. How they constructed their house on the end of the road, when there were still no neighbors, no paved streets, no water system, no bus lines. As we listen, Nilcéia seems to rediscover her own memories, correcting herself, giggling at the details that emerge. As the people and places of her tale grow more recent, her listeners join in, adding anecdotes and jokes. Nadir, Nilceai’s neighbor, will later carefully transcribe the interview, entering places and memories to a register of residents’ statements – the archives of the Ecomuseu Campos de São José.
Inventory? Archive? For whom, by whom? Why speak of museum, heritage and value in Nilceia’s living room?
The Projeto Ecomuseum Campos de São José is based on a broadened understanding of museum. An entire neighborhood and “everything that is seen as valuable“ is considered heritage, and forms the museum’s archive. The project’s goal is “to foster civic engagement through valuing local skills and knowledge“ - a value not defined by a stereotypical museum’s monumental building, exhibition cases or ancient objects, but created through participatory activities.
In 2015, Angela Savastano, the director of the Museu do Folclore, decided to take this idea out from the city center into the neighborhood of Campos de São José. An hour by bus from the Museu do Folclore, the neighborhood lies remote of the center’s infrastructure and cultural institutions. The district has been populated since the early 1990s, chiefly by immigrants from the Northeast, who like Nilceia’s family, came in search of better economic opportunities.
Today the residents, largely factory and domestic employees, commute between their workplaces in the center and their homes in “Campos”, spending a good part of their day in full public buses. Many of the youths growing up in the neighborhood, complain that “there is nothing here”. Still, they identify with “Campos”, and resist against the district being called a “favela” by center dwellers, or being discriminated against because of their Northeastern descent. The seniors wish for more contact and interaction with neighbors, who “often don’t even know the name of the family next door”.
Dona Angela, already in contact with residents through other projects, set off on her mission of creating an Ecomuseum. She secured funding and started a small project team of three – director Maria Siqueria, co-worker Renata Sparapan and intern Carol Farnesi. Speaking to neighbors about the idea of the Ecomuseum, they started up regular meetings and activities.
Today, the Ecomuseum unites a group of about 25 residents, mostly senior citizens and school students. During weekly meetings, the “Rodas de Conversa”, every week in a different neighbor’s home, they develop, discuss and coordinate the project’s activities. Next to the “Inventário Participativo” described above, the Projeto Ecomuseu Campos de São José organizes the “Feira dos Saberes e Fazeres”, a fair in the neighborhood park, where arts, crafts, music, food and other skills and knowledge are exhibited. The participants tend to a community garden, a space between the houses, where patches of passion fruit, cauliflower, okra, daisies, tomatoes, zucchini, sweet potatoes and bananas grow, identified by signs with the Ecomuseum’s logo. They organize workshops about a variety of topics, from Northeastern stew recipes, crochet, to building musical instruments from recycled materials. All these activities are portrayed by the participants in the monthly “Campos em Papel”, a neighborhood newspaper, and the project’s online blog http://ecomuseusjc.blogspot.com/
What a museum’s task and relevance are, has become a strongly disputed question. Museums are being thought beyond their traditional core functions of collecting, conserving, researching and interpreting, as a “social factor” and a platform for participation, political activism, or resource for community development.
In Brazil, these discussions gain a specific relevance, as they are being assumed by so-called peripheral neighborhoods, inventing their own museums, for example the 'Museu da Mare' or 'Museu da Favela', in Rio de Janeiro. Here, the concepts of museum and heritage offer a platform for the display of local histories and self-definitions against the background of social inequality and stigma. Also, through self-branding as alternative tourist destinations, wider public attention and new sources of revenue can be gained.
In the Ecomuseu Campos de São José on the other hand, it was not public attention that primarily motivated the members. During the period of my stay, the participants described their experiences with the project very differently. Many of the seniors saw the Ecomuseum as an opportunity to "get out of the house“ and "finally get to know the neighbors“. Others described a more general positive sensation, "I like it, because it makes me feel good. I like how people treat me here“.
Many participants described a changed perceptions of the neighbourhood, "I always thought there was nothing here. Now I know there is a lot“. Or more specifically, "I began to see things differently. For example, how a person can do something interesting, "Those kind of things you always pass on the street, that you didn‘t notice before”. Many described a "rediscovering“ of the neighborhood, and of themselves and their talents, "I didn‘t know what I could do. I thought I didn’t know anything“.
How do the qualities of a museum interact with these experiences? An inventory includes a process of selection and re-contextualization, and thus can be seen as a way to see, organize and give meaning to our surroundings. Certain elements are selected, reorganized, institutionally legitimized and socially recognized through display. Through this process of “musealization”, thus, symbolic value is created. As a process of recontextualization and re-definition, a museum offers a special frame of perception, which does not necessarily require a building, but can function through a specific framing of any every day context.
As “a special frame of perception”, created and manifested within interactions, a museum offers a way of representing the importance of action to oneself and others. It becomes an imaginary monument, a non-material frame, through which value and meaning can be reconstructed and redefined. By becoming part of a museum, neighbors such as Nilceia, have the chance to retell and give new meaning to their own life stories.
Young artist Jasmina Runevska, from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, creates installation projects that questions the female identity in domestic and social settings. The installations are opened for reading from different, multi-layered points of views.
