Creative collaborations flourish in the city across theatre, art,writing and dance. By Maegan Dobson Sippy and Aakanksha Devi
Communities that offer space and time to nurture artistes, taking care of everyday logistics, and providing a platform for collaboration and conversation are becoming an essential part of our burgeoning city. While some focus on a particular event or on a specific branch of the arts, others allow practitioners from diverse disciplines
to engage in a mutually beneficial way, shaping events such as the Lekhana Literature Festival and the forthcoming Attakkalari India Biennial.
T.A.J. Residency & SKE Projects
With a visitor book that includes fashion stylists to sound artistes, T.A.J. Residency & SKE Projects has hosted an eclectic list of individuals. “Everything is increasingly specialised now, and there are few places where people from different disciplines can come together,” explains artist and co-founder Tara Kelton. Newly returned to Bangalore from the US just over a year ago, Kelton was keen to interact with the creative community. “I missed the art scene of New York. Setting up the residency seemed like a good way to bring new people into the city and to connect with interesting people locally.” Having participated in the Vermont Studio Residency after she graduated from the Yale School of Art, Kelton had a rough idea of the format she wanted to follow. T.A.J. Residency & SKE Projects became a reality when Kelton connected with city art space GallerySKE.
Home from home
Residents are offered accommodation, food and studio space in central Bangalore and most host public events. “The residency became a space where I could process what I’d seen during the day and talk to the other residents at night,” says Al Freeman, who flew in from New York. The forthcoming session begins next week and will include Italian art group IOCOSE as well as Marialaura Ghidini, a London-based curator. “We try to bring an interesting group together each time,” says Kelton. “Our dream is to move to a bigger space and have a more open door. For now it’s a quiet, productive place, which is not a bad thing,” she concludes.
1 Shanthi Road
The go-to city art institution for over a decade, 1Shanti Road was founded by painter and art historian Suresh Jayaram. “The land was my inheritance, and I wanted to share it with the city,” he says. Residencies form an important part of their work, with four private studios/living spaces available. With funding always difficult, they’ve collaborated with institutions including the Khoj International Artists’ Association for South Asia and the Fulbright scholarship programme to bring in international artists. The latest project is a book documenting some of the diverse works from the past 10 years. “We’re always looking for people to come in and do something new in our space. Funds might always be tight, but for me, success is simply being sustainable and keeping our doors open, which is what we manage to do,” Jayaram concludes.
REVOLVING around the principle of sangam, or ‘coming together’, the Sangam House writers’ residency is a space where writers can ‘live and work among their peers’. Founded in 2008, it grew out of author Arshia Sattar’s time at the Writer’s Omi residency in New York, and her desire to give South Asian writers access to a similarly enriching experience. “I realised it is important for writers to have time and space away from their own lives to work. It was incredible not to have to worry about meals or doorbells,” she explains. “Sangam provides that rare blend of solitude and stimulating company in perfect measure,” agrees author Karthika Nair, who completed the text for The Honey Hunters (Zubaan) at Sangam House. Now based at Nrityagram, 40 kms away from the city, Sangam can house eight authors at any time. “Funding was hard. People had to trust us. The miracle was that they did,” Sattar shares.
Beat a retreat
With support from diverse patrons there are now two residency seasons every year – winter and spring. Most valuable, according to Sattar, are the author interactions themselves. “You’re with writers unlike yourself, in terms of age, gender, culture and language, but under all of that, you are all writers. It’s quite amazing how we learn from one another,” she explains. Responsible for pioneering the annual Lekhana literary weekend, Sangam House continues to expand its scope. They recently entered the publishing arena, and are keen to continue their publishing programme. “We want to keep it multi-cultural and take a few risks,” Sattar shares. There are also plans to take on the role of a literary agency, which seems a natural extension of their work to facilitate writing and to champion authors.
