Calendar project was a hypothetical device that contained collages of personal photographs of twelve families residing in D-1 block of DLF Dilshad Garden Extension. We made a calendar for these twelve families of a neighbourhood. We collected each family’s personal photographs (old, individual or group), and constructed a hand-made collage of their ideal family’s group photograph, with dead and living members or even distant relatives of the family sharing the same space, collapsing time and generational shifts, to bring them all together on one surface. For example, a married son and daughter-in-law with their new-born being collaged into their parent’s wedding photograph. We also collected their family histories: narratives of themselves in the form of text, stories told and memory-slates, travels, successes and failures. Both images and text were collated and inscribed on one page/month of the calendar, and which was gifted to these 12 families in December 2010. In the format each family became a month.
A gift to eleven families, the 2011 calendar was an experiment with duration. It produced a collective situation amongst a community that stays in a particular location; a play with past, present and future on one surface and encouraged a different learning of each other or one’s neighbour. Each page of all the 12 calendars (144 pages in total) was different, represented an enquiry into the notion of family. WALA was one of the twelve families / months presented in the calendar.
For us ‘Calendar Project’ becomes an exercise in Time, encouraging modes of engagement with personal histories. The fixity of location and public for a given time-frame is challenging and exploratory for us, as the work shall manifest itself in different registers. Calendar functions as a time-generating machine, whose display or non-display is beyond our artistic control, or as a mechanism where no direct mediation happens, where everyone becomes a subject for someone else. It is an effective re-cycling machine that re-cycles family’s memories, allowing a collaborative effort in re-looking at photographs, their own stories, or documented material from the family’s archive—an internal gazing during the process of selecting text and photographs that will represent them amongst the other eleven families, and looking outside (to others) after the installation of calendar in neighbour’s houses. As a calendar, it is going to produce experiences or changes that are not measurable by us. The work extends to incorporating the processes of distribution, reception and final consumption of the calendar, further weaving themselves into an interactive chain of narratives.
What we do achieve through this long duration-based engagement with the public is a rupture from “event-centred encounters”, where everything is not positioned through one encounter in which the participants are expected to respond immediately. The one-year duration creates the possibility for multiple encounters and encounters not necessarily only between us and them, but also the calendar and them, or amongst the twelve families in the form of a presence in their houses. The location of the work keeps changing from the neighbourhood to private interiors of different houses. Each filters into another, and keeps the experience dynamic.
Is it possible to moderate ‘locality’ or ‘neighbourhood’ through individual narratives? How can interactions within a community be facilitated on the grounds of ‘belonging’ and ‘identity’? How do they articulate their pasts into present? This Calendar of the future invites slippages into past thinking about different forms of remembrance. To put them into formulaic processes of articulating self, where larger narratives of class, caste, religion etc. through which an individual attempts self-iconization, become only a frame and not the content. Content remains intrinsic to individual experience, and to the other narratives an individual embeds himself/herself into; for example, the necessity to inhabit the city and its folds encourages many erasures such as forgetting not just where you come from but also that you came from outside—to inhabit one has to create a sense of belonging, ownership, claims, counter-claims, amnesia, or a uniformity of memories of living in different locations in Delhi.
In our first round of interactions with these families we were being framed, validated, and rejected by them. Once first acceptance was granted then it led to a referential chain that linked us from one family to the other, and that made it a little easier to access. We soon became part of public knowledge of the neighbourhood, which implies we were being discussed and talked about. It is this inclusion or becoming the subject ‘ourselves’ that gave us a degree of access for second round of conversations, in which each family opened up to the idea of sharing. Leading to many more rounds and our calendar-distribution event.
This community art-project involved a fixed audience/public – the twelve families of D1 block of DLF (DLF is India’s largest real estate company) neighbourhood of Dilshad Garden Extension, UP-Delhi border, for duration of a year. These 12 families, or even other families in D1 block, do not form a community based on any particular identity—they are a neighbourhood. Developed by DLF, this neighbourhood falls in-between the Delhi and Ghaziabad (Uttar Pradesh) border. DilshadGarden is in Delhi and across Seemapuri bus depot road is DilshadGarden extension which falls in Uttar Pradesh. This periphery of Delhi-UP border is surrounded with many small-scale industrial set-ups, with most of the population thriving on menial jobs. Almost 20 years ago, DLF had built this shopping-cum-residential colony, basing it on the needs of that particular region—shops below, and residential spaces above. This turned out to be a big failure as a maximum number of shops never got sold, and many flats are still unsold. Non-occupation or irregular occupation of the colony has created major problems for those who have invested and have land claims in DLF. Most of the inhabitants of DLF are either from the middle class who travel long distances from their perhipheral location to the centre of the city (CP, karol bagh or Gurgaon etc), or low-income group tenant families as accommodation in this area is cheaper.
We gifted the calendar to twelve families (including ourselves) in an event in December 2010. Here are some pictures:
Final Calendars for WALA Family)
Below is one of the twelve calendars: Jan – Dec 2011