Sunday, January 4, 2009


From the beginning of this project my intention is to expand and invite engagement and thought through the park. To make the park a space for exploratory dialogue and experimental creation, I have always preferred the idea of decision making in building up the space. So I have organized workshops with the neighbourhood conducted by the team of young members who I am working with.
As a collective endeavour I and the members of the club arranged an interactive space with few bamboo cots around the banyan tree which is the prime location of the Park. We also created a swing and painted it with vibrant colours. This swing was hung from the tree. The women of the neighbourhood were invited to visit and make the abandoned park active and alive as a shared space for themselves. They came with their kids and enjoyed the swing put up at the Park. Through this process the members of the project have got involved in a dialogue with these women.

’Sanjhi Jagah’ in Hindi is also termed as Public space/Common Space. Here everyone has got the equal claim for that particular space, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, race, profession. It aims to contribute towards making and seeking to give new value to these spaces.
Every afternoon for a week, the women shared about ‘Sanjhi Jagah ‘and those narratives were documented rigorously by the young members. I want to share a glimspe from a narrative of a young woman.

‘Aruna spends her afternoon in the balcony, engaging herself in stitching variety of patterns. This gives her a little earning and is a good pastime. During these hours, she dwells in memories back in her village. How the courtyard used to get filled up with the giggle of her friends, how they used to enjoy the swing hung from the banyan tree, how during the festival they used to dance and sing together in the temple premise, how in the quiet afternoon she used to sneak out of her bed and spend hours chatting with her pals in the cowshed. These all come and fade away as her needle weaves through the soft piece of cloth.
After her marriage, she moved to Delhi. The spaces for movement and the opportunities for sharing have become restricted. Now she only finds the small balcony of the house as the lone space for herself.’

This was one of the themes explored during the workshop on the park project. The emphasis was on visualising the park as a shared space in the neighbourhood.

The second emphasis was on the awareness for cleanliness of the park (sanjhi jagah). The neighbourhood has converted the park in to garbage storage. Initially the people in the neighbourhood were very hostile to what we were doing in developing the park as a shared space. So we decided to work in more active way. We created a bucket and a cloak with the following text written on it.

‘Ghar Saaf kiya?
Kuda kaha fek diya?
Kahin park mein to nahi?
(Sanjhi Jagah, Sabki jagah)

One of the members wore the cloak and others carried the buckets. They visited each house for collecting the garbage personally. This activity was carried since past one week. This created a strong impact on the neighbourhood. People gradually were cooperative and they said that they are trying to stop throwing garbage in the park.

However while we were in dialogue with the neighbourhood through workshops about the shared space and awareness of the responsibility of a shared space, we also faced many odds which is the part of our experiences.


Set up in 2007, Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art is a new Delhi based non-profit organization that encourages, promotes and supports innovative work in the dynamic field of the visual arts. Committed to making contemporary art accessible, increasing greater interaction amongst art institutions and the public, and generating art philanthropy, FICA supports educational activities, research and art grants, and public art projects.
Apart from its annual grants for emerging artists and researchers, FICA’s Public Art Grant seeks to generate interest in public art projects, to spark open debate and to engage artists and the public to look at our environment in different ways. We are proud to support the Park project in 2008.

Ankur Bal Club

Ankur, a Delhi-based NGO is working in the field of experimental pedagogy with children and young adults from working-class resettlement colonies over for more than two decades. The organisation has been experimenting on new genre public art education in various localities of Delhi for the last few years. This is reflected in of the research and artistic representation of social issues through works that interact with the community.

Dakshinpuri is the one of the centres of Ankur. It is a resettlement colony and is part of Ambedkar Nagar area that also comprises Dakshinpuri Extension Khanpur, Deoli and Madangir. It was set up in 1977 to rehabilitate people who were uprooted during emergency (1975-77). Dakshinpuri has 12 blocks and each block has approximately 700 to 750 families.
This is a working class colony where people are engaged in domestic work, skilled work like painters, construction work, factories and also people have got their own shops and general stores.
Children go to government schools, private schools as well as NGO centres.
Water scarcity and electric cuts are severe problems. Though the parks are there, they are not well maintained.

Ankur Bal Club in Dakshinpuri is active in the locality for several years. Unlike the school that instructs children to leave behind their lives and become accumulators of information, the children’s club is a space where children bring along their stories/ lived context. The children between 10-15 years find ample space to express their individual experiences and absorb those of others. It makes them more open to diverse opinions and experiences, and inspires them to view their perceptions and their understanding of the world around them in a new light.

The club activities take place in community parks, grounds, lanes and local centres, thus enabling children to assert their right over these community spaces. Public spaces are being squeezed with the particular process of urbanisation being practised, the act of situating the activities of the Children’s Club in these spaces will help establish children’s ‘ownership’ of these spaces. Children’s ownership and team spirit is an integral feature of the club. Street programs and park events are features that energise the group.

