Looking back…Vishwa Shroff

SqW:Lab had been in our conversations and thoughts for over a decade and in the making for 6 months. It is therefore rather difficult for me to summarize the excitement in words. I would like to firstly, thank the core team for jumping on board this crazy idea and making it their own. It is this sense of ownership that they have so generously presented that is most encouraging and assuring that this endeavour will continue for years to come.

The week itself, as exciting as it was, was incredibly hectic. The process of our home slowly transforming into a Lab was a stimulating experience with comfort levels increasing by the hour. Informal introductions over lunchtime cocktails kick-started conversations that would sustain the fellowship and I was amazed at how quickly these discussions began to appear. A city-walk with Alisha Sadikot, showed us Byculla in a way that I have never seen before. Oscillating between my own curiosity and making sure that everyone crossed the road, I wished for more access to places we were visiting and would like to ensure that the next time we are able to get just that. Such thoughts, of minor changes to the organisation kept appearing throughout the week and continues to do so.

Between ordering lunches and taxis, materials and meetings, I found time to engage in some amazing conversations with fellows, which led to to explore methodologies of mapping, something I had never thought of as a basis to investigate domesticity. Working largely with material aspects, this personal discovery and the newly acquired typewriter has me thinking about movements and permissions within the domestic environment: how these change over time and familiarity or over-relational acknowledgements. Furthermore, I explored the typed hyphen’s potential to act as a line and its iconographic possibilities in the mapping process to create a language that is not entirely truthful, leaving space of fictional narrative.

These moments of interaction and discoveries is what has been most exciting, affirming the need for SqW:Lab to my practice. While we now spend time playing with projects and ironing out ‘technical’ glitches, I know I can do this for a long time to come.  

 

Looking back…Katsushi Goto

It is 10th December and been precisely a month since we have had Sqw:Lab open studio on 10th November. I left for Tokyo immediately after the open studio for 14 days. I was back to Bombay for two days and left again for Amsterdam and London for 10 days. I was supposed to write my personal reflection by the end of November, but I did not manage it while I was away from Bombay. Finally, I am sitting in my usual place, on the desk in the corner of the studio, and remembering the busiest month while feeling winter sunlight coming in the room with a shot of espresso. I remember that we made many cups of coffee during the week in Bombay!!

2018-12-10 12.49.44Katsushi Goto, winter sunlight into a corner of the studio, 10th December 2018

No matter how many workshops and parties we organise, it is always demanding to host the workshop in our studio/home, especially in the place was only completed a half year ago, and especially when there are not enough chairs. Nevertheless, I was so excited to have creative fellows to interact and play with, and inhabit our studio/home. Moreover, as I imagined, conversations and productions filled the space, and finally, the studio/home was lively and become a creative environment. First of all, I would like to thank all the fellows for coming and being part of the programme.

I must stress that although the programme seeks specific outcomes from the fellows, for me, hosting the programme in the space itself – which is designed by our design firm – is experimentation and a part of the long-term project. It was great to observe the fellows finding their own place to settle and work, arranging/re-arranging positions of cups, the way things are left for a night,  a location that the fellow had a conversation, and especially how the kitchen platform accommodated multiple activities. It is not recorded in any formal manner that is useful for architectural planning but as I read the other’s personal reflections there are lots of narratives that connect the spatiality and content relationship. I am sure spending a week in an unknown studio in a foreign county is not enough time to make anyone feel like it is their studio or home, but the responses from the fellows points out the direction of my search for the spatial organisation beyond the limit of the home/studio.  

southlands kitchen2sourhtlands kitchen4[image] Katsushi Goto, seeing above the kitchen, November 2018

Apart from my own concerns, the energy of production and insightful conversations was an unforgettable experience that I haven’t had in a while. Though we had a schedule and a basic framework, the real driver of production was a fellow’s action/word and reaction/response of other fellows. In fact, I have never experienced (or maybe only once) such productive moments with an open-ended programme. We need to carefully observe where these intuitive actions and responses were heading to and nurtured within each fellow’s practice and consciously engage in the process of developing play projects while keeping these moments as starting and anchor points.  

