Studio as a space can be considered as an extension of an artist's physical and intellectual being. As a site, it has the power to detach oneself from the world and at the same time it can become the world in itself. It is a space to breathe, imagine, communicate, contemplate, negotiate and respond. It can lead one towards discovering- self.
But what happens when access to the studio is suddenly cut off? How does it affect one’s practice? Can one recreate/replace that space? What changes during that shift?
Makeshift Studio is an online platform to delve into all these queries. This show looks at the idea of a temporary studio developed during the pandemic by the selected 14 students and 2 student collective of Kala Bhavana and to discuss how it became a point of departure in their practice. This platform tries to share their journey of constant negotiation with the space and availability of materials to create. Expanding or at times going beyond the academic ways of an artist-studio relationship, they discover new voices of creation from what is available around; to realize that inspiration can also come from temporality; to learn that being in the state of the creative process is more important than producing; to explore the concept of a studio as a psychological territory; to also understand that the practice which emerged from this new normal situation is not an alternative to the normal/regular, rather, it is a parallel language with its challenges and merit.
The idea 'Make-Shift Studio practice' emerged from the immediate experience of student artists trying to shift their practices to safe spaces in the context of the pandemic situation. This 'shift' resulted in the 'making of alternative studio/working spaces with new logistical challenges. These challenges led to new ideas which greatly influenced their ongoing art practices. The project intends to highlight this make and re-make of working spaces by the student artists of Kala Bhavana.
The participating artists were expected to share their new studios/spaces and the practices generated from this unpredictable and highly innovative shift. We came across different stories and experiences that spoke about their difficulties and limitations due to the inaccessibility of the departmental studios and the lack of required materials due to financial constraints. It was these limitations that were taken into stride and flourished into advantages in positive ways. As a result, we got to see how an initial idea of a series of painted canvases turns into a stop-motion video, and how a cycle and a sketchbook are sufficient to build a studio. This is how their merits have been constantly contested and challenged.
This project provides a unique platform to share these practices and experiences through a digital gallery. This would also serve as a future archive for Kala Bhavana to visualize these artistic projects born out of a particular time and how it stimulated the artists to think out of the box amidst an exceptional and a very unsettling situation induced by the pandemic.
What led us to the conception of 'Make-Shift Studios' ?
- With the advent of the pandemic we quickly came to realise that, we needed to find and re-organise our places of closure into functioning studios. We took our own paths in this endeavour and came up with ideas to modify the existing spaces and places to our suiting.
The idea that these studios may lose their shape when we flock back to our departments worried us. These were our production sites for almost two years, where valuable data had been collected, shifts in practices had occurred as a natural part of this process. However, it seemed inevitable that with us leaving these private spaces for more public ones would result in a gradual loss of this very relevant practice and its data.
This project was conceived not only as an exhibition that wished to bring together the studios that spread across India but also as an archive of memories of an exceptional situation. This would be a document of the places we used and experienced when we found ourselves without resources in the isolation.
We must mention that the practice of exchanging pictures of these make-shift spaces that grew amongst our peers in Kala Bhavana stirred this idea leading to its conception, chiefly due to the images of Subhankar Mondal's ceramic studio at his home in Kolkata.
Lastly, we would like to mention that we wouldn't measure our success in terms of the views of this exhibition but in terms of our ability to say "what if we could put this together?" and trying our level best to get together and doing it.
- Bihan Das & Biswajit Thakuria