Recipient of the Objectifs Artist Studio Residency 2020

Objectifs welcomed visual artist Kanchana Gupta as the artist-in-residence for our Objectifs Artist Studio Residency programme during Feb-Mar 2020. The programme provides residents with valuable space to develop projects in a conducive environment.

Objectifs spoke with Kanchana about her first foray into the medium of film, her interest in mainstream Indian cinema songs, and her learning points from the residency.

What led you to apply for the Objectifs Artist Studio Residency?

I have been working primarily with paint, installation and mixed media materials for the last 10 years. Recently, I found myself interested in exploring the history, iconology, artifices and the process behind the creation of an image which was very common in mainstream Indian cinema songs especially during the 80s and 90s when I was growing up.

The image in question is of a female body, gyrating sensuously and making suggestive gestures while in a rain soaked chiffon sari that clings to her and accentuates her curves. It has been a continued motif in mainstream Indian cinema, capturing the male gaze and imagination for over a 100 years. This voyeuristic image is basically a construct, created to serve a purpose. However over time, the construct becomes perceived as reality in our collective imagination and memory.

I decided to explore this image as well as the role it played informing my perception of my own femininity and desirability during my growing years, using the medium of film, and my own body.

This is my first foray into film and I was looking for opportunities to take this exploration forward. I came across the residency opportunity at Objectifs and thought it was the opportune platform to deepen my research and to learn a few things about this medium that is new to me.

What did you work on and how did you go about it?

I decided to explore the following key concepts through three video works:

  1. To investigate and explore the process of fabricating an identity and the nature of its representation.
  2. To explore the role photography and video as mediums play in manufacturing this image and in creating fictions by adding elements of editing, breaking time and space, etc.
  3. To explore the concept of the camera gaze as a substitute for the male gaze in this process. The image and the process are camera mediated, while the artist’s gestures, actions, poses and intimate gaze are directed towards the camera and ultimately towards the spectator.
  4. To explore the iconology of a manufactured image through artifices, symbols and visual codes like clothes, colour, hair, makeup, jewellery, movements, postures, song, dance, etc.

I had planned a shoot of my raw video footage before starting the residency so that I could spend one month focused on learning about editing and sound, exploring display options and visual aspects of the narrative, reading and research as well as seeking feedback from the team at Objectifs.

What were the highlights of your month-long residency?

The key highlight was four small group screening and feedback sessions that the team at Objectifs helped me organise, including one with their team members. Those sessions provided me with critical points of view, cross cultural references and a few key questions.

Another highlight has been the experience of working with an editor to understand how editing can be used to present a narrative in different ways visually as well as conceptually, how to use sound effectively, and how to plan my next shoot better. I also learnt about various considerations to display works based on the experience that I want to create among the viewers.

How has this residency impacted you and your art practice?

This residency came at a critical juncture in my practice, where I am beginning to explore the medium of video for a new subject. The residency helped me to connect with people, learn about the medium and build my confidence to keep exploring it further.

I am synthesising all the feedback received and working on the next set of works in this series, as well as the direction of research.

What are some of your takeaways from the residency and how have you found your foray into working in the medium of film?

Working in the medium of film has been a truly enjoyable learning experience so far. Film is a very dynamic medium and perfect for this subject, which I aim to keep exploring for a while. My key takeaway is that planning for the shoot — especially camera angles, and syncing the sound with the camera — is very critical to pay attention to. Better planning makes the editing process and the intended outcomes more effective.

Was there anything that you wish could have been accomplished during the residency that you didn’t manage to? 

I would have liked to organise an artist talk and screening session for a wider audience; however it was not feasible due to external circumstances. (Objectifs’ Note: Stay tuned for details on a residency sharing session in the near future, contingent on the Covid-19 situation!

Do you have any advice for artists interested in applying for residencies such as this one? 

It’s a short residency, so plan it well. I created a weekly plan of what I wanted to focus on and achieve each week. It helped me to stay focused.

Look at what you can learn, how you can exchange thoughts and ideas with the community and how you can leverage the knowledge and experience of the team there. Also plan your studies in advance, if you need to work on them during the residency and get some feedback.

Stay tuned for a residency sharing session by Kanchana Gupta in the near future (date to be confirmed, contingent on the Covid-19 situation).

Please email if you would like to be informed when the Objectifs Artist Studio Residency is next open for applications.