‘Lakeer’

Lakeer, a short film by Shruti Mahajan, filtered in a simple black and white is an interactive video in response to the poem ‘ Roshniyon Ke Shahar ‘ by Faiz Ahmed Faiz. The film is an eye opening abstraction of the borders, tangible and intangible that demarcate spaces, partition spaces and create contested spaces. The film focuses on India in particular but hints the occurrence and universality of these spaces all the world.

Cultural and religious diversity in India already creates differentiation between people. However, far greater than this, is the constant subjection to and awareness of the turmoil and hardships faced in this country, which usually trace back to the political barriers that are created through greed and hunger for power. Kashmir is one of the simplest examples, even highlighted in the short film, a space divided and torn between two countries through intangible barriers, the perfect example of a contested space.

Shruti Mahajan, defines boundaries, she defines partitions and division of spaces in three distinct steps. The first step, ‘Drawing’ is the demarcation of boundaries by tracing over an existing map of India. The lines are continuous in response to the sound in the background. Flat or dotted, they represent concrete and indefinable limitations spaces in India. A country is made by its people, a two dimensional map, a simple drawing of a line defines how they are divided.

The second step is ‘Making’ where the film focuses on hands, cutting out three-dimensional barricades from paper. These are the physical representations of borders, limits and spaces. They are skillfully cut as extrusions to the ‘Drawing’ previously made and respond to the barbwires actually present.

The final step is ‘Dividing,’ here the camera focuses on states like Hyderabad and Kashmir being cut by a set of large scissors, imperfectly. After slowly going through and removing those states, the leftovers of India and then mercilessly cut into smaller finer pieces, representing the larger and smaller contested spaces that together form a whole.

The entire film, zoomed into just the hands and the tools used to perform certain activities, is more impactful with the close shots that continue throughout the film. The viewer completely focuses on the map, it’s definition using rough charcoal, it’s extrusion through paper barriers and its division through scissors, that don’t always follow any set line or any set barrier. They are tangible and intangible ‘Lakeers.’

Contested Spaces

Contested spaces are usually thought of as disputed spaces. I think of them as spaces without boundaries. The inhabitants of that space, merciless with the constant fight of power over them.

Contested Spaces are created everywhere whether intentionally or unintentionally. A big example of a contested space is Kashmir, with India and Pakistan both fighting to gain the land, govern the country. What is it that makes it a contested space then? Is it the fact that the people are severely affected, the fact that there’s the Indian and Pakistani military at every corner with loaded guns or is it the mere fact that the people begin to live in fear? According to me, it tends to be an amalgamation of everything. A clash of cultures, a restriction of movement and the fear of being trampled upon by the contesting countries.

 On a smaller scale we can look at contested spaces as a mere argument amongst two classes for a classroom or studio or the dispute arising from a first come first serve seat in a movie theatre. These are relatively calmer situation with ongoing daily routines. 

Contested spaces largely are fought over due to greed. Nothing can ever be enough, clearly demonstrated through the heart breaking Kashmir situation and other such examples like that all over the world. Organisations have come in to solve such disputes but mostly to no avail. Greed has no end. Contested spaces continue to emerge. 

Poetics Of Space

 

Nests

 

The Poetics Of Space by Gaston Bachelard is filled with a series of metaphors portrayed through poetic imagery. Although each chapter has a distinct focus, the recurrent poetic theme ties together the philosophical outlook with reference to space and its relationships.

I found a nest I the skeleton of the ivy

A soft nest of country moss and dream herb.

White nests your birds will flower

You will fly, feather paths.

In the chapter ‘nests,’Bachelard talks about shelter as a primal instinct. He compares our homes to the carapace of a turtle and the shell of a snail, and suggests that like animals, humans too withdraw into their corners to find their place of rest and quiet.

‘Men can do everything but build a bird’s nest.’

He goes on to talk about how we marvel nests, a work unmatchable by any mason or builder. It serves as a ‘warm home’ for birds, ‘a life giving home,’ and a ‘shelter.’ We all marvel at the sight of a nest, and remain disappointed when we find it once abandoned by its inhabitants. The joy of seeing the nest and the fear of the trembling reaction of its inhabitants to the presence of a human intrigued the writer even more.

