'Nowhere Is Home', a conversation on transforming memories into artefacts

At PHOTOINK gallery in New Delhi, curator Bharat Sikka discusses the idea of home, challenges of curation, and limitations of photography, through three photographer’s works.

by Shraddha NairPublished on : Jan 03, 2023

Showcasing the work of three different photographers—Yahsna Kaul, Devashish Gaur, and Abhishek Khedekar, PHOTOINK, an art gallery based in New Delhi, India, presented a group exhibition titled Nowhere is Home, conceived and curated by artist and curator Bharat Sikka. Each featured artist grapples with the notion of home and their individual relationship to the idea, through their photography practice. The word ‘home’ is one that has been taken apart and reconstructed repeatedly through several exhibitions, in recent years. What makes this such a deeply interesting topic? When I look back on the past two years or even 20 years of my life, it has been full of movement. Unlike most people, my experience of life has been fragmented by shifting from one physical environment to another. I have grown to embrace the concept of home being more of a feeling, rather than a place or space. As the world moves towards a more global economy, the idea of a home or habitat has been dissected and deconstructed over and over again. In fact, most of us now live on the internet—in the digital realm. In a conversation with Sikka, STIR delves deeper into the evolving abstraction of ‘home.’

Installation view at Nowhere is Home at Photo Ink, New Delhi | Nowhere is Home | STIRworld
Installation view at Nowhere is Home at Photoink, New Delhi Image: Rishi Raj Jain; Courtesy of PHOTOINK and Devika Daulet Singh
Untitled, Pigment print on fabric | Nowhere is Home | STIRworld
Untitled, Pigment print on fabric, Abhishek Khedekar Image: Courtesy of Abhishek Khedekar and PHOTOINK

Founder of PHOTOINK, Devika Daulet-Singh, and Sikka had been discussing collaboration for months. Sikka tells us how the idea for Nowhere is Home emerged—“After going through a lot of artist’s work, I found that people were exploring their families and hometown or perhaps looking back on their family archives. The idea of home became important at this point, also because we are so engaged with the outside world, we kind of reminisce back on home for comfort, security and for artistic reasons. And the idea was to build a conversation around families and artefacts and the myriad of different ways they choose to engage with it, and that is how the idea came to be.”

Installation view at the exhibition by Devashish Gaur | Nowhere is Home | STIRworld
Installation view at the exhibition by Devashish Gaur Image: Rishi Raj Jain; Courtesy of PHOTOINK and Devika Daulet Singh

Sikka selected three artists, whose practice approached the concept in three distinctly different ways. Bringing them together into one exhibition was a deliberate decision the curator made for several reasons. He says, "I wanted to keep only three artists with very different approaches and wanted the show to be impactful. Yashna explored her family history through pictures her father had taken back in the day, and how she processes her father’s early onset of Alzheimer’s and her conflicted family history into this arrangement of archival pictures. Abhishek goes back to his hometown with a curiosity and the want to connect to the history of his own town and people. Devashish brings his domestic space and connects it to his grandfather and father and how it shapes his sense of self.”

Installation view, Yashna Kaul | Nowhere is Home | STIRworld
Installation view, Yashna Kaul Image: Rishi Raj Jain; Courtesy of PHOTOINK and Devika Daulet Singh

Through the exhibition, Sikka presents the concept of home as one which exists in contradiction. While it is instinctively a space of comfort and safety, it is often a place of conflict and tension. The exhibition presents the inherent asymmetry of the home—the constant push and pull between belonging and estrangement, confinement and freedom, authenticity and performance. The concept of home is a common one because there is no end to how the idea can be unpacked. Sikka shares, “In a world today, with everyone engaging with the world physically, emotionally, and virtually, a lot of people feel the pressure of the vast amounts of information that is thrown at them. In a world that is becoming so universal the idea of home still remains unique and personal to everybody and how they engage with it.”

Installation view: Yashna Kaul’s works hung on the wall | Nowhere is Home | STIRworld
Installation view: Yashna Kaul’s works hung on the wall Image: Rishi Raj Jain; Courtesy of PHOTOINK and Devika Daulet Singh
Sea is Rough, 2020, Pigment print | Nowhere is Home | STIRworld
Sea is Rough, 2020, Pigment print, Yashna Kaul Image: Courtesy of Yashna Kaul and PHOTOINK

Nowhere is Home also pushes the boundaries of the medium of photography. It flirts with the line between art and artefact, playing with the form of the photo itself. The exhibition presents the photographers’ works as montages, posters, and photo boxes to expand the viewer’s perception of the medium. As a practising photographer himself, who studied at the Parsons School of Design (New York, USA), his approach to curating photography comes from a personal space. Sikka tells us, “For me it’s always exciting to engage with other artists and it’s a give and take process. Very often a lot of my own personal vision can be embedded into a curatorial process.”

Installation view, Abhishek Khedekar | Nowhere is Home | STIRworld
Installation view, Abhishek Khedekar Image: Rishi Raj Jain; Courtesy of PHOTOINK and Devika Daulet Singh
Untitled, pigment print, Abhishek Khedekar | Nowhere is Home | STIRworld
Untitled, pigment print, Abhishek Khedekar Image: Courtesy of Abhishek Khedekar and PHOTOINK

The project did not come without its challenges. Sikka says, “Usually it’s easier to curate a solo exhibition. It is more of a challenge to maintain a consistent voice when curating a group show. It is also the reason I chose to work with only three artists, so they all had the space to tell their own story. Even to align their works visually, through montage, box prints, image grids etc. was a challenge since they’re all distinct and unique in style.”

Hands of God, II, 2018, Pigment prints in vintage album sleeves, Yashna Kaul | Nowhere is Home | STIRworld
Hands of God, II, 2018, Pigment prints in vintage album sleeves, Yashna Kaul Image: Courtesy of Yashna Kaul and PHOTOINK

The exhibition at PHOTOINK was on display until November 19, 2022.

Untitled, Pigment print on fabric | Nowhere is Home | STIRworld
Untitled, Pigment print on fabric, Abhishek Khedekar Image: Courtesy of Abhishek Khedekar and PHOTOINK

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