Artist residencies Twelve artists, ten hosts, one city

bangaloREsidency 2015
bangaloREsidency 2015 | Photo: © Simone Schiffer

Twelve artists, ten hosts, one city, innumerable projects: for four to eight weeks, Bangalore, India’s hi-tech city, was at the centre of the bangaloREsidency 2015. A visit. 

It is two in the morning when the 12 bangaloREsidents come through security at Bangalore airport. Despite the long journey, they are fresh and cheerful, as they are welcomed with garlands. Equipped with welcome bags, mobile phones and mosquito repellent, the convey of taxis starts moving towards the city centre but not before photographer Sabine Schründer has her first taste of India: all of a sudden, her suitcase flies into the night – from the top of the car, full steam ahead! No damage done and all are in a good mood as one artist after the other is dropped off at the houses of their hosts.

The cultural oases in the city

Yet the 12 artists – a mix of photographers, illustrators, filmmakers, designers, architects and installation artists – do not have much time to rest. Christoph Bertrams, the director, and Maureen Gonsalves, the programme coordinator, accompanied by four assistants, have planned the first day of the bangaloREsidency down to the last detail. The newcomers are to be acquainted with the cultural oases in the city as quickly as possible.

They start at two theatres – Jagriti and Ranga Shankara. Their founders – Arundhati and Jagdish Raja and Arundhati Nag respectively – talk about the unique history of the theatres and give the visitors an insight into India’s cultural policy and into the funding for culture. The bangaloREsidents can’t have enough of quizzing their Indian hosts about the Bangalore cultural scene.

U.R. Vasanth Rao, manager of Namma Metro, talks about his double life as manager of the Metro Rail Corporation and as a lover of art. He receives the group in the auditorium of the Rangoli Metro Arts Centre, a cluster of small galleries situated directly below the metro tracks. This is already the second metro station where Vasanth Rao has made room for art. And now he is looking after the photographer Kathrin Delhougne, Namma Metro’s very first bangaloREsident.

From the metro station under the flyover: Archana Prasad, director of the artist collective Jaaga DNA, proudly displays her project UFO – Under the FlyOver. Jaaga performs along a full 15 kilometres of the many flyovers one comes across in Bangalore, which are now the new playground for the architect Hermann Hiller and performance artist Jérôme Chazeix.

Industrial racks and hanging gardens

Far from the noise of traffic, Archana and Suresh Jayaram showcase other projects at 1 Shanthi Road. 1 Shanthi Road is the oldest home of the arts in Bangalore and Jayaram is its founder. Archana’s projects in the public domain are a topic for conversation among the bangaloREsidents – on the terrace, accompanied by food and drink.

And while the artists settle in and get down to work in the days that follow, Christoph Bertram and Maureen Gonsalves organise more lectures and guided tours: National Gallery of Modern Arts (NGMA), Suchitra Film Society, the urban action NGO – MOD Institute, InCITE Gallery for Architecture and the Tasveer Gallery for photography. All are Goethe-Institut partners and invite the German guests, introduce them to their projects in Bangalore, and provide them with a first insight into the functioning of a dynamic mega city.

At the end of the week there is a ‘Rendezvous with bangaloREsidents’, an evening when the 12 artists present their work and upcoming projects in Bangalore. Always a highlight in the institute’s event calendar. In addition to representatives from Bangalore’s art and culture scene, Riyas Komu, co-founder of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) is also present.

In Sabine Schründer he already has his first bangaloREsident. She will hold photography workshops in Kochi for Riyas’ KMB Foundation. Impressed by the presentations, he spontaneously invites the Hamburg designer Christian Schüten to Kerala to give a lecture on his work in the circular economy. And so not only does Christian teach at the Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology as planned, but also travels twice to Kerala. The bangaloREsidency is spreading out!

