From a distance the pile of garbage rises above the city horizon like a dystopian vision, a mountain of rotting refuse with thousands of birds of prey circling above, and below, a swarm of ant-like figures scavenging for remains. Up close, however, those ant-like figures become men, women, and children whose stories helped change the lives of 18 artists.
“The residency was one of the richest experience of my year,” said Josh, one of the 18 artists in our third annual International Artist Residency. Sponsored by the Harrison Center for the Arts, the theme, Human Dignity: the Many Faces of Abundance brought artists from India, the US, Japan, Afghanistan, and the UK onto a garbage mountain in New Delhi to interact with a community of ‘manual scavengers.’ It profoundly challenged the artists’ understanding of how our lives are connected to the marginalized, as well as understandings of abundance and loss, beauty, generosity, humility and much more.
The artists returned to the garbage mountain to share their art with the community of manual scavengers through a ‘walking gallery,’ but also created art with the children and left behind works created specifically for the community members.
“The relationships that were created and the work generated was nothing short of astounding,” shared Berenice Rarig, an artist from Australia who lead the 3-week event as our ‘residency mentor’. The residency ended with a public exhibition with Josh describing the opening night as “sacred”. “It was not just a sublime exhibition, but a powerful testimony of creatively engaging with our diverse Indian cultures in a gracious manner.”
And as always, the feedback from the participants was overwhelmingly positive. “I feel loved here,” the artist from Afghanistan shared. One of the Indian participants, a lecturer at a major art school in Delhi, described her presence as “destiny.” “It was designed for me to be here. I loved the honesty we had and love how people opened up. I am amazed at the openness in artists sharing their weakness.”