Artists’ Kotla

Artists’ Kotla Open Day by Serendipity Arts Foundation

A staircase took me to the basement, where I had to manoeuver through temporary bamboo scaffolding to reach a temporary stilt structure. It was constructed meticulously to guide the eye to pictures that lent to the spatial setting of the on-site research that the artists undertook as part of Open Day, a recent exhibit by the Serendipity Arts Foundation. It was complete with DIY planters, pipes found on-site and other material to showcase the temporary natural of dwellings representing the hutments found in Kotla, New Delhi, the site of the research. The work emphasised the temporary nature of habitation and improvisation of the locals, like most busy markets in Delhi.

Open Day was the outcome of a site specific workshop - an immersive, explorative exhibit, showcasing the findings and outcomes of the reasearch conducted, the sights and sounds of a typical Delhi marketplace, where overhead electricity cables, road-side hawkers and street dwellers all came together to make their own unique ecosystem. Ten artists were carefully selected from across the country to be a part of the workshop. The exhibition showcased the outcomes, unique representations of the grassroot market that most of us are familiar with. 

Artists’ Kotla

It explored process, dialogue and experimentation in a unique way as every artist had a distinct voice and perspective that they shared. The inter-discplinary nature, the thought provoking narrative created by the exhibits and the methodologies undertaken all lent to the uniqueness and engaging quality of the displays.  

As I was going through the structure, there was a cagey nest- like installation with an uprooted plant in the middle, a direct representation of a shrub that this artist followed. The plant was transported on a bicycle-cart through the market and a video of which was displayed next to the installation. 

Artists’ Kotla

On its left was a sheet of tarpaulin cordoning off one corner of the room,  where one had to step in to read the stamping on the wall - Kotla mein kuch bhi mil sakta hai  [One can find anything in Kotla] and a video on a screen on the wall showcasing the sights that enthralled this artist. Another artist created his version of a temple that he came across in Kotla, together with an incense burning in the room transporting the viewer. 

A particularly transportive display was a rendition of a temporary living quarters made in a tiny hallway connecting two rooms complete with writings on the wall, folded mattresses and projections of footage recorded on-site. It gave the feeling that one was trespassing through someone else’s property. But, as the narrative can be furthered, Kotla mein kuch bhi ho sakta hai [anything can happen in Kotla]! 

Words Samiksha Sharma