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Buddy’s got your back!

Buddies Liv, Max, Kerstin, Marie, Nandita
Buddies Liv, Max, Kerstin, Marie and Nandita | Photo: Dr. Claus Heimes © Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan

Quietly working behind the scenes, this year’s bangaloREsidency interns spill the beans on what it’s like to be an official “buddy”.

Behind any big, many-tentacled programme like the bangaloREsidency, is always a group of people silently making the whole thing work. Of the many hearts and minds that work tireless to keep the bangaloREsidency running as smoothly as possible are a group of visitors themselves – the residency’s interns. This year, four interns from Germany – Kerstin Meenen, Liv Hunzinger, Marie Knop and Max Hollerith – kept the ship sailing. Each of them travelled to Bangalore to help with organising and also to observe the residency from up close. All of them artists, art lovers, or students of the arts themselves, they came to interact with fellow artists, as well as to explore a new place.

Once the residents arrived, each of them was assigned an intern, who would be their “buddy”. Each intern buddied up with 2-3 residents and was tasked with being their human telephone directory, their Google Maps, and also their shoulder to cry on. Well, only in a manner of speaking. For the time that the artists were in Bangalore, the buddy system gave them a go-to person for everything from clerical information to the best neighbourhood pubs – together, the buddies could help each other navigate Bangalore and its madness.
On a typical Monday morning during the bangaloREsidency, the interns were hard at work in front of computer screens in the Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Library. They were not with their buddies, but working to finalise the residents’ final presentations. They were more than happy to step out for some air, when I stopped by to chat with them.

Kerstin, Liv, Marie & Max Kerstin, Liv, Marie & Max | Image: Poorna Swami © Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan “To be honest, I thought I’d be hanging out with artists at galleries all the time”, Max laughed. He and the other interns had only read about the bangaloREsidency on the internet when they applied. But they were curious. “When I applied, I too thought I would be around artists all the time”, Marie said, “but when you get here you see the whole thing develop and the work that goes into setting it up.”
At the start of their time with the Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan, the interns read through the various residents’ proposals and chose whom they wanted to team up with. “I could have taken all of them,” Marie said, “everything sounded so interesting!” The others agreed, though they admitted that at the time of choosing, they weren’t sure what being a buddy was about. “I kind of knew there was a buddy system,” Liv said, “though I didn’t know what exactly that meant.” Now, being in the thick of it, she revealed that as part of their work as buddies, they send artists tips on what events to catch around the city, help with their social media, and aid them in finding resources for their projects. “It’s the small things,” Marie quipped.
Beyond meeting them at official events like presentations and Institute-organised activities, some interns did leisurely things with their buddies. Liv went rock climbing in Badami with Marius and a few others. Kerstin visited Verena at her host organisation, Abhinaya Taranga, and later they went to see a play together. As they interacted with the artists through the buddy system, the interns also began to observe Bangalore differently, or found that they had been discovering the city in similar ways. “Marius is working on a project with the idea of jugaad”, Kerstin said, “I hadn’t heard of it before. But now I see it everywhere!” Liv concurred. “We had been noticing that many billboards around the city had had their flex removed and then Marius told us he was taking pictures of all these skeletons of billboards for his project… we are all seeing the same things so it’s really interesting.”
Although the buddies have managed to carve out some fun time with their artists, Max lamented that “It would be nice to have more informal interactions, bring in our biographies, and not just always be ‘Hey, what do you need’.” As he said this, Kerstin offered a solution. “A buddy day would be cool! The residency is a really intense experience and we could do an activity that is more relaxing. Something that gives us a chance to chat in a private situation – otherwise, we’re always in a group.”
When asked if they would change anything for next year, all four interns agreed that they would like a local intern on their team. “We don’t get here that much before the residents,” Marie said, “so often we don’t have ready answers for them. We have to look up areas we’ve never heard of or been to or ask someone else for the answer”, she stressed, “It’s about intercultural exchange so it would be nice to have someone who knows Bangalore better.”  “Oh, a basic course in Kannada would be nice, too!” Liv added.
As the residency winds down, the buddies split up to go their separate ways. Liv and Marie head back to Germany, while Kerstin will stay a few extra weeks before visiting Malaysia. And Max, well, he said, “I plan to stay here in India until I run out of money.”