The writer went on to describe the sounds of these birds and how they attached a person to the tree that they belonged to. They comprise such an essential part of one’s surrounding that he begins to associate various actions to these sounds to find solace.

The writer also talks about return and loyalty, coming to back to where we’re most comfortable, where we feel warm, where we feel at home. A calm nest and an old home are images of comfort.

A bird is the most hardworking worker without tools, that moulds its nest with its breast constantly pressing down all around, creating a rounded surface with everything evenly flattened due to the pressure it exerts. Just as a bird moulds its surroundings to procure shelter and protection, so does a human, according to his or her own basic needs.

The writer essentially uses the metaphor of a nest, to illustrate the warmth, suitability and hide away space of the bird, having similar characteristics to the spaces a human being desires. He does so through numerous examples, praise for the builder and excitement and loyalty to his primal place, always longing to return.

‘Mahabharata,’ Peter Brook

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The Indian epic Mahabharata has been interpreted in numerous ways over time. One of the most unusual and eccentric interpretations that I have come across is Peter Brook’s version.

For years now, films are made on ‘religious texts’ and find an immediate connection to the crowd it caters to. However, the film with its casting and associations catered to a vast audience and ensured universal connotations. It was definitely a factor that takes you aback initially, just because of a shift in the perception of Mahabharata and how we usually associate it with visuals that are implanted in our minds.

The film starts with a little boy, finding his path through enlightened spaces searching for something, when he stumbles upon a Guru. Here on, the narration of the epic begins and the film constantly moves between this epic and the present narration.

The film was highly dramatic with the birth of a rock and the sexual scenes of the people. Parts of the film actually seemed humorous. There were other parts where one finds themselves extremely lost and confused. However the surroundings and the sets completely immersed the viewer in that era and that point in time. The film was lengthy and dark with very few moments of extreme brightness.

All in all, The Mahabharata was intriguing to watch and creates an open mind to the idea of interpretation and representation.

State Of Architecture

‘Does Architecture Matter?’

State Of Architecture is a one of a kind three month long exhibition, curated by Rahul Mehrotra, Ranjit Hoskote and Kaiwan Mehta at the NGMA. The exhibition focuses on Architecture in India post Independence, it’s ambition, it’s relevance and the manner in which it is perceived.

The NGMA, by a gallery in itself is difficult to work with, with its half floors and differing ceiling heights, it tends to pose a challenge to general display and circulation through the exhibition space. However, state of architecture, has used the space to its advantage. The visitor enters on the ground floor, where through curvilinear surfaces and statistical data, he/she is completely immersed in the foundation of architecture and this exhibition. One finds themself surrounded by calculated facts and statistics over the years, based on architecture and its development post freedom. The visitor can also interact with magazines on one end of the ground floor, whilst being able to look up at the architectural texts and magazines that have been published over time.

If the fluidity and the articulate graphics on the ground floor weren’t enough, one moves towards the first half floor that covers the first twenty years of architecture post independence. Again, here the timeline was spread across a series of panels with essential information of each built form displayed. There were certain images, larger than others that encompassed the wall in entirety, built forms that were thought as those that created a shift in perception in relation to the Architecture in India. The next floor covers the next twenty years in a similar fashion. Here, one sees an ode to the ‘Vistara’ exhibition from the 80’s, one of the former, government sponsored architectural exhibitions in India.

Each space had customized furniture that blended well with the exhibition itself. Vibrant colors in different shapes and sizes allow the visitor to stop, sit back and take in the ‘architecture’ around them. The visitor climbs on to move to a more familiar understanding of the built form with more recent works and a continuous projection and seating space running through plans and sections of iconic built forms through history. One tends to notice this pattern in the display of timelines, each floor, each timeline having its own way of being read and interpreted, either along a wall, through panels and sections or completely encompassing the visitor as on the ground floor.