Since its inception in 1992, The Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts has been investing and promoting the contemporary dance and movement arts in South Asia. Quite the pioneer in education, performance, exchange and development in the digital arts and mixed media field, it is no surprise that FACETS, their choreography lab is a roaring success. Sunitha M Ramachandra, manager, FACETS and South Asia Platform 2015 and Attakkalari India Biennial 2015, says that their last edition in 2013 is testament to their efforts. “It took the form of a two-month, mentored, residency where 16 choreographers came to Bangalore and created new performance work. Artistes and mentors came from across the globe – from Indonesia to Israel and Mexico to Sweden,” she begins, adding that this time around, FACETS is looking to leverage the growing interest in contemporary dance and movement arts in India and South Asia in a concentrated effort.
Running as an intensive one-month residency from January 5 to February 5, FACETS 2015 will ‘see residents work on original ideas in a supportive and enabling environment. Skill-sharing sessions with mentors and feedback from peers are part of the program.’ They will then premiere their new work at the Attakkalari Biennial later in February. This edition will see the likes of Philippe Saire (artistic director, cie. Phillippe Saire, Switzerland), Margie Medlin (media artiste and designer, director of Critical Path Sydney, Australia), and Leah Barclay (composer and sound artiste, USA/Australia) helming the programme, in addition to experts from across the country, which will see carefully selected residents train to showcase their creations as solos, duets or ensemble work.
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FOR most city-dwellers, Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan is synonymous with cultural events and the plethora of residencies they offer don’t come as a surprise. Maureen Gonsalves, cultural coordinator here, explains they focus on niche programmes, collaborating with other cultural partners for the artiste-in-residence projects. Well received on all sides, the residency is also sustainable over years, says Gonsalves. “Thanks to the sustained nature of the sessions, the repercussions are seen sometimes long after the artiste has returned to Germany. And the hosts in the city are the primary facilitators – they represent the cream of Bangalore’s cultural fabric,” she tells us. After a great start to the bangaloREsidency last year, they’re expecting no less than 14 artistes with nine local hosts, starting on November 2.
Young activists of the artiste community MAARA, a media and arts collective based in the city, will aim to establish the first community radio with a sound artiste
from Germany, while a German-Turkish fresher from Berlin will team up with performers associated with Ranga Shankara to develop a script for an autobiographic gender-related production. A musician has been selected to compose for a dance performance which Attakkalari will perform at the inauguration of the Kochi-Muziris Art Biennale in December 2014,while a renowned local architect collaborates with a Cologne counterpart for a session on historical city architecture.
Collaborations in installations, photography and digital surveillance are also on the cards.
The Infinite Souls Artistes Retreat is at the foot of the Savandurga monolith, about 40 kilometres from the city centre. The organic farm-cum-retreat boasts six cottages that sleep about 25 people, 10 tents, two rehearsal spaces and a charming outdoor kitchen and dining area shaded by a large banyan tree. “Open fields, old trees, uncluttered skies, hills, my vegetables growing well. The cottages have sand coloured walls, white curtains and nice, clean loos. It’s simple and still,” says theatre professional Kirtana Kumar, who runs the space along with her husband, Konarak Reddy. They conduct two annual theatre and music residencies for children, which entails camping, theme-based training, nightly performances, woodfire cooking and more. The rest of the year, they welcome workshops, rehearsals and training requests from other artistes. This year, Kumar hosted a string of events including a Sri Lankan theatre residency, the Goethe-Institut Bangalore Residency, and a guitar clinic with Peter Finger, Claus Boesser-Ferrari and Konarak Reddy. In Kumar’s opinion, residencies promote a relaxed but more productive environment. “Spending off-time together; cooking, singing, trekking, reading — deepens our experience of each other and is what I find desirable in my work,” she says.
“The day starts with a trek. Then it’s usually kalaripayattu with Anmol Mothi, or biomechanics with me. Then we have a big breakfast under the banyan tree before splitting into small groups for either music or theatre. Konarak looks after the music program and I, the theatre,” she signs off.