 

Looking back… Rose van Mierlo

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SONG
The strongest memory, the one that keeps sticking its head above the grass that makes up an experience, is that of the sound of the city as it wakes up. It isn’t just sound though: it is as if heat, and dust, and something ancient and animal are the only ones left on the scene after everybody else has fallen asleep. I would step outside my room and stand in the open hallway and I’d feel it. Something was very much alive.

Night and day mean different things here.

DUSK / DUST
It is exhilarating to walk through a city you’ve never visited before. My feet got dirty every day, and washing them at night became somewhat of a ritual. I got blisters quickly, but it didn’t bother me that much. Walking around as a group has an organic feeling to it; you pull and shrink and pull as you move yourself around. Everyone keenly aware of where the others are. It’s fascinating, really, to move as a school of fish, or a flight of sparrows. Breathing out, breathing in. Here is hot chai on dusty street corners, here is a man who knows so much more than you. Here falls the dusk as a powdery curtain; scraggly street cats sleep under the fluorescent lights.

LISTENING TO…
I love listening to people talk about their work. I won’t lie about it; it fascinates me to hear how other people do things. Yes, it did go on too long. Next time we should manage that. But in two days I learnt more about the world than from any encyclopaedia. I saw the streets of Brazil, I marked forgotten spaces with my eyes in America. I picked up small things to hold as though they were the greatest treasure; and I left magnesium to burn until my grief burned away with it. I mapped and routed, I started and stopped. I wandered and wondered about places and people, and uncoiled myself in the presence of others.

CHAOS
Mumbai is a sound bath. There is honking and yelling, yellow little taxi cars speeding by, people going, going, going and moving, moving, moving in undecipherable patterns. Mumbai is stop and start, not in a smooth line but erratic spasms bursting out left and right. It takes time to adjust, to move in tandem with the new and unexpected. It’s all process, really.

ECHOES
I’m always curious to know what the world does to a body. What happens when you go from one place to the next? How does the liver think about departure, so suddenly? Or saying goodbyes? What does the spleen have to say about the long hours waiting in airports, the early morning sun of England (so pale, so beautiful). It’s hard to think about the past weeks with the brain; it gets tangled so quickly in there, stuck in vague and generic affirmations: it was kind of crazy, kind of hard, kind of amazing, so very new. Better not to think too much about these things. Better to feel.

How to hands get dry with the approaching snow.
How the stomach mulls over conversations had.
How the kidneys hold on to colours.
How the body holds on to echoes.

Looking back… John Ros

My journey began a while ago with initial video conferences with the five founding fellows. There was a separation in the process which felt good, but there was also a sort of urgency that felt implied. I had been asked to discuss initial ideas. As I settled into what would become a slightly insane semester teaching and directing the gallery, I awaited for the formal invitation letter which would initiate requests for funding. This process took its course and came to fruition. There (to Mumbai) and back already – and now I write.

Though there was organisation and communication there also needed to be a certain amount of flexibility. After all, this was the first time around for us all. Five founding fellows invited five plus-one fellows. Charlie Levine invited me. knowing many of the founding fellows from various art-related endeavours, I knew the project would be an exciting time at the very least. I was also very keen on getting to know Vishwa and Goto’s work more. I knew there were similarities, but I was uncertain how they would reveal themselves.

2018_mumbai-117john ros // reflection mumbai, india // 03-10 november 2018

Since the last few months have been absolutely bonkers, I left for India with only a few things and little expectation. I wanted to re-ground myself and experience something completely new. I don’t fear flying, but then again a twenty-hour commute is no joke. I slept on the first leg to London and tried to do some work on the second. Without wifi, I felt there was little I could do. I know that was not a correct assertion, but it seemed so at the time. I puttered around in the digital space of my work computer and anticipated by early Monday morning arrival at BOM. Vishwa had arranged a car for me which was appreciated, especially due to the 2am arrival.

