On the 20th of December, Above the Habitat in Khar, Mumbai saw a silent crowd filing in for the 5th edition of WIP Sessions. The four speakers from fields as diverse as Art (Shilo Shiv Suleman), Motion Graphics (Wolves), Architecture (Faizan Khatri), and Music (Sofia Ashraf), shared with the audience not only the process behind what they create but also what drives them to keep exploring in their respective crafts.
The evening began with a spontaneous, surprise performance by spoken word poet, Mitali Bhasin, who set the tone of emotional reflection for the evening, as she performed a 5-minute piece describing her biggest inner demon, loneliness.
We Create Our Own Filth - Physically, Intelletually and Mentally — Faizan Khatri
Architect Faizan Khatri, who is 1/3rd at one of India’s most well reputed design practices, Studio 823, the studio behind the spaces at Koramangala Social in Bangalore, Glocal & Todi Mill Social in Mumbai, amongst others was the first to take the stage. Drawing parallels between the urban mankind to their coexistence with other forms of living such as dogs, Faizan’s observation on how human beings tend to create filth in their own life and continue to laugh about it, brought to light the harsh reality of how as a society, we still need to be a lot more conscious of our actions and decisions.
Stepping outside the realm of what architecture actually stands for in its literal sense, Faizan focused on one of their most relevant projects till date, ‘Dogmatic Pragmatism’, a logical take on emotional dependence. “Through animals you can also understand humans”, he told an intrigued audience, who were eagerly waiting for the rest of the talk to unfold. By mapping and carrying out an extensive study on dogs across the city, Faizan and his studio, have very carefully drawn out the silhouette that is illustrative of how humans are ill equipped even in today’s times to create and implement effective intervention - in this case, through design - in our environment.
By deconstructing a ‘typical street’ in any city in India, he shares his initiative with Studio 823, the ‘Quadruped Animal Initiative’ that aims at building animal pods in different areas that act as safe shelters for animals, eventually reducing the hindrance of animals and humans in each other’s lives. Simultaneously, he adds, they are also working on a book which attempts at understanding how strays live in a city.
And of course it is a no brainer that Faizan was behind the conceptualization, design and creation of the famous Sassoon Dog at the Street Art Festival in Mumbai.
Reclaiming Imagination From Fear — Shilo Shiv Suleman
Someone who describes herself as a product of love, Shilo’s talk was in most parts the philosophy behind what she does and how she took to art as her form of expression. With a flair for poetic exuberance in her words and works, she opened her heart out to the audience, by sharing personal instances from her early life to now traveling around the world painting murals and creating installations on different mediums under the name of her company, The Fearless Collective, run by 7 women who engage with participative art.
By constantly interacting with the audience and taking us through the questions that have helped shape her professional and personal life, she spoke about her quest to finding the balance between creating for others versus creating for her inner self. Shilo’s talk, in equal measures, was about her life through different stages and the anchor points between each one. Having started her career at the age of 16, she has now illustrated the covers of many books, designed apps, painted multiple murals in different parts of the world and has also created some of the most magnificent installations in the country.
“I started to think about the macro forest outside of me and how I have this micro forest inside of me”, Shilo went on to describe how she started to pay more attention to the world around her. As an artist and as a woman, a lot of her work revolves around the silent battle for the feminine presence in our lives, even if it is to come from a man. Her recent mural in Lebanon explores the idea of silence from a man’s point of view, and one can now sense that Shilo’s work, however specific to the heart of the mankind, is a voyager across all genders and geographical borders.
From the emerging patterns of gender fluidity to breaking boundaries of fear across different age groups, and using real time biofeedback from nature to develop her work, Shilo’s art is one that is extremely personal and stems from deep within her heart.
See How You Can Move The Masses —Wolves
Apart from the fact that Wolves Visuals by Jash & Joshua was the first in the country to test out and eventually, specialise in Projection Mapping, they are much more than just a visual agency. From projecting their own faces and cutting out cubes of thermocol in a garage to bagging their first gig at the Basecamp Festival, Wolves is an entire ongoing journey that stands for a vision which storms into the future, one where thundercats and gundams feature in an abstract form through the visuals created for redefining the experience of music and music festivals in the present times.
Being self taught, with the objective of making cool work that had a strong, effective aesthetic, Wolves has now traveled across the world with international gigs to their name. Having faced the struggle of establishing a strong visual identity that resonates with people to constantly figuring out the right balance between the vision of the music artist and their own approach, Jash took us behind the scenes of how every single visual comes into being.
By citing examples from their work for the Sunburn Festival, to working with Nucleya, and eventually for FLUX, he described their technical processes in depth, showing how they use their software, ‘Resolume’ and highlighted how each concept takes shape. He stressed on the importance of picking out elements that excite them, understanding what the masses will appreciate and every now then, taking a step back to break out of monotony.
Your Freedom Is Nobody's To Give— Sofia Ashraf
The evening came to an end with a lyrical talk and multiple performances by Sofia Ashraf, the rapper who once brought down the corporate empire, HUL with her music video on ‘Kodaikanal won’t’. From beginning with a short piece on ‘All the World’s a Selfie’ to deconstructing the various stages of her life through her music, she sang her story to us. Of giving up her religion, battling desk jobs, and eventually finding her calling in Rap music, Sofia acknowledged how her position of privilege and her religious identity eventually played a significant role in her creative process.
Through her stimulating performance about love, rebellion and freedom, she narrated instances from her early life of emotional abuse, the realisation of remaining true to her inner self, and the importance of addressing societal issues that have a long term detrimental effect on our lives.
Delivering and highlighting very critical questions as an artist, the need to dream, she raps about “You don’t own me and I don’t owe you, I’ll make my own rules and I don’t owe you”. Sofia’s talk aroused sentiments which we relate to, feelings which we’ve abandoned for the want of living a more safe life, and most importantly, brought to highlight, the skewed understanding of keeping our privilege in check.
The cold December evening came to a conclusion with the promise of the Design Fabric Festival in March 2018. The next edition of WIP Sessions will take place on the 20th of January.