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.

©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.

©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.


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:


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.


Introduction SqW:Lab 2018

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Square Works Laboratory (SqW:Lab) is a three-month programme for cultural practitioners from all over the world. Ten creatives have come together for a launch week in Mumbai, to play, work site responsively, be inspired by each other and showcase their process.

SqW:Lab is the result of conversations about practice, domesticity and drawing, going back as far as 2012, between curator Charlie Levine, architect Katsushi Goto, artists Vishwa Shroff and Tash Kahn and art writer Rose van Mierlo. These discussions took place in a multitude of ways: around kitchen tables, in galleries, through postcard exchanges and Skype calls.

This inaugural year the founding five fellows have invited five creative practitioners to join in this exchange. SqW:Lab is pleased to host artists Gustovo S. Ferro (Brazil/United Kingdom), John Ros (USA), Sameer Kulavoor (India), Sutapa Biswas (United Kingdom), and architect Thomas Tsang (Hong Kong).

This exhibition presents work made over a period of seven days: independently, collaboratively, responsively, yet always keeping in mind the themes of domesticity, drawing and process.

Katsushi Goto

Get to know SqW:Lab 2018 fellows – today we speak to architect, Katsushi Goto.

Where can you be found?

Tokyo or Mumbai

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Square Works, Colaba, Katsushi Goto

Tell us about a creative action you have taken this week.

Drawing on sketch book

What does ‘home’ mean to you? 

I can be myself.

What was the last thing you drew?

schematic map, plans.

Tell us about 2 of your most subtle influences.

  1. Tropical climate 2. Modernist Housing

Please share your thoughts / a few words about your expectations of the SqW:Lab fellowship, of being in Mumbai and the project in total.

This is the first fellowship programme, therefore as initiator, I would like to build network amongst participants that we can work longer term.