No matter how much experience you gain, new experiences are always revealing in a way that feels profoundly human. After gaining access to the country and meandering a bit, I found my driver and though he got lost on the way, we managed to find our way to the yacht club. I woke Tash and fell asleep pretty quickly. We did not realise there was air con until the second night.

2018_mumbai-177john ros // reflection mumbai, india // 03-10 november 2018

I was a day behind everyone, but that never felt strange. I met many of the fellows at breakfast at the yacht club then we all grabbed a cab to the art space. Papaya and pineapple were a welcome treat with black coffee on this Monday morning. The space was light, airy, open. It felt as though there was a flow of energy both in the excitement of the creatives as well as the humming of the walls. Collaborative work would be done in this space over the next week and it felt fitting. Fertile. Upon arrival we met up with the remainder of the team as well as a mid-day reporter and photographer. We posed a bit and got to work. Intros first.

2018_mumbai-244john ros // reflection mumbai, india // 03-10 november 2018

These took a bit longer than they should have. Though there is so much to discover from each artist, there is a finite amount of focal control, especially after a long commute. I would have kept these intros within a maximum of 20 minutes each, however, it was great to get to know one another in this way. These would last into the next day with the addition of play project intros. Again, a bit much for the start – though I know there is much to get done.

Initially, I can only suggest a slightly more structured time-frame for these intros and play projects. Discussion will continue throughout the week.

I resorted to discuss only a portion of my process. Photos and placing my practice a bit more contextually. I am currently at a crossroads (or transition/milestone/etc.) with things both within my practice and how I talk about my practice. Process will likely stay similar, but output and inertia shifts. It feels like a core-thing. Like tectonics or paradigms. I am not totally ready to quantify this into words, but this will be something I aim to do throughout the next three months. The shift started in the beginning of this year and continues to grow. It is time to confront it. And release it.

2018_mumbai-358john ros // reflection mumbai, india // 03-10 november 2018

I knew immediately after meeting everyone and listening to their intros that I wanted to initiate one of my own play projects. Informally. I wanted this to be light and easy. I extracted a phrase that they said during their presentation and presented a typed A4 page to each creative. They were asked to do whatever they wanted with the page but I asked that they responded to it in one way or another. Not responding was also a viable choice. It was exciting to see the playfulness and connectivity happening through this process.

Throughout the week it was my focus to be completely present in the mind space of the week – though this sometimes proved difficult with the time difference. Having come from an intense and stressful job atmosphere, it was nice to be surrounded by support and rigorous thought and creativity. Something that evades my current faculty. I needed this space and time more than anything. I think I am still riding the high a bit, especially once the jet lag subsided. it was also amazing to enjoy the sights, sounds, smells of Mumbai. there is a magic… an electricity in the air. though I did less sightseeing and exploring than I might have allowed, I did get a chance to feel a part of the spaces I walked through. Again, this year is about transitions for me and this trip is helping to make these abstract notions tangible for me. There is also nothing wrong with abstract notions staying abstract.

Though the trip was quick, I was also ready to head back to the states… mostly to end this academic semester and move in new directions within my daily life. Though experiences like these are so fruitful and necessary for growth, I am also rooted within my local communities and think that the everyday involvement within these spaces are of utmost importance. Trying to make sense of new experiences and lessons learned can be more abstract when not applied to the everyday. That abstraction should be acceptable (and is) but between the the current space I find myself and this new inertia for evolution within my practice, I find myself a bit restless and looking for focused time to discover.

I am so appreciative of the generosity that was shown to me during this time and am encouraged that the energies shared during the week in Mumbai will ebb and flow into new and exciting spaces, conversations, moments and things. We so often forget to allow time for play. the emphasis on exploration through play so far has not only been appreciated, it has been a gentle hug of remembrance to continue to play and enjoy and be and breathe.

 

Looking back… Tash Kahn

I am still trying to digest the events of the past week – a week that I can now only just make sense of now that I can look back on it. I have been feeling slightly disgruntled with the art world as a whole and my place within it, so I went into this fellowship carrying a small (if that’s possible) existential crisis on my back. At a juncture in my practice, unsure of my next move. It is a place that has paralysed me for a while – full of endings and blurred beginnings. So with eyes wide open and with no expectations, I went to India. 

