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

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