Independence At Work: Shaping the Core of Our Practice

Avinash Kumar

Core to the essence of Quicksand as a creative studio in India today, is the idea of independence. It was after all a search for independence that led us to the formation of the studio a decade back. This month, we wanted to reflect on how our own notions of independent practice have taken shape.

While building, consolidating, breaking down and re-forming our design collective has been a natural process, the search for independence has consistently remained the core of our spirit, as well as the disruptive force shaping the evolution of our studio. Independence not just as an idea bubbling within a collective, but as the engine that drives it’s progress: this is what we have been busy exploring. Here are a few examples of how the studio has acted ‘independently’ over the past years:

UnBox – Initially launched as a festival to celebrate action at the intersection of different disciplines, UnBox has evolved into a platform to fulfill the need for an independent, shared entity to pursue the varied interests and skills of folks in the studio while engaging with a larger community of creative practitioners.

UnBox celebrates and encourages exploring new, messy and meaningful collaborations on culturally-relevant themes.

BlindBoys – A progressive, yet practical model for the dissemination of independent work by photographers from all over the world.

BlindBoys works as a catalyst, incubator and showcase for expanded interactions between emergent photographers and hyperlocal viewership. BlindBoys uses city streets and public spaces as exhibition spaces through ‘BlowUp – Open Street Exhibitions.’

Kites – A collaborative project between Invisible Flock and Quicksand, Kites looks at connecting people across geographies through stories and shared experiences, using SMS as a medium for personal and intimate communication.

Using text only responses to curated questions, KITES offers up a sparse but intimate snapshot of another life, in a one to one exchange, challenging preconceptions, while exploring our differences and our similarities.

BLOT! – A multidisciplinary duo that has traversed the globe, performing and exploring urban culture through music, films, art, installations and various projects, including co-founding the pioneering UnBox festival and underground electronica label – Qilla Records. They are also recipients of the Wellcome Trust International Engagement Award 2015 for their cultural depictions of informal medicine in India.

OffGrid – With the intention of setting up entrepreneurial digital technology ventures within Quicksand, the studio is currently incubating a year-long app development project in the social networking and discovery domain.

GamesLab – A laboratory for play experiences that explores how India’s unique cultural and cross-temporal influences can be channeled into playful experiences centered around storytelling and new forms of exploration.

Greenhouse – Founded as a community co-working space, Greenhouse is a hybrid space at the intersection of market dynamics and new cultural activity.

It was conceived to explore what could come out of hosting floating residencies in a setting that facilitates spontaneous collaboration and encourages imaginative/alternative approaches to artistic work on culture.

The Grey Garden – The Grey Garden was conceptualized as a restaurant that would break all barriers of formal interactions considered the norm.

Besides providing elaborate, carefully curated culinary experiences for small groups and regular artisanal eating experiences, Grey Garden was created with love allowing patrons to feel comfortable immersing themselves in an informal communal dining experience.

The Value of It All

The value of independence is that it can define a radical scope for design intervention that is located beyond the confines of client briefs and present realities. It is in fact located in an irrational realm where dreams, possibilities and journeys take center stage; where success and failure are merely reflective labels, and never evaluations. This is also a sacred space, the sanctum from where our progress takes birth!

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