The club has got the opportunity to experiment widely with diverse or a variety of public forms in the community, such as mobile stool, sound booth, wall painting, public hearings and peer exchanges. Here children can present their experiences, express opinions, raise concerns, articulate expectations on a range of issues that affect their lives. They also shall express themselves through plays, puppets, writings, posters. etc.
One of the Public art programmes which the children of Baal club has done in recent times in Dakshinpuri is the ‘Mobile Stool’.
This programme creates opportunities for dialogue between children and people engaged in various skills within the locality who are normally invisible. A mobile stool is conceived as one of the creative medium which engages a carpenter with the young children of the club.
The Stool has an open mouth painted on its top with small doll-size cloths hung around the edges. It has detachable legs which are decorated with various tattoo designs. The table is made unique and attractive so as to catch the attention of people in the locality.
Friday Market: Initially the stool was made as a creative medium to invite and to gather the people/traveller of the locality, where they could share through a common platform.
However, gradually it has attracted a wide range of public in a floating space like the Friday market. Since a year time the children from Baal Club attend the weekly market on every Friday in Dakshinpuri and they actively carry the program through.
People gather around and have interaction with the children through several questions about the creation and purpose of the table. Parents coming with children accept their request to sit with ease and have their photograph clicked. They discuss their interactions with the school during admission and other times. Slowly the mobile Stool has turned into a mobile studio.
An interaction also happens with the shopkeepers which generates texts with rich experiences. The children have learned how to interact and document the narratives in their daily diaries. Children shared their texts with the listeners, created logs and captured the moments in a camera.
While working on such a or projects many multiple creative forms are produced. Stickers, booklets, posters etc. are produced from the content generated from the series of interactions happening at the stool. These objects are again circulated in the community for readership and comments and for further addition of content. This is an ongoing process through which a project is developed from the chiselling of another project. In this way, through stool and its circulation as mobile studio emerged the idea of mobile sound booth. Like the stool that was produced by the carpenter, the sound booth was produced by one of the metal work units in the locality. But after a brief presence in Dakshinpuri this sound booth has travelled to another locality where Ankur works. This is how Ankur shares creative processes and thoughts from one centre to another, one locality to another in the city.

Sreejata Roy

As an artist with a particular interest in community-related projects, she has been deeply interested in exploring the new labour practices that have developed in the neo-liberal political/economic environment, as an articulation and consequence of globalisation, and the impact of such practices upon deeply gendered work experience.
For almost a decade she has been using classical/conventional as well as mixed and digital media, informed by a theoretical framework, to produce narratives about such experience. She is especially compelled by diasporic migrant communities that have undergone (often violent) displacement from their places of origin due to civil war, economic struggles, natural disasters, social/ethnic conflicts, etc. These communities are simultaneously hypervisible (as objects of discrimination) as well as invisible (often without social or legal protections and entitlements) in their host environments.
During her M.Phil. study in media art at the Coventry School of Art and Design, Coventry University,UK from 2001-2005, she has evolved a culturally embedded form of personal practice within her larger investigation of socio-cultural issues via oral history and ethnography, the narration of daily life, and the formation of subjectivity. She initially logged her observations in a diary. These notations – sometimes dense and analytical, at other times fragmented marginalia – functioned as core material for reflection and later articulation through various interlinked media forms and formats.
She is recently awarded with 'Public Art' grant from FICA to reshape a community park. She is also awarded with other prestigious scholarships in India and abroad. Sreejata has participated in many exhibitions, residencies,workshops at national and international level.

She is an independent artist, researcher and also coordinates the community art program in Ankur Society for Alternatives in Education in New Delhi, India

The Park

The project for FICA is aimed to a ‘Public Art' that involves one of the Ankur projects reforming an existing park as a community space in the locality of Dakshinpuri. This would look at the process, how the children cultivate and learn about self, friendship, family, school, neighbourhood, community, locality, and city through building up a park.
In times of rapid urbanisation and remodelling of the city the public spaces for common people, particularly children are shrinking. The landscape of the city is changing at a fast pace and we witness the ever expanding constructions of as it gets skyscrapers, corporate offices or shopping malls. Park can be an interface fostering human connectivity and the creation of significant informal local networks that allow people to survive in this strange situation.
Further Public art can express community values, enhance our environment, transform a landscape, heighten our awareness, or question our assumptions.

Dakshinpuri park is a MCD property that was lying abandoned on one corner of the locality. The people of the locality used the park as a bean to store garbage and during the time/ the children play in the dusty ground.

The artist's intention is to expand and invite engagement and thought through the park:

· Provoking a response in the community people while they visit the space
· Awareness that we are all touching one another’s lives through this space
· Thought transformed to illustrate an individual’s impact on the community

The goal of the project is to celebrate the contributions of community and children and emphasize the pivotal and unique role that art plays as an experimental pedagogy in learning, sharing and developing bond in the neighbourhood for a long term.
So, the park would be designed as a space where the processes and expressions may range from the more traditional, yielding conventional objects or events to research based approaches that engender new conceptual frameworks for exploratory dialogue and experimental creation.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The concept of saanjhi jagah (shared space) is in every context set within a framework of conflict, control, rights, privileges and entitlements. Other terms for this particular configuration of joint / mutual claims by a community, locality or group (‘common space’, ‘public space’, ‘collective space’) also reinforce these parameters, regardless of the form of that space – a courtyard, a patch of grass, flowerbeds, a playground, the shade of trees, a bench, a charpai, a plinth, a parapet, a terrace, a pavement… or the early morning queue for the shared resource of water from the municipal hand-pump or tap, one’s particular spot in the line marked by buckets, matkas, kitchen vessels, rusted cans, stones…

Shared spaces may be temporary or permanent, amorphous or concrete, assertive or elusive, and may overlap with claims to private / personal space adjacent to, linked with or assimilated within the larger domain. They are marked with certain rules and codes, and demand constant negotiation, capitulation, redistribution and compromise. As nodes that generate and enable various kind of socialities, they continually invoke various pragmatic ethical assumptions about ownership, flexibility, responsibility and consensus.

As artist / researcher involved in The Park, an ongoing public art project in the locality of Dakshinpuri, I with my group researching the concept of shared spaces and the activities that take place within these. We have compiled a series of narratives by local users of this space, based on their memories of shared spaces in village life, as well as in the Delhi of two decades ago. The accounts offer perspectives on changes in sensibility under the relentless pressure of contemporary urban ‘development’.

Sreejata Roy