After a bumpy exit from England we landed in Mumbai. Hot and humid. Having been there in April I knew what to expect of the city, but I felt out of my comfort zone this time. Us five fellows had each invited a plus-one – some I knew, others I didn’t. On arrival at Vishwa and Goto’s beautiful apartment we bonded over hot curries, snatched sleep and walks through the city.

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©Tash Kahn

A mix of artists, architects, academics and writers, the group was an eclectic union of interesting people. We listened intently to each others’ presentations; the smell of tiger balm a constant. Then it was my turn, and despite being terrified of speaking in public I enjoyed talking about my practice. Somehow when you discuss your work openly it is easier to understand yourself, and getting feedback from others is always useful – as is seeing how others approach their work.

Setting up in the studio space, I realised how much I missed working in the presence of others. Being an artist can be isolating and lonely at times so it was nice to sit next to someone tapping away at the typewriter and watch others jump up and pin things to the wall. But I found the situation challenging nonetheless. There was lots to be getting on with but the lack of structure unsettled me. I am not very good at flailing and find a plan helps me feel secure. Unsure of what to do in the studio I wandered around the city breathing everything in, taking polaroids and photos with my phone. These walks continued daily and I became deft at navigating the Mumbai traffic. I walked the streets with my invitee Gustavo and we found ourselves noticing the same strange things.

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©Tash Kahn

I continued existing photography projects and found new ones (Mumbai taxi drivers have eclectic taste in upholstery). I brought polaroids back to the studio and found myself deconstructing them in order to make new collages. I hadn’t had a studio practice for a while, instead preferring to take a more site-specific route, but I enjoyed working with my hands again. Sometimes I struggle with pigeonholing myself – am I a photographer, a painter or a conceptual artist? Somehow this all became irellevant and I just got down to it.

During the week we had wonderful conversations and I discovered new ways of working. Collaboration has always been important to me. I learnt that I missed making stuff with my hands and will continue to do so at home. I do not have a studio in the traditional sense but I have a space to think and make and that is enough. I am looking forward to the play projects. Art has never left me, despite the fact I ignored it for a while.

Looking back… Gustavo Ferro

I am travelling through a territory where I never have been before. Now it’s 11:47pm in Mumbai, there is a gap of 5:30 hours between the UK and here; and a gap of 8:30 hours in relationship to Brazil. We will arrive at 6:20am.

It’s almost midnight, maybe later. Seven days have passed and this is my last night in Mumbai. I am in the hotel room and for the first time I am by myself. I am naked, in all senses.      

From the window I can see the sea, but there’s so many things to see that without focus, even the horizon can be unnoticed.

This whole experience was learning about fellowship.

While here I wandered in a pack. With exception of the night when I couldn’t sleep. That night I went out trying to find somewhere to buy herbal tea to help me to sleep. 

Many people sleep on the streets during the day. I imagine they are taking a nap, just resting to recover energy. They occupy all sorts of spaces, and any object can be transformed into furniture, something to lean on. The first day in Mumbai we woke up really early and went out for a wander. The sunlight didn’t brighten the way yet, but a few people were starting to create movement in the city. I observed the improvised street furniture, waiting for use. Stumps and broken pieces were composing the public space; being adapted to compensate for the lack of infrastructure of places to sit and rest in the city. 

Everywhere you notice people’s gestures and a careful maintenance of the place. Long dry leaves tied up on one side are used as a broom. People clean their spaces before starting the day. There is another idea of ownership.

Here I feel that the public space is democratic. Open to everyone.  Pieces of plastic and canvas are tied to bamboo rods and around trees on the pavement. They create environments that dissolve the idea of public and private space. 

20181110_110936.jpgGustavo S Ferro, image of a shrine installed around a tree in Mumbai, 2018.

