Screen grab of Tenzin Dakpa and Anshika Varma in a Guftgu session
“Images have almost become our companions today, more so in the pandemic, where our real-life connections and motivations exist within the lens-based worlds we create.”
NOW ON was conceived as a call that welcomed ideas, thoughts and experiments that responded to the current crisis and its impact on the work of promoting arts and international arts exchange. Of the 100+ applications received, eight received the Now On grant. The Now On series of interviews presents the recipients of the Now On grant and their projects.
Photo credit: Adil Hasan
In this interview Delhi based photographer, curator and artist Anshika Varma, who also is founder of Offset Projects, talks about the Guftgu Series, which received the Now On grant.
1. Could you introduce Offset Projects?
In my mind, Offset Projects is a laboratory for questions I have with photography. I wanted a space, not defined by a room or a studio, where photographers can come together to experiment and share ideas on how we can use lens media in different ways, keeping the ethics and intent of the work as a priority. We have a big focus on how books can be this medium to communicate. With the same in mind, we organize artist talks, pop-up reading rooms, workshops, programs in universities, an online bookshop and are currently working on a residency program. Along with this we are also in conversation with artists working on their own publications and might need any help or assistance with it.
2. What is the Guftgu series?
At Offset, we really value the process of collective engagement through introspection and reflective inquiry. The Guftgu Series emerged as a part of our pop-up libraries, the Offset Pitara. With every curation and edition of a Pitara, I would program for a talk or a space where readers (whether they were photographers or not) could have a moment to reflect on and share about a book they had engaged with. We would leave postcards for our readers to respond to the book, to write letters to people they knew or to objects, feelings and thoughts contained within the book itself. Over time the format expanded and has brought artists to share their process and concerns of book-making as an exercise.
“We felt this was a time to open the conversations to South Asia, freed by the limitations of logistics that might be involved in executing something similar in a physical space.”
3. What inspired you to apply to the Now On grant?
With the restrictions that came up during the pandemic, our scheduled workshops and talks had to pause. This offered us time to understand and think of ways in which we could engage with practitioners across the region. Within our own isolated worlds, we felt this was a time to open the conversations to South Asia, freed by the limitations of logistics that might be involved in executing something similar in a physical space. The Now On Grant was serendipitous as it focussed on processes that were dealing with the same questions and I felt it might offer us room for an expansion. We decided to organize talks that can be available online where participants can engage with artists and hopefully, in the process, create an archive of book practitioners from South Asia to look at their concerns and the works in the region.
4. How does the Guftgu Talk Series promote artistic work despite the pandemic?
I feel an artists’ work will always be able to hold its own place, with the Guftgu Talk Series we hope to be able to create conversations on the reading of images. In the sharing of different journeys and concerns, we hope for Guftgu to create possibilities where one can understand the intention behind artists’ works. Images have almost become our companions today, more so in the pandemic, where our real-life connections and motivations exist within the lens-based worlds we create. I believe it is really important to understand how we communicate through this new language and how artists are expressing their concerns on contemporary lives using this medium.
5. What are the next steps for your project?
We are extremely excited to be in conversation with artists on their new works, book launches and panel discussions on the dynamics of the book form in the coming months. Along with this, we are also working towards compiling a few selections from our conversations into a downloadable format for viewers.
Read more about Now On and the other recipients.