The hustle and bustle of a megacity

The 12 artists – regardless of whether they are staying in the city for four or eight weeks – remain immersed in their work. While the filmmakers Miriam Jakobs and Gerhard Schick are taken by their hosts Anand Varadaraj, Prakash Belawadi and Naresh Narasimhan to the urban hotspots of Bangalore and start planning a cloak-and-dagger operation involving the city’s history, Jérôme and Hermann, accompanied by local assistants, battle their way through the bustling markets. Jérôme is looking for fabric to make costumes for the parade he has planned, Hermann uses his hands and feet to work out a deal for a car mirror for his performance, and for safety vests for ‘not-to-be-run-over-bags’. In the evening, laden with shopping bags, sweat dripping down their foreheads and surprise written all over their faces, they collapse into the chairs at Koshy’s, the restaurant for intellectuals.

In the mean time, the photographer Kathrin Delhougne is doing the rounds of all the metro stations in the city, documenting construction work underground. Julia Knop discovers wastewater plants operated by the NGO BORDA on the edge of the city; Stepan Ueding loses himself in the chaos and illustrates his encounters; Paul Hutchinson accompanies hip hop dancers; Christian teaches students in bathroom design; and Sabine Felber meets Bangalore’s women and uses their self-portraits and personal experiences to vouch for their safety.The history of the city under cover of the nightFilmmakers Miriam and Gerhard finally manage to do what their hosts Prakash and Naresh have been dreaming of for ages: bringing the former Bangalore Fort, and hence the past of today’s IT centre, back to life for one night! They obtain official permission to walk together with hundreds of Bangaloreans dressed in red at night across the limits of the city’s old fort to bring them to light once again. The local press outdoes itself, the telephone in the institute rings incessantly, and then close to 300 citizens actually do meet, walk the streets of the old city centre at around 2 in the morning, share stories of the past, sing, celebrate. All are fascinated – and Miriam and Gerhard have scenes in the can which will later be made into their film, Red Kote Night.

Not a wellness residency, as health goes for a toss

The physical strain of working, planning and dealing with unfamiliar production speeds starts to make itself felt. The bangaloREsidency is not a wellness residency. Kathrin Delhougne catches dengue, sooner or later almost everybody’s stomach succumbs to the unfamiliar food, and some fall ill briefly having caught the inevitable air-conditioning flu. The Goethe-Institut team knows how intense these weeks are and the staff and hosts therefore look after the patients until they are well again. Suresh from 1 Shanthi Road even brews Kathrin a juice made from papaya leaves, which gets her back on her feet in just a few days.

Work with a knock-on effect

After four to eight weeks of intensive work, each bangaloREsident presents what he or she has created. For Christoph Bertram and Maureen Gonsalves it is important that the bangaloREsidency is not a one-way street but that the German artists give something back to their hosts and to the city. Miriam and Gerhard, together with their workshop participants, show their films; Paul presents his photographs on hip hop culture at 1 Shanthi Road; Simona receives visitors at her exhibition in the National Centre for Biological Sciences; Julia takes her guests at BORDA on a tour of her photographs; Sabine Felber invites the women she has portrayed to the exhibition in the Goethe-Institut auditorium.

The event calendar and the newspapers are full, the events well attended. During their time in Bangalore, the residents have built their own networks, shared experiences with local artists and established valuable contacts. A large group of young Bangaloreans dance under the flyover following Jérôme’s parade We Make the City; photographers and photography students visit Kathrin’s book launch First Phase in the Rangoli Metro Arts Centre. And the auditorium at the institute is full for the group show Rendezvous Reloaded displaying the combined works of Sabine Schründer, Simona, Sabine Felber, Stepan and Hermann. The finale is provided by Christian who not only exhibits the works of his 16 Srishti students but invites four representatives of important design institutions for a discussion on design and production in India. Christoph Bertrams is satisfied: ‘Christian is the first bangaloREsident from the field of design. With his work he has established new and important Indo-German contacts. That’s just what the bangaloResidency is there for.’

And as one bangaloREsident after the other boards the plane back to Germany or climbs on to a motorbike to go further south in India, Christoph Bertrans, Maureen Gonsalves and their team are sitting in the office, analysing the bangaloResidency that has just come to an end and are already planning the next one. They already know who’s coming back: Miriam and Gerhard will continue to work on their film project in 2016. The bangaloResidency has a knock-on effect.