Part I: The Pink Kitchen
Project realized during theArt Residence 2016, Bahcecik, Izmit, Turkey.
All objects are keepers of memory, still recreating the past in the actual present time.
Through finding new places for old objects, we can re-make and re-write (as well as re-read) ours as well as others' identities in different contexts.
In this room-installation 'Pink Kitchen', the objects ask questions about women’s identities and their status in society. Can women have another room/home (identity, in general), or are they confined to the Pink Ghetto/Kitchen? Can they "open the door" and find the Exit?
Part II: The Blue Bathroom
Project realised in collaboration with Polish gender activist Karolina Ufa during the workshop 'Stories We Tell by Nomad Ways', March 2017, France.
‘The blue toilet’ invites for a total immersion into the Macedonian and Polish feminists’ worlds. The installation explores the secret sites of contemporary female identities – its embodied social norms, fears and expectations. By working with meanings assigned to femininity, handcraft and classical Disney’s tale 'Beauty and the Beast', the artists tried to position themselves within traditional gender’s universe and shake its fundaments.
"Bathrooms are most personal spaces within complex social cartography. Their doors are always closed as they constitute a place of bodily evacuations (abjects), nakedness and renewal cleansing. In opposition to kitchen where making voluntary tea is accepted, visitors rarely bathe uninvited." (from "The Block Reader in Visual Culture" by George Robertson)
Commerce and popular culture use the image of bathroom as a realization of male fantasy - paradise filled with eroticized bodies. In gendered household bathroom signifies a space of femininity and erotics while study, workshop or garage is domesticated by masculine powers.
Echoing ‘private is political’ nowadays bathroom/toilets are battlegrounds for gender identity. For transgender people who identify as non-binary, neither with the gender male or female having gender-neutral facilities is one of the most way of not excluding their gender identity.
The Blue Bathroom
I close the doors behind me.
Clothes my daily armour
are slowly peeling off from my body
One by one like a snake shedding its skin.
My eye shadows turn from deep green to light skinned tone
and the lips colour turns from coral to pink
from day to night.
The circle around my eyes slightly appear.
Like a reptile’s ecdysis to allow for further growth I remove my mask too
I am staring at myself in the mirror.
Naked, vulnerable, true.
(by Karolina Urfa)
Locked words in the blue bathroom.
Close the box, turn on the water and start to Cry. Nobody should see you. Nobody should hear you. Go inside the box and start to scream. Let your Hysteria inside the box. Keep this sound just for you. Everything should be nice from outside, like a Warm Home, like a Mother's Touch. Hide your Vagina, keep it clean and work on your body Shape.
Lock your Sensitivity inside your toilet seat. Put your Love near the trash can. This is the place were it should be.
Write your Poems on transparent paper and put them in the corner like cobwebs.
Write your Words on old paper. Leave them to dry. Wash them again. You must have clean paper for your new words.
Make a collage out of your mod and dast in the shower. But again. Don’t forget to clean it. Nobody should see you. Nobody should hear you.
Girl, be good to your Home sweet Home. If still, you feel like you have more words to say - take one empty jar and put in it the rest of your words, emotions, memories. Closed the jar. Nobody should see you. Nobody should hear you.
Tomorrow is a new day. Make space for the new words, because, nobody should see you. Nobody should hear you.
Capturing life in the Orange Farm neighborhood of Johannesburg, South Africa in a series of lino cut prints, is the latest ongoing project by Sam Djedje. The artist's works are about growth, transformation, hard work and humility as he sees them in the people in his community.
'Ext 10 Boy' is a child from Orange Farm, where I am from. Some of the kids here don’t have much; they use waste materials like tires, rakes, or even tin to make toys out of them. I wanted to convey that even if these kids don’t have much money to buy toys, they can still manage to stay balanced and be happy, just by playing around with tires.
'Keep on Stepping' is about people who are trying to push forward. The boy is pulling a trolley with a dice in the back. This signifies people’s ups and downs in life, as well as trying hard and facing challenges. But just like dice, you can’t win every time.
'The Door' is about opportunities, chances, plans; it is a metaphor for achievements, for stepping into new realms and levels of life’s stages.
'Tin Collectors' Series talks about unemployed people that make a living by collecting tins. I did this work to honor them, because they are not employed, but they manage to do something for themselves.
'The Gift' Series is about inheritance, like shoes, most of the times are symbolized with roots or originality. So I did those portraits of shoes to symbolize a gift, it can be spiritual or any other kind of a gift.
Sam Djedje is an artist / print maker born in Soweto, South Africa. He studied print making at the Artist Proof Studio in Johannesburg, and now lives and work in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Believing in small art magazines as a form of creative expression, sharing stories, and discovering the richness of a community, Bay Area artist Raphael Villet has involved dozens of people in doing just that, during his 9 month residency at the Tenderloin Museum in San Francisco.
How do we define art? Is it anything that has something to say? Are not all creations - writing, visual and performance included - art in their own right? Do we not all have thoughts, stories, struggles, and passions to share? What has placed limitations on who can create art?
