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Twenty five years of Khoj in support of expanding the idea of art in the region

In a candid conversation, Khoj Director Pooja Sood takes us down the memory lane of setting up Khoj, renewing its vision over the years, and talks about the plans going forward.

by Rahul KumarPublished on : Jul 29, 2022

In the contemporary context, arts have a significant role to play in both, understanding and influencing the society at large. At a time when India had a suboptimal modern art ecosystem, and contemporary arts was still nascent, there was a gap to be filled. One that expanded the horizon, both for artists and viewers, on the very idea of contemporary arts. Khoj International Artists' Association was formed 25 years back with the very objective in support of the arts within the country and region. A not-for-profit organisation based in New Delhi, it was initiated by a group of like-minded people from the arts community, and it continues to be patronised by arts ecosystem till date. The seven founding members include Subodh Gupta, Bharti Kher, Ajay Desai, PS Ladi, Anita Dube, Manisha Parekh, and Pooja Sood.

“The idea of Khoj began in 1997 as a gift of possibility given by Robert Loder (the visionary founder of the Triangle Arts Trust). When Indian artists felt isolated and unsupported, Khoj enabled young practitioners to create art in an open-ended, experimental manner, by providing a space independent of formal institutions and the constraints of the commercial gallery,” says Pooja Sood, Founding Member and Director, Khoj.

Khoj offered the chance to establish international networks without institutional support, and emerged as the only organisation providing an 'alternative' space for contemporary art practice.

The two fundamental questions Khoj asks are: What does art do? What can art be? “Khoj believes that art is of intrinsic value to society; it is a crucial form of inquiry that provides unique insights and drives change through affect. …we have been committed towards building global networks and solidarities, especially in the subcontinent,” affirms its statement of purpose. The organisation is focused on incubating emerging, experimental, and more significantly transdisciplinary creative practices and pedagogies.

The plans going forward? - “…it is critical to develop a successor. And before I handover, it is my duty to put systems in place, and write what the core of Khoj stands for,” says Sood.

I engage with Pooja Sood over the conversation on her journey with Khoj since its inception.

STIR in conversation with Pooja Sood, Founding Member and Director, Khoj Video: Vatsala Sethi; Courtesy of STIR

Also read:
Part I: Air expo 2022 by Khoj sensitised viewers about the common issue of air pollution
Part II: ‘Does the Blue Sky Lie?’ at Khoj looks at testimonials around air
Part III: 'Café Classroom': a pursuit to relearn relationship across humans and nature

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