Walking on the streets I am permanently on alert. Noise announces the presence of every individual and vehicles that agglutinate to form a mass of chaos and movement. It’s an order misunderstood by foreign eyes. As stressful as the city may be, the locals do not lose their kindness. Guys hold each other’s hands in a subtle touch, as an attempt not to be alone… in the ZUM ZUM ZUM of people and goats and cars and cows that pass by the crossroads.

Holy cow stroked gently by a woman. I still in cultural shock when I face the animal coping with the urban fabric.

For the first three days all of it was so intense that I have only just started to process the facts now. My body is vibrating and gets sweaty with the damp that hit my organs. I feel at home with this weather, I don’t want this feeling to go away.

RWA RWA RWA !

7:15am I awoke and jumped up from the bed very confused with what was going on. I had left the window open and a crow managed to get inside my room. I got the impression he did it on purpose.  I see a lot of birds in the sky. The palm trees just in front of me make me think about Brazil.

My luggage was ready, I had just finished packing it and I heard it again:

RWA RWA RWA !

He was looking at me from the window like he was saying goodbye.    

\\\

This text is a fragment of reflexions originally written in Portuguese in my travel journal titled ‘Railway IX’. 

Looking back…Charlie Levine

Today is Monday 12 November and it is 8am in London, I have been back in the UK approximately 15 hours since leaving Mumbai behind, however am yet to leave the SqW:Lab 2018 launch week / studio behind and feel it will be several weeks till I am able to completely understand and fully reflect on the whirlwind that was last week.

Although I know this is the case I want to attempt to write down some thoughts while I am still carrying the spirit of SqW:Lab with me.  I want to start by thanking the other nine fellows for their energy, creativity, flexibility and friendship. All were exceptional people and I have had some wonderful conversations, discovered new work / ways of working, laughed a lot and been supported through tears.  The SquareWorks hosts, Vishwa and Goto deserve a very special thank you for their patience, kindness and openness to having eight creative people in their home making it their home / studio / kitchen for the week. I would also like to thank my invited fellow, John Ros, for his support, for being an amazing creative soundboard and for fully immersing himself into this research fellowship.

cl1SqW:Lab 2018 fellows, Image courtesy of Sameer Kulavoor

As for the SqW:Lab research fellowship, specifically, I do not know what my expectations were of the launch of the project, as well as this 2018 iteration, other than I wanted to understand varying creative practices more and for it to be a learning curve – and it was exactly that!

Through this first week I have had reiterated to me that I am comfortable taking a lead in administrative tasks and being a guiding / managerial voice in workshops and discussions around the works being produced and thought processes of the participants. I struggled with having a creative output and noted that I did not steer away from the initial idea I had before I even arrived in Mumbai – that of collecting our dust.  I found myself wanting to separate myself from the artists and architects in the sense of listening rather than collaborating with them. I was most comfortable when problem solving and making decisions rather than following an emotional discourse – all things that I think are very true to my curatorial style and approach.

IMG_5708SqW:Lab 2018 Dust, Charlie Levine, 2018, image courtesy of Charlie Levine

The things I was most surprised by were my enjoyment of being surrounded by creative practitioners in a studio setting, even when focusing on my own work, and highlighted the isolation of working independently / in a freelance capacity and will be something I will want to address in my work going forward.

The same is to be said for our group yoga sessions and how I was surprised by the well-being impact that practice had on me during this week, both with my mental state, its calming impact and my focus afterwards, as well as my surprise at the strength of my body with the yoga instructor pushing me (physically) into poses I had previously thought impossible. I learnt to trust my body and stretch out of my comfort zone – and this was something that I feel had a great impact on my time in Mumbai and I hope continues to do so, I want to proactively keep up yoga.

347b92aa-9648-442a-9fff-ad560309297eSqW:Lab 2018 fellows with yoga instructor Pradeep Mehta, image courtesy of Pradeep Mehta

And now for the next few months, Play Projects and developing a creative practice somehow through collaboration with the nine inspiring artists, architects, art writer and academics who I had the immense pleasure of spending this week with.