Raphael Villet, a young artist based in the Bay Area, California, created a special space for over forty-five participants. He spent a nine month residency at the Tenderloin Museum in San Francisco¹ learning, observing, and collecting the voices of that distinctive neighborhood. On a weekly basis he set up a table in the street, right outside the museum, and encouraged passersby to write or draw a zine².
When asked what inspired his project, Raphael replied, “I have so much curiosity as to what people in the Tenderloin have to say. It is a neighborhood of such beauty, volatility, brutality and magic. I set out to see the extent to which people in this neighborhood could be provoked into sharing their story through zines. When this project began, I really had no idea what was going to happen! I have never done anything like this before, and so it was difficult to gauge who would receive me and how they would react. That being said, I was open to experimenting with different techniques of engagement, such as making and posting various signs, posting ‘themes of the day’, displaying different art materials, and finding ways to engage people passing by.”
The project idea stemmed from Raphael’s work at Play Press, a publishing house he runs that focuses on artist books and zines. He says, “I am carried by a wondrous enthusiasm and love for zines. They are an accessible and deeply personal medium for autonomous self expression and discovery, and I believe in their potential for uniting and illuminating underrepresented voices...I came in to the project with a desire to share and propagate the tremendous possibilities of zines.”
Templates for newcomers included a few words of inspiration on a cover page, such as “Knowledge,” “I Live in a World Where...” or “If Only...” followed by several blank pages for the participant to fill out. Some began their creations with an entirely blank booklet. Participants were confronted with markers, a booklet of paper and the day’s suggestion word. Often he posted a different word such as “Women”, or “Trump”, to inspire thought. The culmination of the project was presented at the Tenderloin Museum on June 1st, 2017.
“Anywhere Zines provokes in that it confronts the notion and place of self expression. When I encourage people to stop and write something down, I am in a sense, asking them: ‘why wouldn’t you?’ I place value in the act of stopping, resting, and expressing introspection. I place value in zines. It is a dangerous game to play, as it skirts the edge of confrontation, of judgement, of questioning, and of assigning value. Provocation in a neighborhood partly made up of people who are working hard to stay sober, rise above poverty, deal with mental illness and escape brutality is problematic. However, provocation is unavoidably the starting point for ‘Anywhere Zines’ to engage the public in making art. I have come to see and feel a difference between passive and active provocation.”
At first, Raphael was convincing and coaxing participants, but soon realized that “relying on the energy of your passion to gain attention leads to a certain kind of dissonance” (181). Additionally, this methodology focused his efforts away from the project itself, so he changed his approach. Eventually, what started as an “aggressively anti-internet” education of what zines have to offer became a creative space for self-expression.
Raphael noticed that the presentation of art materials by a young, white male to a vastly different demographic did not help the Tenderloin inhabitants let down their guard. Raphael’s mission became to honestly represent a relatable common person within the diverse neighborhood. He was not the teacher, the judge, or the rule-maker; he was the facilitator.
“The transition to ‘Express Yourself’ embraces passive facilitation. I [Raphael] simply become available if people are interested in what I have going on.” Raphael did not want to be a critic. He wanted to push back against inclinations for approval and assert that it was not his art to create. The creation was borne of the participants’ existing and unique voices.
He explains further in his reflection: “Beyond the semantics of what to say, just having an awareness of the tendency of people to seek permission for their creative output can be really healing for the interaction. Art practice carries the beautiful potential for people to embrace the idea that introspection, expressions and creative output don’t require permission, comparison or judgment. It’s okay just to show up and create. It’s okay to just be yourself. This is unorthodox both inside and out of the art world and I continue to realize the importance of asserting this mindset into my social practice”.
The participants ranged from children to seniors, each voice validated in the same vein. Stories range from beautiful inspirational messages to emotional political reactions and detailed personal accounts. Five copies of each zine we returned to the participants and then photocopies were published in the artist’s compilation book. The art was tangible and its message reproducible.
Many of the accounts are relatable. Topics speak to race, gender, and age inequality. There are zines of love and the dramatic opposite of hatred, faith and folly. One participant wrote, “I want to save the world but I don’t think I’m good enough and I’m afraid.” Another expressed peace, sharing, and hope: “Love together or perish alone”.
The Tenderloin district is filled with art, music, and culture that is waiting to inspire. Raphael sees “art as an activity that should be available to everyone; understanding well the privilege I carry to even assign myself the title of artist.” The opening gallery event showcased dance and musical performances by Tenderloin residents. Raphael, himself, accompanied a Tenderloin vocalist on the guitar.
Raphael’s empowering undertaking opened his mind and art to new perspectives, as well as the wider audience of the art world to a culture it may have otherwise overlooked. The art created in this project was not merely the output, the physical zines themselves, but the knowledge gained through the interactions.
¹ The Tenderloin is a low-income neighborhood spanning fifty blocks located centrally in downtown San Francisco. It is notorious for poor living conditions, overcrowded apartments, the presence of homeless as well as mentally ill people and drug addicts.
² Zines, abbreviation for magazines, are self-made books. They are whatever you want to put in between the pages of your own small zine. You control what it looks like, what it feels like, and you don’t need permission from anyone to do it.
* Quotations and excerpts are from a personal interview with Raphael Villet and his compilation book, ‘Anywhere Zines in the Tenderloin’.