As one reaches the top of the NGMA, The Dome, he/she is surrounded by current projects that either have just been developed or are going to be developed. The periphery of this space is lined with origami. These informative foldable cubes, move forward and open up with sensors that now impact the visitor in his/her understanding of architecture today, encompassing our surroundings completely. Suddenly we see no timeline, no way of walking through the space and one can almost feel lost in this labyrinth consisting of panels and openings. The panels have windows that create this visual connection through the space. The visitor then notices the extent of the exhibition and a way of viewing every part of the exhibition.

State Of Architecture held numerous talks from various established architects during these three months and has definitely stirred up an interest amongst many in the field of architecture and what it stands for. Architecture does matter.

Ayneh, Jafar Panahi (1997)

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Ayneh, a Jafar Panahi film takes you on a journey with a little young girl, trying to find her way back home. The film starts with the little girl waiting for her mother to pick her up from school and when time passes by and she doesn’t show, she takes it on herself to map her route. The film undergoes a twist when the little girl suddenly throws a tantrum and begins to sulk, screaming that she didn’t want to act anymore, that she didn’t want to be a part of this film, which took the audience by surprise. The entire journey, the entire experience was just an act, and the little girl pretended the entire time. The interesting part begins when the little girl, having quit her film, actually begins to find her way home. She leaves her microphone on and Panahi continues to keep the cameras rolling and follows her as she maneuvers through streets, people and taxis to reach the home in the area that had a fountain. What tends to confuse the audience is the little girl post the tantrum, is it an act? Did she really quit the film? Why did she leave the microphone on? Panahi leaves these questions unanswered but leaves the viewer with the element of wonder having watched a beautifully directed film.

The film, more than its plot was interesting because of the way it was shot. An important factor of the film was the element of time, where time is expressed through a sports game playing in the background in the beginning of the film and the victory of one of the teams at the end that ties the film together. Little hints that Panahi shares is the old man that we see trying to cross the road at the opening of the film moving back and forth depending on the traffic. He finally crosses once the little girl made her way opposite the phone booth, which helps the audience tie the scene together.

The entire film focused on the little girl, one could barely see her surroundings or the context in the film, the only context one got was through the descriptions the little girl made, extremely vague and monotonous. The film was filled with close up shots of the girl and the adults that were even speaking were out of focus. Again the Iranian context was subtly shot through a clear reflection of the city on the glass façade of a telephone booth and the reflection in shops with glass panes.

An interesting thought through the film was how spaces were defined, remembered and recollected. To the little girl, her house was by the street that had a fountain but to the adult that street could be identified through other means, maybe a shop that existed on the road, or an old lamppost. Space is defined individually by how an individual wants to define it, it is interpretative. With the little girl talking about her house by the fountain, Panahi adds a beautiful shot of her running across her fountain minutes before she finally got home.

The way the film was shot, before the ‘fourth wall’ being that of the director was revealed and after where the little girl was being followed without her knowledge added enhanced that conceptual idea of the film. Here, with the audio going in and out, the little girl disappearing and coming back, the camera being extremely shaky and unfocused, the viewer becomes a part of this chase, a part of this journey to find this little girls home. Comparatively, the beginning of the film has perfectly angled, focused shots to show its prior filmed and scripted side.

Ayneh showed us spaces physically with close up long focused shots and mentally through the little girl, her interaction with people, what went on in her mind and how she thought about space. It showed us how space can be perceived and received and interpreted and Panahi directed these physical and mental spaces beautifully, with a complete and successful attempt of immersing the audience into this film, into this camera space, into this journey.

Sri Sri Lanka

Galle Fort, Galle

Something as mundane, two dimensional and monotonous as a map is transformed into a series of artworks labeled Sri Sri Lanka. Different maps of Sri Lanka are layered with colour, doodling and painting to add a new depth, meaning and reference thereby creating a series of layered artworks and a beautiful display of certain aspects of Sri Lanka like its clothing and royal attire. This image is layered with ships and a warm colour palette. One can barely see the map at first glance that is overshadowed by the inclusion of the ship seen through it. One easily relates to a time of war with the imagery, the flags and war ships. There is an inclusion of mixed media that adds chaos to this painting, and parallel lines run across the paper that guide the eye of the viewer. Spaces are divided with media, imagery and repetition that allow the viewer to understand the artwork more clearly. A map is transformed from a mere aid to direction to a historical context.

