Can we deny even for a moment that a setting has inspired many a creative minds in their pursuits? A space which allows you to express, create and innovate is crucial to a thinking mind. Bengaluru's art residencies afford that freedom and setting to artists.
Players like 1 Shanthiroad, Jaaga, Taj Residency have rendered city’s art residency scene vibrant. Shortly, TAJ Residency in collaboration with the Centre for Internet and Society, Bengaluru is coming out with “Silicon Plateau”, a book observing intersection of the arts, technology and society. There would be observations emerging from the personal experiences and perspectives of a variety of contemporary artists, writers and researchers, national and international, who either live in or have spent a period of time in the city, or have just crossed paths with its communities. “The book will have original work by the participants of residency,” says artist Tara Kelton who founded TAJ Residency with Galleryske’s Sunitha Kumar Emmart in 2013. When contemporary artist Tara Kelton returned to Bengaluru from New York, Tara felt a gap between people of divergent streams needed to be bridged. “I felt artists were only talking to artists which is why we wanted to build something interdisciplinary. So, we invite economists, scientists, designers, architects, writers and artists to our residencies,” says Tara. As two day residents and three live-in residents create art at the space in Cooke Town for six weeks TAJ Residency works in the direction of furthering a dialogue and facilitating collaborative projects. Over the last two years, the space has hosted around 50 residents.
Art residency is not a new concept but a slightly improved version of art camps which have been happening forever. With exchange programme through fellowships and grants given by Indian and international institutes, entering the fold, art residencies became more common. In Bangalore, artist-led space, 1 Shanthiroad elevated the art residencies to another level.
One of the most seminal names in the world of art residencies, Khoj, an alternative space for art in Delhi, also collaborated with 1 Shanthiroad for three years with a view to have South Asian artists work with artists from Bengaluru or different parts of Southern India.
“With Khoj being in Delhi, artists from Pakistan, Bangladesh would travel to Delhi and go back. The collaboration allowed them to travel down south. It went on to have several ripple effects. Suresh went on to co-curate the first Colombo Biennale in 2012,” says Pooja Sood, Director, Khoj.
According to her, the presence of several art schools also has a role to play. With not much infrastructure to boast, the artists coming out of these places worked towards creating these opportunities to cater to themselves.
The absence of a buoyant market for art unlike Delhi and Mumbai, the art community of Bengaluru started to look beyond. “Bangalore, as such is not a gallery-driven city which is why the residency space often executes the various functions of a gallery. 1 Shanthi Road stands out from many because it is an artist-led initiative, which is why TAKE has often chosen to collaborate with 1 Shanthi Road...” says Bhavna Kakar who runs Gallery Latitude in Delhi and also TAKE on art, an art magazine.
In 1 Shanthiroad again, Bhavna found a perfect platform to organise ‘TAKE on Residencies’ seminar in collaboration with India Foundation for the arts. “The ethos of the residency reflects that of the city — as it is born of the specific culture and is located within it, so naturally it will reflect that aspect of the city. 1 ShanthiRoad aims is to function as an experimental laboratory, it is different in its approach in that it is more homely with its open soup kitchen, its endless addas and the warm paternal presence of Suresh Jayaram as a mentor. It also addresses issues that are often considered ‘out of syllabus’ and it consciously creates a neighbourhood of cultural ethics in the heart of the city,” observes Kakar.
Bar 1, was another force to reckon with once upon a time with regard to art residencies in Bangalore. It hosted more than 120 local, national and international artists. “The India India Residency in collaboration with IFA was special as it brought people from different disciplines together. Six participants - writers, poets, curators - lived together for three months and created works. The residency had artists not only from Bangalore but from small towns and cities in Karnataka. For an artist of Coorg, Bijapur, seeing so much of art meant a lot,” says artist Surekha, who along with Christoph Storz, Ayisha Abraham, Suresh and Smitha Cariappa, formed the core group of BAR 1. It hosted its last residency in 2012.
Suresh Jayaram of 1 ShanthiRoad on art residencies
“These art residencies have put Bangalore on the cultural map of India and also made it a global player. Some major players who have pushed the cause of residencies are Goethe Institut, Pro-Helvetia Swiss Arts Council, Asialink Arts Residency Foundation, Asia New Zealand Foundation. And we have a long-term relationship with them.”
Raising the bar
Bar 1 was another force to reckon with, once upon a time, with regard to art residencies in Bangalore. It hosted more than 120 local, national and international artists. “The India India Residency in collaboration with IFA was special as it brought people from different disciplines together. Six participants - writers, poets, curators - lived together for three months and created works. The residency had artists not only from Bangalore but from small towns and cities in Karnataka. For an artist of Coorg, Bijapur, seeing so much of art meant a lot. While several interesting projects emerged from these residencies like Swiss artist Rahel Hagnauer worked on an environmental project of felling of trees due to construction of flyovers. Haruko created an inflatable space ship and Shreyas Karle created ‘Demon heads of Bangalore’,” says artist Surekha, who along with Christoph Storz, Ayisha Abraham, Suresh and Smitha Cariappa, formed the core group of BAR 1. It hosted its last residency in 2012.