In the amazing drawings she shares on this page, Eugenia Hauss reflects on the complex roles of illusions in our lives, their positive influence as well as their dangerous effect.
Because they are an integral part of human life – if we speak about an average one. Illusions and destructive beliefs are insidious, they are difficult to recognize and get rid of.
They can take different forms: from ambitions that are not supported with real effort and progress, self- embellishment, painful perfectionism, stifling fears — to obsessive desire to show everybody one’s superiority, even if it means to break and burn the personality, and become loved and approved by all means.
Illusions steal the chance to live a real life, fulfill potential and talents, reveal sincere wishes and find true goals. It’s like being forced to observe reality only with the ‘help’ of a mediator, or blindfolded. Illusions make people hold to particular wrong persuasions and stay away from independent thinking and gaining new experiences.
It happens in a lot of cases — people just don’t make any attempt to go for their dreams, because they believe it’s not possible for them, or not so important. But the reality is, no one can harm them more than themselves (and their destructive deteriorative way of thinking in the first place). I collected various symbols of will’s suppression and limitations in this artwork: blindfold, runners, and interweaving roots.
Until a person has illusions, his or her life can’t be lively and vivid. Being is as inanimate and forced as the dry mossy wooden crown that you can see in the picture.
But the hope is still here: it can be found in courageous and determined action, acceptance of true reality without attempts to make it more beautiful and perfect, and commitment to self-cultivation. The symbols of this spirit are flowers and berries hidden in the drawing.
This artwork is very personal, even autobiographical. I’m glad that it came into the world in the visual form, and the time was chosen so accurately. The point is that my interest to Gothic/dark art motifs and philosophical themes is fading away. A person can’t focus attention on various things at one-time…
And when illusions are revealed and abandoned, it clears a lot of place for light and love. I’m in this position now — I chose to see joy and happiness, not the obstacles or drawbacks. I’m changing and my art is too. The point is in remembering that everything has two sides, and there is no light without darkness.
Pakistani artist Farrukh Adnan goes into depth in a geographical, historical, and personal exploration of his hometown, Tulamba, recreating its richness and mysteries in the huge installation ‘My Perch, My Hometown’, which was part of his Master’s thesis at the Beaconhouse National University in Lahore.
My work is about a genealogical as well as personal examination of the city of Tulamba, where I was born, located in Southern Punjab, Pakistan. This examination engaged me in reflections related to how we interpret a space within its context, and how a context itself builds, sometimes out of the “syntax” of the place. It also discusses how structures’ functions can be differently interpreted, thus stressing the importance of alternative meanings. The main aim is to present the idea of walking as a form of creation, as exemplified in the literary character of the “flâneur”, or as an illusionary space which defies the real space, therefore paving the way for new and sometimes opposite interpretations of the same space.
My interest in wandering pushes me to explore and investigate socio-political and cultural aspects of spaces (in this case Tulamba) through my art practice. I am engaging with or holding the space with my practice, trying to find connections with it through my own experience. They are in relation to “space”, “historical significance”, “current global values”, as well as connections with other worlds. I also try to figure out the “sense of self” and the “sense of space”, both aesthetically and through their connections between time and space.
The aim of my art practice, including my research, remains psycho-geographical, while spiritual elements have shifted from memory to symbols. Intricacy, repetitiveness and various kinds of lines, symbols, patterns, surveys and excavation plans are executed layer by layer, so as to recognize the historical significance of the particular place of Tulamba.
Etymologically the name “Tulamba” is derived from the name of Raja “Talman”. It is a historic town located in Southern Punjab, Pakistan. It is situated 60 miles from the historical city of Multan. Before the partition of the Indian subcontinent this town was known as the City of Brahmin’s. Its history goes back to the 2nd century B.C.E. and the town was known to be full of bustling artistic activity.
Historical (genealogical) examination is one of the most important and essential element in carving identities or sense of self. I noticed that my interest in “Tulamba” inspired my art practice, not simply because of personal association, but also because Tulamba is a great historical and archeological site.
As I grew older, I developed a strong curiosity towards this site. I began to ask why this space appears to be in such a wretched condition. Was it destroyed, plundered, built and re-built again? Although I don’t remember when I first consciously visited this place with these kinds of queries, I do remember that there occurred a time when I began to ask myself what kind of people must have lived here before. And what sort of abodes existed here? What was Tulamba in its earlier times?
I tried to find the connections to that time which I can’t see or experience through my own eyes, thus history is the only source. I want to figure out the events that took place here, and highlight related stories and myths about it. Following this method, walking becomes a type of reading, even when both the walking and the reading are imaginary, and the landscape of the memory appears as a text as that to be found in the labyrinth, the garden, or the stations.
Memory and Experience of Tulamba in the installation 'My Perch, My Hometown'
Click on the images to enlarge
For my Master’s thesis installation work I used different materials that I picked from various sites, like broken ceramic pieces, for example. The motifs on these pieces belong to different historical and cultural times, Hinduist, Jainist, Sikhist, Christian, Islamist and more.
I draw unconscious lines with pen and ink according to the nature of the site in relation with a sense of being lost. I draw Tulamba excavation plans, which I find through my research and from the existing site as well. I found lots of motifs on the site and I studied them while I was working on the installation. Among them I found the motif of the labyrinth, and the idea of the installation came in fact from the labyrinth, which directly symbolically connects to the site that sometimes I get lost in.
