Read on for extracts from week two of the Arts & Ecology residency at KHOJ Artists' Association. You check out the full version on the Arts & Ecology project page.
'Asim takes us to the Yamuna River.
On the way, I see a man giving a block of ice ‘a seaty’ on the back of his bike - he’s pedalling fast cos it’s melting.
First stop is an illegal Muslim settlement that neighbours the Yamuna River. A high red fence cuts access to the banks of the river, it has been recently erected - 2005 or so. The reason for the erection is unknown. We look through the fence at green misty marsh beds, the river stench encircles us.
We go to the bridge. We can’t take photos here - there’s a general fear that bridges and other vital civil structures may come under terrorist attack. We look over and the smell of pollution is so over whelming I get a headache from it.
There are a lot of plants taking up a lot of space. Asim tells us the story; Lady Mountbatten, the wife of the last Viceroy of India was having an affair with Jawaharlal Nehru (first Prime Minister of India). As a token of her affection she gave him water Hyacinth, the settler plant started occupying every inch of the waters taking advantage of its resilience to the system in place. It starves the water of oxygen so a beetle was modified to combat the Hyacinth’s strong hold and its reign collapses. Interesting analogy.
On the other side of the road we can walk down to the bank. One of the boaters takes us for a spin through toxic foam, passing plastic bags and general detritus. Even though the river is extremely polluted things seem to carry on, things somehow keep going, Swifts dip the water and I still get that sense of relief and grounding I find a trip on the water offers.
Boys are diving for things of value.
The river is sacred yet its physical mortality is not recognised.
…. the alchemy of transformation is rapid and very visible here.'
'In pursuit of the idea of self made and the exploitation of the hand made. I visit the local basement embroiderers in Kirkee village. They are all in basements, young men do all the work, some are paid a meal a day. We visit four in total, the work they are doing is extremely fine and sells for a lot of money. Taking photos is generally not an option, and the atmosphere is quite tense. The last place we visit is the most comfortable. It’s small with three people working and we talk directly the embroiderer’s. I ask him if they can teach me embroidery.
They say it takes at least 6 months but I could go along. I like the idea of taking on a job of this kind. Heath and I discuss this as an option for the project producing a map on the shawls whilst I go to work to learn about the people’s lives and the technique.
Unfortunately this would require a time much longer than our remaining weeks. Possibly could see if I could go for three days to add to the research experience.'