Walking past the Sai Baba Temple into the by-lanes of Khirki village, one comes across the sites of KHOJ, Gati, and the more recent establishment of Studio Khirki, each of them a site for alternative practices challenging the conventional landscape of arts - both visual and performance.
The Irregulars Art Fair (TIRAF) 2019 is the latest addition to such initiatives. The 2019 edition (January 31-February 5) took place at Studio Khirki, a former warehouse. Taking place parallel to India Art Fair 2019, which was located at the NSIC Grounds, the founders of TIRAF, Tarini Sethi and Anant Ahuja wished to do all but draw a parallel between the two fairs. Proclaiming it as the anti art-fair, they explored the bizarre, the weird, the unseen, the un-exhibited, the rebellious, and the irregular, through the theme of 'Altered Realities’ at this fair.
According to Sethi, curator and co-founder of TIRAF, the idea of the anti art-fair was quite simple. She emphasised, “We aim to give independent artists a platform to showcase their work through the egalitarian model of open calls. I have been curating small shows for the last few years for independent artists, from a desperate need for not only an informal version of representation but some sort of platform for artists. In India, it is getting increasingly hard to show your work as an artist outside of social media, which is why the younger generation, as they should, are taking this matter into their own hands. The Irregulars Art Fair came from the same idea, but was translated into a much bigger form.”
TIRAF, then, was started with the intention towards alternative art practices, to provide a platform to artists beyond the confines of the white cube gallery model. The fair was intended to encourage interaction between the artists and foster collaborations across artistic disciplines. Breaking down the traditional models of display, boundaries of artistic genre and hierarchies of representation and commerce, TIRAF 2019 extended beyond the purview of visual art to include film, music, performance, design and more. The show included over 130 artists, 30 performances, five workshops, interactive art, virtual reality art, six films and a film room.
In addition, the exhibition at Studio Khirki housed a Reading Room, which displayed zines and prints by artists from around the world. Subsequent to the main show, there were two satellite shows – the Mural Show at DhanMill Compound as well as The Poster Show at Agenc with 40 illustrators and designers making posters around the theme.
On being questioned about the process of selection given the diversity of the exhibit, Sethi explained the three criteria, “One, we wanted mediums and styles of every kind. Two, the proposal had to fit our theme ‘Altered Realities’. Three, the proposal needed to be out of the box and the artists needed to show that they were willing to get out of their comfort zone.”
What then emerged from the cocktail of these criteria was a selection of younger artists, mostly unrepresented by established galleries, who dealt with the angst of their generation expressing issues of discomfort, rebellion, identity, politics and socio-cultural conditionings.