I tried to create for the viewers the kind of path that I experienced in Tulamba. The installation is not visually similar to the actual site, since this was not my concern. I tried to express and to engage the viewers with the idea of observing, exploring, reading, imagining, and with the sense of being lost.
‘How Many Steps Back’ (video)
My main question here was “How can an exploratory walk change our perception of a particular space? I tried to express my question through my walk at the site, and connect it with my Installation work.
I tried to connect my physical presence to the history of Tulamba, as expressed in the title of the video: “How Many Steps Back”. I tried to find, to experience, and to explore the history of Tulamba and its significance: its value with my own presence. The process of this work was that I walked stepping back from one point where the site starts, to last point where the site ends. I tried to show the viewers its physical value.
I wanted to observe and look at this site’s archeological and physical aspects and also at its current situation. It makes clear that knowing can only be as certain as the memories, perceptions and imaginations that are produced as I walk through Tulamba holding my camera. It also locates knowing in movement both in a general sense, and specifically in the method of walking with video, in that the participant, researcher and viewer all come to know as they move forward with the camera.
About the artists: Farrukh Adnan earned a Bachelor Degree in Communication Design from the National College of Arts, Lahore, in 2009, and a Master of Art in Design Studies from the Beaconhouse National University, also in Lahore, Pakistan, in 2014.
He has participated in group exhibitions in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad. He has also exhibited twice in ‘Voice Breaking Boundaries’’ in Houston, USA, and worked for the Imago Mundi Project.
Zambian artist Gladys Kalichini has just concluded her residency at ‘The Fountainhead’ in Miami, Florida, where she worked both on photographs and on large paintings, exploring the deconstruction and reconstruction of women’s histories in her country.
The body of work produced during my residency at ‘The Fountainhead’ analyses the marginalization of the historical narratives of two Zambian women, Alice Lenshina (b.1920 - d.1978) and Julia Chikamoneka (b.1910 – d.1986), by exploring the representations of death and dead bodies. Both Lenshina and Chikamoneka were important figures during Zambia’s struggle for independence from British rule in the early '60s, but in the official historical narrative of that struggle their presence and their roles were hardly recorded nor recognized.
Using different archival sources for my research (also included in my MFA), I focused on three main conceptual categories, (i) blanks and concealments in historical accounts, (ii) the fragility of the body (and of narratives) over time and (iii) erasures and modifications of narratives.
In producing this work I regarded the ‘erasure of memory’ as the ‘death of memory’. Death as a metaphor for erasure was considered in relation to what happens to a body during and after death, as well as the activities that surround death or mourning. I worked on the concept of marginalized narratives as being in the process of being erased or dying. My images represent the body (the corpse) and the processes it goes through after death, as well as the customs that surround death, such as the washing and preparation of the corpse at the mortuary.
The materials I have used are an integral part of the work. Whereas there are bodies drawn on the canvas, the canvasses could also be viewed as a bodies. In some works I incorporated other materials, such as black cloth and yarn, and in others the canvas was folded to mimic shrouds that would cover the body. it was interesting to see how the fabric added a subtle sculptural element to what is usually two dimensional.
All the paintings were done with oil on canvas with a color scheme that mimics the different shades, tints and tones of the archives, meant to create an antiqueness to the work. I depicted drawings of dead bodies onto the canvas while treating actual canvases as another body of and for the representation of recovering erased memory. I also incorporated other materials, such as black cloth and yarn. In others, the canvas is folded to imitate shrouds that would cover the body. It became interesting to see how the fabric added a subtle sculptural element to what is usually two dimensional. The photographic series is composed with images of myself performing/staging a Zambian burial custom, were some mourners are covered with a white powder (chinbuyaring).
When viewers interacted with the work while it was in progress and laid straight on tables, the question that arose was: “which way is this work supposed to be viewed?” I found the question interesting because the work is essentially bodies, and bodies can be viewed from different angles. For instance a mortician standing at the head of the body sees the corpse as an inverted image (upside down), during the viewing of a body at a funeral, it is laid horizontal. And when being buried, it goes down presenting a bird's eye view. This says something about the way we really look at anything, history or narratives....we look at history from the victor's point of view, then we look at the not so victorious point of view; I looked at these narratives in the same way, sometimes highlighting the more intimate aspects of there women's lives as well as the broader picture.
The viewers who experienced my works did so in two ways: first visually, and then narratively. They enter or begin the conversation about them visually. Given the sizes of the pieces it’s not easy to miss them. Most viewers found the work visually captivating, with a very strong presence. Most also found the work intriguing in that you can see death, not in a way that the work screams or scares, but rather that it has a subtle yet strong presence.
The second way was when they heard what the work is about, or what narrative it refers to. The majority of the viewers did not know of the two Zambian women; about two or three knew a bit here and there. But after hearing the stories, the interest grew, and most could easily relate to the bigger picture of marginalized histories, and in particular of histories of women which have become invisible.
Gladys Kalichini is a visual artist from Lusaka, Zambia. She graduated from the University of Lusaka, and she is now pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree at Rhodes University, South Africa, where she is also a member of the SARCHI research group.