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Performance Art

 

Performance Art is a ‘live’ form of expression by an artist, whose body serves as the medium through which his actions become his work of art. The term, used first around the 1960’s was practiced to challenge the conventional meanings of ‘art’, a term that generally referred to sculptures and painting. The broad term, performance art, mainly consists of time, space, the artist’s body and public interaction. An amalgamation of all the elements is a requisite for a work of art to be a performance art.

 

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The Artist Is Present: March – May 2010

MOMA

Marina Abramović

 

MoMA Curator Klaus Biesenbach puts it: “Marina is never not performing.”

 

From March 14 to May 31, 2010, the Museum of Modern Art held a performance recreation of Abramović’s work. The Artist Is Present was a 736-hour and 30-minute static, silent piece, in which she sat immobile in the museum’s atrium while spectators were invited to take turns sitting opposite her. Her work displayed all over the Museum, was visited by numerous people everyday for three months and each visitor was given instructions to not speak or touch the artist. The line of visitors became longer and longer each day.

Marina in comparison to her other work which is far more dramatic and theatrical found the thought of this piece to be physically and emotionally draining. The thought of it made her nauseous and so she chose to go ahead with the piece. It was finally her chance to ‘silence’ the question she’d been hearing over and over again that questioned her art. The longest solo piece done by Marina was a true portrayal of her strength as an artist. By using time, space, herself and the visitor, through her performance, Marina moved numerous people.

 

Spaces in ‘Indian’ Art

Gaitonde

Untitled

A play of textures, Gaitonde’s take on blue and black at first appeared to be a merging of two spaces, the darker and the lighter. The upper side of the painting portrays a darker, more violent series of strokes that tend to merge into the calmer blue, with flat, peaceful textures. As you go lower, one starts seeing the depth the painting has created and puts into ‘perspective’ a waterfront with activity and busyness at the other end. The sense of the buffer space of complete calmness, with no black strokes in the middle forms a transition space, a metaphorical threshold between the darker and the lighter side.

 

Untitled

Gaitonde plays with scale in this painting, along with textures on a monochrome white background. The central, closest textures, put into ‘perspective’ the other two sides. Resembling figures, the painting portrays the vast space and the focus on the smaller, negligible figures in this space that somehow form the focus of the painting whilst indicating the larger space that they become a mere part of.

 

Painting No.4

Appearing to be a series of bonfires with logs for seating, the one on the right appears  to be smaller than the left creating that sense of depth. The colours and textures in the painting seem to be repetitive. The central black area, serves as a tunnel through the space that has these areas of being. The white space that ends up being the focus of the image due to the stark contrast with the colours that surround it, could possibly be the light at the end of the darker space. The other elements in the painting are mere guides that lead you to the end of the tunnel.

 

Zarina Hashmi

एक रेखा इस चित्र को दो हिस्सो मए बाट देती है। इस चित्र को देख्कर ऐसे लगता  है कि इसे आस्मन से ज़मीन के तरफ़ देख्कर बनया गया है। आडा तेडा लकीर एक नदी के तरह ज़मीन को दो िह्स्सो मे बाट देता है। नद्ीके आस पास छोटे काले निशान घरे और लोगो को दर्शाता है जो आस्मान के उस उछाई से चीटियो के समान है।

Space In Artworks

EKKO by the German artist Thilo Frank

EKKO offers people a very special walking tour and sound experience: EKKO is built of 119 wooden logs, each of which is angled slightly, so the construction turns in on itself along a 60-metre corridor.

As you walk through the space, the rhythmic stepping motion produces a unique sound that is then echoed by the in-built microphones that add a layer of immersion into the entire experience. Surrounded by a public area, this walk through space serves as a disconnection from the exterior with an immersion into paths of illusions that take you away for moments before one is released back into the ‘outside.’

The spectators actually move through this space created and they become a part of the artwork. The light that passes through the beams, the space that creates an illusion as you walk through, the sound that is a result of motion, all add to the experience of a private space with a public setting.