The best way to learn is by experimentation: Aditi Rakhe, Programmes Leader, TIFA Working Studios

Beyond commercial success, artists play an important role in cultural commentary and social change, as this exhibition in Pune shows.

Launched in 2014, PhotoSparks is a weekly feature from YourStory, with photographs that celebrate the spirit of creativity and innovation. In the earlier 385 posts, we featured an art festival, cartoon gallery. world music festivaltelecom expomillets fair, climate change expo, wildlife conference, startup festival, Diwali rangoli, and jazz festival.

Pune-based TIFA Working Studios is a unique combination of an art studio, makerspace, art library, exhibition area, and artist-in-resident space. It promotes public interaction and collaboration on critical issues of our times, and supports artists as well as entrepreneurs.

TIFA was founded by Trishla and Roshan Talera. Trishla is an artist and fellow at Art Think South Asia, while Rohan studied entrepreneurship at Babson College and was chair of CII’s Young Indians Pune. Shounak Pethe is the studio leader, and Aditi Rakhe heads its programmes.

Aditi studied architecture at SCET Surat, and has an MA in History of Art from the University of Nottingham. She has worked at Crop up Gallery and The Aftermath Project in Nottingham. In India, she has worked with Museum of Goa on a range of exhibitions, and was the project manager for the Goa Affordable Art Fest 2018.

TIFA’s base in a former Art Deco heritage hotel in the heart of Pune makes for an interesting artistic venue for production, experimentation, collaboration, and presentation. This month, Aditi is curating a festival titled Futures of Sexuality, supported by Godrej India Culture Lab and The Humsafar Trust.

Featured artists in the exhibition titled Labeless are from India, France, US and Singapore, some of whose works are included in this photo essay. The works span paintings, photographs, video, clay models, poetry scrolls, and mixed media. They are titled Pink Party, Anthropoid Within, Passive Dreams, Declaration of Empathy, Body Fluids, Pixel Pleasure, Waking, and Gender Fabric.

The artist lineup consists of Aditya Verma, Chaitanya Modak, Clare Chong, Isha Itwala, Ishita Savla, Lipika Bhargava, Nachiket Prakash, Sandeep TK, Sandrine Deumier, Surabhi Chowdhary and Zander Porter.

Festival activities include a screening of six films from the KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, an LGBTQIA+ support meetup, panel discussion on inclusive spaces, drag performance, and seminar on relationship boundaries. The festival explores how sexuality affects everything from identity to culture.

“There is so much happening in India. Artists are defining things in amazing ways,” says festival curator Aditi Rakhe in a chat with YourStory. The themes and artists for this festival were chosen after extensive research, and an open call for participation put out on social media.

Putting together a festival calls for effective management of time, processes and people; empathy is needed between all stakeholders. “Working with the artists has been a lovely experience, they show so much humility,” Aditi explains.

One of her earlier exhibitions was titled Work in Progress, featuring artworks in various stages of completion. Aditi’s favourite festivals to attend include the Chennai Photo Biennale and the Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa.

“Have an open mind, and overcome fear of taboos and misconceptions through understanding,” Aditi offers as suggestions to festivalgoers. “The definition of art is changing every day, thanks to trends like digital media,” she observes.

Aditi also offers tips for aspiring artists. “Just do it. The best way to learn is by experimentation,” she advises. “You have to be okay with making mistakes, you need to learn about the multiple factors at play, and move on,” she signs off.

Now, what have you done today to pause in your busy schedule, and find ways to uncover and change your deeper perceptions of the world?

Aditi Rakhe

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