Both her research and her art explore African colonial history, the marginalisation of women in historical narratives, and memory.
Destreet is the art name of Kabati Ayub, a young artist from Kampala, Uganda, who started a foundation and organization to empower youth by helping them with the knowledge, skills and capacity for personal and community development through the arts.
“Each year we help hundreds of children and youth in various Ugandan communities by giving them career guidance, education, and practical artistic skills, a safe place to play and making art after school. Our goal is to work together to discover and promote each child's talent. We help ghetto youth enhance the physical, moral and social development in their communities…” (Kabati Ayub)
The project ‘Destreet Art’ has something that deserves attention. As all socially engaged art projects, it poses some good questions about how different kinds of social issues (i.e.: children protection, education, art as a tool for connecting people and as agent for change) can be woven together within hands-on approaches, about how they entangle with economics and how they deal with the urgency to raise money to go on. The question that can be raised is, “Where is ‘art’ in all of this?"
Do artists become engaged when politics lose its way? Socially engaged artists are people who more than others are eager to make a difference in the world. What they are most afraid of is that the world, the community we live in, seems to encourage us to minimize conflict, disguise suffering, and ignore inequalities. Instead of producing art to stand in front of, usually in comfort, social artists prefer to act, move, push … us down to the earth, onto the ground, to real life, not to avoid discomfort, with invaluable invisible rewards: the beauty shared among people in mutual exchanges for a purpose.
Social artists strengthen our capacity to have a bigger vision. In a wider frame every details can have a strategic role or tactic value and it demands respect for an important vital dimension: time. We have to wait and work together to see the project display itself. It usually takes a long period of time. This is a challenge for our habits of quickly seeing everything concentrated in “one” picture. In socially engaged art we do not have an image to relinquish on, but a process closer to living things, to life, the everyday life, involving our life in a different way. As quite opposite sides of the same coin: looking at visual art the public stand in front of a piece, which works as an agent to challenge our emotion, even our mindset; we are supposed to change and the work of art remains the same, through time. In engaged social art it is the purpose - making a better world - that drives us to a change. The effective impact on the quality of life can be quite invisible and not so easy to measure or objectify.
Art with a Purpose. Unseen and touching.
Let’s begin with the name: the word ‘Destreet’ plays with different opposite meanings: an open space, a street that connects people and allows transit and communication, where opportunities and danger conflate; but also a close space, the “district”, a point of reference, maybe a safe place where everybody is respected.
Consider the children. The Destreet project not only has a direction, but it is a safe space for the kids, where fears can be avoided and cheerfulness can blossom in smiles. In that case it is obvious that we should prefer the safety of children and their smiles to the “quality” of any art. Consider now Kabati’s works. They deserve to be seen as a space of self expression and freedom. His works belong to a different level of production, and there is no reason to belittle them because they have to be sold for a purpose. They are the heart of the project instead, where the project started. Visual paintings had a vital role in the life of Kabati.
Then the most invisible of thing: relationships. What is relational is vital, humans beings live and grow in relationships, especially when they are nurtured with authenticity, care and humble presences that make a difference. This project is a great example. Traveling to different countries with his message, as artists do with their music, exhibitions or plays, Destreet does trying to save the high value of what truly binds people together, experiences based on generosity, usefulness and play.
“Come to visit us and touch (and be touched!)” he says.
There are a lot of “conversed” shoes to move against the stream and go far. There are a lot of hats to keep in mind what is really worth while. If Destreet is sending his call to anyone who had the experience of seen belittled his own child’s creativity - at school or somewhere else - we will be a mighty movement! We can be very effective in repairing the world while still repairing our own hearts.
Kabati Ayub is a 28 year old, self-taught artist, designer and art activist from Uganda. After becoming involved in art in his youth, he took courses at two Kampala-based universities until he passionately founded the Destreet Art Foundation – a mobile art initiative uniting disadvantaged Ugandan children and youth through their artistic talents.
Engaging with large found objects, building others, struggling with the laws of physics. This is how Lithuanian artist Džiugas Šukys conceives of sculpture, embracing the challenge and repeating the effort over and over.
My name is Džiugas Šukys.That is all there is to it.
'(Un)Finished Ideas': The video shows my interaction with self made or found objects,
which are later used for an installation.
When I was just a little kid, I remember drawing all kinds of things – motifs of the animated movies on television, sights that I saw around me, intuitive visions. It happened by my own free will, with no interventions from my family or my surrounding. To this day, this seems insanely strange to me. How can a person at a very young age (about 3-5 year-old) show what he is or what he wants to be in the future? Sometimes I wonder whether it is a coincidence or if it was all planned from the beginning by someone; that I am what I am. I haven't found the answer yet, but that doesn't faze me. I'm very glad that I, from my heart’s content, am capable of doing what I do now, including gaining support and attention from relatives and the public that surround me.
My work is not conceptually difficult, but I am aware that sometimes it is hard to understand everything concerning my work visually. I am often asked ‘what is that?’ and I respond, ‘it is something for you to become anxious about, at the very least’. My works are about the problems that concern me the most. However, they can definitely be widely interpreted by the audience. They talk about my experience, my self-perception, my environment, and even daily situations. I often try to discover what is seemingly invisible to the naked eye, but felt or perceived as vibrations in our surroundings. One example could be uncontrollable or untouchable fears and perturbations, like when I feel tension and anxiety because of some simple domestic matters. Perception: that something invisible is going on around me or within me, that irritates me, in a good way of course, that's why I just can't turn away. I try to muster all of this into my works, they become a long incoherent narrative about my experience, 'about me (with no end, for now).
