Have you ever been to an art show twice, just to get a better look at an individual work or to use the opportunity to absorb an exhibition in its entirety, devoid of people and noise? I know I have. But have you ever been to an art show that keeps changing every time you go to view it? I know I definitely haven’t – until now.
I went to check in on KHOJ four days after the opening event, partly to observe the evolving interventions and also to try and get a sense of the most recent additions to the synthesized habitat. I soon realised that the energy of the communal gathering and the spectacle of a private viewing had gone; the works had been left behind like residual memories. It felt a bit like walking into a house where the occupants had passed away. “It’s not soulless but bodiless” said one of the KHOJ team members, and she was right.
The living installations seemed to have paused for breath, reflecting upon what they once were and what they had become. The whole thing was quite apparitional, and yet there was poetry and poignance in this too.
Walking into the main courtyard where Dan and Heather’s show-stopping barley installation crept up the walls, the earthy smell is what hit me first. Over the course of the residency I’d seen this work (KHOJ Court) go through all its transformations, from seeding, to germination, to wild and unkempt growth. Now as the blades began to wilt, an equally evocative stage became apparent – decay and decomposition. Dan and Heather's portraiture work naturally reflected this in a more obvious way, with two women’s faces (an older and a younger one) visibly fading from sight. For me, these disappearing images echoed the ghostly aura of their surroundings beautifully.
If Dan and Heather’s work was restfully aromatic in its demise, Navin’s studio work (Symphony for a Swine) screamed at high pitch, demanding one’s full attention. The steel urinals emitting squealing pig sounds resonated around his studio, and for a moment one wondered if they were actually coming from the installation opposite – several thrashing cat-fish swimming around in their neon green tank. While on the opening night these interventions seemed alive with their adjacent placement and potential readings – four days later they just seemed disturbed. Knowing Navin, this is probably the precise impact he wanted to have on us, to jolt us out of our comfortable suburban worlds to be faced with the effects of mass-farming and over-consumption – polluted rivers, mutated life-forms and diseased food-chains.
In stark contrast to this was Pratik’s inspirational video and structural installation (Unpacking Social Networks) which were very much about man’s moments of synergies with nature, as well ritualism and renewal. In his structural work in the KHOJ courtyard, he had added material in the trees and alcoves to encourage more species of birds to nest. Some of the bird seeds had even taken root and sprouted grass. Squirrels, mice, insects and birds still ran amuck enjoying their paradise. His video, showcasing the various locations he took the structure to, gave insight into heartening public interactions with this works. Pundits, policeman and school children all joined in by blessing the surroundings, helping with placements and feeding the birds. In a way they all became part of the performance.
While Pratik’s work seems to transcend boundaries of class and religion, Brandon’s work seemed to bring together various factions of society and species. His public intervention (Love Motel for Insects) at Select City Walk shopping mall attracted fascinated on-lookers, both of the insect and human variety. While much of the (human) audience took pictures of the installation, others were plethoric with questions giving Brandon the perfect situation to do what he loves most – involve the community in his work. The opening night was the first night the structure had been placed at the mall, so it had a few creatures zeroing in on the mesmerising UV lights and native plants. A few days later and the intervention was rife with insects feasting off their specially crafted microcosm. I for one will making a trip down to the mall before the end of the month to see what happens next!
And I wonder now if I will ever connect with another art exhibition in quite the same way as I did this one? Not because I got a deep insight into the artists' psyche and practice, not because the subject matter is so glaringly relevant to our present and future - but because I saw the "artworks" demonstrably change over time. Maybe next time we should have two or three openings, just so that we can let everyone be part of this fascinating evolution.