2017 Jodhpur Art Residency has successfully completed its pilot program at Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur, India. Conceptualised and curated by Rekha Sameer, the aim of this residency was to give artists from all over the world an impactful life changing introduction to the quiet majestic historic environs of the Fort along with the cacophonous energy pulsating in the Blue City.
This residency aimed to bring together a diverse group of artists at various stages of their career from all over the world including India and situate them on a non-hierarchical platform of exchange for the duration of two weeks. Artists were primarily chosen for their open inclusive approach so it becomes a comprehensive immersive experience. At the start, artists were introduced to a significant aspect of the residency i.e Conversations. Each artist was given an opportunity to share their experiences as practicing artists and were encouraged to talk about their struggles and failures rather than successes. The objective was to prove that failures are an integral part of being successful artists. The presentations were also intended to be triggers that would stimulate organic exchanges and allow cross-pollination of ideas and approaches during the course of the stay. Artists were also encouraged to temporarily suspend their usual approach to art, be experimental and allow the site, culture and landscape to seep into their creative practice.
Artists initially overwhelmed by the historic Fort and its lofty location, were soon finding the Museum, its collections and the efforts of the restoration team intriguing and inspiring. Whether its a labourer carving lines on sandstones everyday of his life or the textile restorer working for 20 years on painstakingly putting together thin strands of silver and gold thread to bring a 200 year old garment to its former glory, the sheer industriousness and the quiet shared pride in contributing to their inheritance deeply impacted the artists personally as well as professionally. The walk through the Rao Jodha rock Garden and the sheer tenacity through which the desert landscape has been restored with indigenous plants and trees was a lesson in human endeavour and persistence.
Mehrangarh Fort provided the perfect edifice, encouraging the artists to go exploring on the hobbled historic paths and ramparts, create their own trajectories towards irreversible silent discoveries whilst watching the swifts fly around the filigreed facade and walking through the visual and aural sensory overload of the blue city, where man and god exist cheek by jowl eternally intertwined in a timeless continuous existential cycle that life is, from birth to death to rebirth.
The exhibition at the end of the residency was an unadulterated unfiltered outpouring of energy given out by the people, city and the fort that was imbibed by and channeled through the artists body, mind and soul. The show was diverse in content and medium and comprised of sound, text, performance, drawings, sculptures, paintings, textiles, assemblage’s and dance. Art objects were made using found objects such as bangles, bamboo frames, paper, stones etc. The general public were curious and robust in their engagement with the artworks and the artists. The exhibited artworks successfully found resonance and therefore fruition back in the people and the site.
Contrasting psycho geographical perspectives underpinned by mutual respect, inclusivity and a sense of pride in their shared heritage made this experience of staying in Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur unique and deeply impactful.