In February 2011, artists Ackroyd & Harvey travelled to India to participate in 1mile² Delhi 2011. Their first opportunity to work in India was informed by a desire to search out spaces for public interactions and create work in a direct response to place both through living public artworks and photosynthesis portraits.
It is not possible for us to separate our work at Khoj from the greater experience of being in New Delhi, a city that defies any easy categorization. It is utterly unto itself – a wild rickshaw ride of a land, where the human ferment of life strikes boldly and vividly. Ascending from the 21st century gleaming architectural prowess of the recently installed Metro onto the mud-strewn writhing streets of Chandi Choak was eye-opening and bewildering. A day spent celebrating Holi covered from head to toe with coloured pigment, soaked to the skin under a clear blue sky, pierced our imagination. The project was remarkable, a really great experience for us all and we feel very strongly we would like to return to India at some point.”
David Brazier and Kelda Free are a UK artist and landscape architect working in collaboration. They work site specifically, engaging directly with the public while exploring cultural, aesthetic and natural systems. In Delhi they are interested in investigating conditions at the edges of the metropolis, where spaces normally defined as urban or rural and public or private interface.
Their work in New Dehli has consisted of a series of interventions investigating the abstractions of space and the global/local nexus. Below are detailed some of their interventions, which are recorded via YouTube . Their residency concluded at Khoj with an exhibition featuring the Khirkee Satpula Dam Super Series cricket match, with live commentary recroded by a professional comentator, Mr Zaidi.
Khirkee Satpula Dam Super Series
The cricket match was the conclusion of weeks of engagement with the Khirkee waste picker kids. Since the conclusion of their residency, a local artist has taken on this work, so that the cricket matches will continue. Their contact with this group of children can be traced via video footage on square-mile.net – from first contact, through poster making and finally the Khirkee Satpula Dam Super Series
We believed that in India language barriers and cultural differences could be instantly overcome through cricket. It is played in every scrap of land in the square mile. We’re conscious that arriving here from Britain to map a square mile in India for the global audience of the internet has colonial connotations. In the process of colonisation cricket was used to spread Victorian values. Today, however, India has now well and truly made the game its own. Cricket has been adopted as a national obsession, crossing divides of class, ethnicity, language and region. It is pursued with a local fervour that far removes it from its upper class Victorian origins to such an extent that it has become symbolic of the process of decolinisation. Mass media has projected Indian cricket personalities into megastars and more money is pumped into the game here than anywhere else in the world, signalling India’s arrival as a true player in the global economy “…the impact of media, commercialization, and national passion [in India] have almost completely eroded the old civilities associated with cricket. Cricket is now aggressive, spectacular and frequently unsporting, with audiences thirsting for national victory…” (Appaduari, Arjun (1996) “Playing with modernity: The Decolonisation of Indian Cricket”). We’re interested in India’s appropriations of cricket and wanted to explore how the game has evolved with local vernacular within the square mile. With this in mind we set off to the Khirki wastepickers village for a poster making workshop and practice session. The kids divided themselves into 2 teams; the Red Boys and the Eagles. The posters are to promote their teams for the upcoming match we are organising. Welcome to the Khirki Satpula on this beautiful balmy afternoon. Conditions look ideal for day one of the Khirki cricket green series, and I think we’re in for a lively days play.
BPO – Business Process Outsourcing
India is well known for housing many call centres, and within the square mile, was a BPO training centre. Here they teach English; accent neutralisation; cultural differences and bereavement handling. As a final intervention, David and Kelda put together a brief to outsource their work on 1mile2 after the completion of their residency and recruited Ashish Sharma . Ashish Sharma worked on 1mile2 New Dehli until mid February, making connections with an African community, a muslim school and some kids who gamble in the local park in the square mile.
Give a dog a bone
The contrast between the huge new mall and the intimate streets of Khirki is enormous. The mall provides (mostly) western chain stores to well-to-do Delhi residents in a shiny, brightly lit and air-conditioned strip south of Press Enclave Road; not a stray dog in sight. North of Press Enclave Road, Khirki and Malviya Nagar, burst with chaotic energy and offer tightly packed local shops and homes. Local dogs hang around in packs, rummaging through bins and curling up in sunny spots on street corners. We wanted to explore the relationship between the mall and surrounding neighbourhoods. After buying an overpriced squeaky bone from a dog accessory shop in the mall, we presented it to unsuspecting dogs in Khirki and Malviya Nagar.
Mr Sunil Kumar, artist and sign-painter
Throughout our time here we’ve been interested in the idea of flipping the power of representation so that rather than us representing the community, members of the community represent us. When we first arrived we met Naresh, who runs a small photographic studio in Malviya Nagar Market. Naresh sat us, our handicam and laptop down, and snapped a number of photographs. We returned the next day to a Photoshop finished image of us, seated on a curved bench in front of a night sky complete with full moon with pink lilies. We took the photograph to Sunil, an artist and sign painter who works in a shady spot on the side of the road in Malviya Nagar, and asked him to paint us. Two weeks later we returned to a huge framed portrait. We recognised Mickey Mouse, of course, but not the other characters depicted at Sunil’s stall. Sunil doesn’t speak English and our Hindi is nonexistent, but a group of his friends appeared and couldn’t contain their excitement as they explained (and proudly wrote in our notebook) that the portrait to the left is of Bollywood super actor Amitabh Bachchan. The portrait to the right is of Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar. He was a highly respected and controversial politician and activist for the rights of Dalits or untouchables. Ambedkar was the chief architect of the Indian constitution. He spent his life fighting against social discrimination and the Hindu Caste system. He died in 1956 but in 1990 was awarded India’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna.
Community Art Signs
We’re intrigued by the signs that clutter every lamppost in the neighbourhood. It seems that if you have a service to provide, from homemade tiffin meals to an ayurvedic clinic, you get a sign made and put it up. We’re interested in what happens if we advertise our services as community artists using the local vernacular. Although we don’t speak the same language, we’ve developed a bit of a relationship with Bitu, a man who paints signs at his road side stall behind the mechanics in Malviya Nagar. He works really fast. After striking a few guide lines onto the aluminium board with thread dipped in chalk he expertly, and without hesitation, paints your sign in minutes. We’ve installed five signs around Khirki and Malviya Nagar. Some attracted interest from the community as they were put up and others just nestled into their cluster of signs as if they’d been there forever.