My works are also full of desire to give meaning to things that seemingly might look insignificant. I often put lots of effort into simple matters such as moving a self-made or found object from its place, inhaling or exhaling as much as my body allows me to, or just verifying whether something that I came up with is possible to do or not. All of these things functions as an inner engine in my creative works.
‘(Un)finished Ideas’ for example, has four parts: a video documentation, a large scale drawing and two objects. The video shows my interaction with self made and found objects, which are later used for an installation. The drawing in this work can be interpreted as a plan, something that shows the way things should be done. What is the intention? It is drawn. In the drawing the concrete ingot is shown to be lifted --put on a wooden construction or on a wrapping tape, etc. But in the installation the ingot was manipulated differently, and the same goes for the tree log. The idea behind this disorientation or inability to do something the right way becomes the ability to stop when it is necessary. Is it really so desperately important to do something right according to a previous plan? That is for the individual to decide. I see a lot of significance in activities that have multiple routes to grow or evolve, maybe into something better than what may have been thought of first.
'Set #3': The idea of this work is to give meaning to the absurd.
By organizing the cubes in different variations I’m trying to merge physically difficult, mentally deteriorating, routine-like actions, with abstract forms of significance.
'Non-Collapsing': This video performance is showing the collision between me and a found object.
Here is what friend and colleague Victoria Damerell wrote about my work:
“The artist is interested in hanging, suspension motives. A suspension motive is not obvious but implied in a fragile balance of tin cubes put on top of each other or hung from the ceiling. The plate's vibrating mechanisms, little wheels attached to the concrete block, also seem to be prepared for transportation and suggest being seen as tools for the fixation or generation of the physical world's subtleties….. it can be suspected that namely physical input, the necessity of will, works like an inner engine for the author…
By rejecting the aesthetic, symbolic and functional aspects in his work, the artist leaves us in a confrontation with pure will. This will has no need for a purpose, or the other way around, the will accepts that the purpose is absurd.
A good example would be the video ‘(Un)finished ideas’, which demonstrates comical and at the same time pitiful collisions between the artist and his own made objects; his impotent attempts to control the collisions somehow. On the other hand, even if the whole installation is filled with pitiful effort, there is no Sisyphus here. Constructions are made, already turned into autonomous pieces of art, and the author withdraws. The sculptor builds up another layer of the myth, imprinting it into concrete. The action is turned into an embodied longing of significance, and it is impossible suppress.”
'1'can be described in different ways. I was just brimming with curiosity of how it would
be possible to move a heavyplate of metal with a washing machine's engine on top of it.
Lithuanian artist Džiugas Šukys is currently a third year Bachelor's student in the Sculpture Department of the Vilnius Art Academy, in Vilnius, Lithuania.
First-year Master student Sarika Kumari, from Jamalpur, Bihar, India, recently participated in the exhibition of the final year MA students of the Department of Art History at Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, which revolved around the significance of curation and collaboration.
“Curation As Praxis: Dialogues, Identities and Movements” is an exhibition of researched materials, archival data and visual references inspired by the dissertation topics of the final year Masters students of the Art History Department. The exhibition explores a variety of topics, addressing issues of traditional Indian art and ancient architecture as well as contemporary art and art practices.
At the culmination of a two-week intensive workshop, after two semesters of study, this exhibition was a collaborative curation effort between first and second year students in the MA program. Rahul Bhattacharya, the leader of the class and workshop, mentored the students on the theoretical and practical aspects of art curating.
“The first module focused on exploring the tentative dissertation topics of the second year Masters students, which became the foundation of their curatorial proposals. The emphasis was on generating a body of curatorial texts, which would become the frameworks for the final exhibition. Simultaneously, the students were introduced to the theoretical aspects of curation, the various types of curation and their relevant methodologies.
“The second module … focused on the practical aspects of curation. The students engaged in designing and building a display for the culminating group show. At the commencement of the second module, the students exchanged their curatorial materials [with different groups] with the notion that the display would benefit from a fresh and objective pair of eyes. Each curator brought their own approach to dealing with the research material and curatorial obstacles, to create a visual representation of the idea.” (from the “Curation as Praxis” blog, http://curationaspraxis.blogspot.in)
Eleven curatorial projects in total were researched and presented in the exhibition. Here are some of their titles: ‘Reconstructing the Baroda sculptures with new form and material’, ‘Unfinished pre-imperial Rashtrakuta structures’, ‘Materiality and everydayness in the works of Partha Pratim Deb’, ‘Arts and Crafts movement’, ‘Enquiries into the shifting paradigms of Chahar-Bagh’.
‘PURGATION’ is a solo exhibition of intimate, introspective miniature paintings by Pakistani artist Fariha Rashid, who employs a personal symbology to deal with emotionally charged memories. It opened December 20th, 2016 at the Art Scene Gallery in Clifton, Karachi, Pakistan.
I refer to my artwork as symbolic, and each of the symbols I use has its own meaning to justify the subject matter. Yet the number of symbols is limited, since I look for simplicity in the life which inspires me to paint.
When one observes my miniatures closely, one can see that leaves and ropes are the main symbols I use.
Leaves represent hope, revival and growth, but if dead leaves are painted, they will be regarded as signifying despair and hopelessness.
Ropes on a broader scale refer to knowledge, but the color differentiates their various meanings. In some of the paintings one can see white ropes, which represents a positive type of knowledge, but in other images some black areas in the ropes are left empty, signifying black magic and dark wisdom. Both of them have played an important role in my life, leading to some incidents which now induce me to paint them in order to let out the anger that they have caused.
All of my art pieces are painted on a black base, to show the darkness inside, but creating imagery out of that darkness is the actual task. Hoping and wishing that all that darkness is not permanent requires a big effort to battle with oneself.
Thus on the whole my artworks are based on the expression of inner feelings, anger, aggression, and love. I experience all these emotions very strongly in regard to various events in my life, and they compel me to paint and represent them.
It won't be wrong to also name ‘Catharsis’ this series of miniatures, since in them I give expression to what is inside me, and expressing it has a liberating effect. The voices inside my head don't let me sleep. They are like a film that every night replay in my mind all the events that hurt me and that I detest, that are just the opposite of those events which I wish would happen, opposite to self-developed memories, to the happiness that my own mind creates.
The compositions in my works are not visually chaotic; most of the paintings I create offer on the contrary a very calm imagery, expressing what I want to feel, and how at the same time I wish to get rid of all the anger and hatred that have built up inside me.
Johannesburg artist Lawrence T Jadezweni, along with friend Sakhile 'Sax' Marvis, has created a collaborative project that through photographs explore each other's perspectives during a trip to Cape Town.
The Black/White Series
This is a series of photographs, taken from a cellular phone, which portray the collaborative visual endeavour during a one week trip taken by Lawrence T Jadezweni and Sakhile 'Sax' Marvis in the city and outer regions of Cape Town.
What makes this series of images unique is the fact that each of us had his own visual interpretation of the other, yet the similarities between the images contextualize the overall journey here represented. The experimental features within the edit style in each image are meant to create a certain texture and evoke emotions that resonate with each individual viewer.
Wale Street consists of five images taken within the city of Cape Town upon our arrival inside the high walls and feeling surrounded by the extravagant architecture presented to us. Looking back I think of the overwhelming feeling of excitement as well as anxiety.
The Realm, in essence, is about our transitional phase, when we begin to engage with the city and what it had to offer. By this time we had entered Gordons Bay where we were to live for a period of time.
I tried to blend in some of the images together in a signature style and also a mixture of tonalities and colour for some of the images, attempting to create a deeper story and mood.
Bucket List represents the third and final sequel in a three-part photo-series. The subjects (us) are here fully immersed in their surroundings, embracing the full spectra of the city. This is why the series has been created as an audio-visual installation.
A project designed by Narges Mofarahian, an Iranian student of Architecture at Politecnico University, Milan, Italy, which won the international competition "What Design Can Do".
The prototype was built by students and refugees by the Ticino River, a few miles from the city.
The project for a temporary, biodegradable housing
“During the Spring and Summer 2016 thousands of refugees arrived each day in European countries. Due to their great number they don’t receive a dignified place to live during the period they are waiting for asylum, and the wait can last for years.
The problem in the reception centers is that they are overcrowded places, with little chance for social integration, no identity, lack of privacy and a feeling of not belonging, all factors which lead to tensions inside the centers and many further negative consequences.
The isolation of the reception centers is another problem that makes integration much harder, and causes great tensions which could end in strong negative reactions from both groups (the refugees and the population of the hosting cities) as a result of ghettoizing one group out of mainstream society.
The ‘Agrishelte’r is a dignified, cheap, biodegradable home, with excellent thermal performance, and it can be built in a short time to last 3-5 years. It also creates integration through the methods of collective construction, gardening and market.
Building the agrishelters inside the hosting cities is another positive aspect, because it prevents the formation of isolated, ghetto like camps. The materials used to build the shelters are all biodegradable, and they can be easily demolished with no negative impact on the land. We believe that this is a very important aspect, that can make a more convincing case when asking the authorities for land inside the city, because that land it will be occupied temporarily.
My experience in building the first prototype was extremely positive. Beside the technical aspects, which seemed to work well, I witnessed the social interaction between all the team members, students and refugees, while working together, trying to know about each other’s languages and cultures, and just enjoying the collaboration and having a great time. It also seemed very interesting to the participating refugees that the flexibility of the design would allow them to contribute with small interventions and changes in building the shelter according to their tastes.
Another great experience was that the people in the neighborhood seemed curious and excited about what we were doing, and even tried to contribute to the project in different ways.” (Narges Mofarahian)
The project won the international competition "What Design Can Do", devoted to the question of refugees and co-sponsored by IKEA and UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Council).
A small prototype of the shelter (3 by 3 metres, as opposed to the 5 by 7 metres, with kitchen and toilet, of the designed project) was built last October by a group of students of the Politecnico University and a group of refugees. The first real prototype will be built and presented to the public in downtown Milan.