Contestant Spaces

“Social spaces where cultures meet, clash and grapple with each other, often in context of highly asymmetrical relations of power. “

Mary Louise Pratt

A conflict that started off with innocent immigrations, has led to one of the most scarring conflicts in the history and present of the world, the Israel and Palestine conflict. a piece of land, the Giza strip, has become a contested space for two cultures, going back to the roots religion. The cause of the space becoming can be broken down into symbolism of the place for both the cultures and both their rightful claims.

When something moves further beyond power politics towards affecting lives in a large scale is a contested space to me.

The situation and whether the Israelis or the Arabs are right in their approach or not is not something that I wouldn’t  speak about. However the aftermath of the lives of the people, their mental state and social state is what that makes the it a contested space.

The daily life of the local is highly affected living in a contested space, there is always the fear of the ‘other’ side.To believe in something, to be a part of something makes you vulnerable to the atrocities committed. The impact on the daily life of Palestinians is supposed to be far greater than that of the Israel population. The prevalence of checkpoints and road blocks add several barriers to education, work places and medical care. Three of the most basic necessities of human social life become difficult to access, and if a curfew is set down, which might be for weeks or months at a time, there is no accessibility. For someone born in the constant turmoil of constant opposition it becomes very easy to fight for oneself,for ones rights and land. Restriction becomes the oil to the conflict.

A constant criminal climate of mass murder, torture, denial of medical care, demotion of home is not new to the locals of these areas. Being suppressed, increasing immigrations are their only escape. The concept of ‘ethnic cleansing’ where the areas are cleared off of the opposing population. The identity of the person becomes so scarred, becomes so delicate, that they would be willing to take on a stronger persona, even if violence or terrorism would be the way.

the impact of this space resonate not only to the extent of the people actually facing it but also to people worldwide. Anti semitism and anti islam sentiments all over the world leads to conscious or unconscious racism. All over discrimination leads to frustration, and the many stores and incidents of innocent people suffering due to their religious beliefs  are heard everyday.

The aim of this conflict becomes making the other groups life so miserable to the extent that they give up the fight, give up the contested space. Efforts of an outer party, like that of UN stepping in, remain futile, as the true root is deep set into the psyche of each individual living in these areas. The contested space becomes a dimension with its core ideals set in the past, the conflict or fight occurring in the present and for a hope for the desired future.

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Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard

Chapter 1

The house, from cellar to garret

In the writing the writer talks about spaces, specifically the house, and how the space is more than just a physical dimension. He talks about the house as an entity, inspiring poetry. Concepts of the relationship between memory and space are explored and how the house gets its own identity is explored.

  • When describing the house, primitiveness is necessary, one needs the innocence to understand it. There is intimacy even in poor humble dwellings.
  • Memory, dreams, imagination are the three things necessary to build the house.
  • In the past one notices discrepancies, physical details, but when one reminisces of the past it always seems comforting. It seems more like a blur of a visual, the emotion is remembered more than the physicality go the space.
  • Virtues of shelter are so simple, so deeply rooted in our unconscious that they may be recaptured through mere mention, rather than through minute description. Here the nuance bespeaks the color. A poet’s word, because it strikes true, moves the very depths of our being. Over-picturesqueness in a house can conceal its intimacy.”

Real houses of intimacy can’t be described. The example of the smell of raisins in the        cupboard shows the other senses playing in the space. One is familiar but can’t always describe what is familiar. The house is described almost as a hazy painting, with unclear details but the mood is experienced strongly.

  • Spaces of day dreams find themselves in day dreams, how a space transforms into a dream because of the power of the memory attached to it and how a real place transitions into a dream
  • Past, present and future affect day dreams of the house. They oppose as well as stimulate each other
  • Places identify solitude. When alone these paces invoke the mind and tap into nostalgia.
  • Space gets its own identity. Becomes a separate.
  • Thus we cover the universe with drawings we have lived.

A space which does not have direct memories with an individual can still set a chain of reactions and thoughts to go about just with a single element.

  • The association of certain spaces with our fears and inhibitions is done. It almost seems like the space has been psychoanalysed and our deepest emotions are brought forward by a space. The cellar is associated with darkness and the unknown. The attic brings comfort in the day but captures the eeriness of the cellar at night. The tower creates the aura of another century, another time.
  •  “write a room,” “read a room,” or “read a house.”

Personally I found this as the most powerful sentence of the chapter. Turning something tangible into an intangible thing through words is giving that space a power that lies in our mind. The space becomes indestructible and will always remain.  

 

Lakeer – Shruti Mahajan

The short film Lakeer poetically captures what the partition of a country, in this case India, is in three simple steps. The constant turmoil within the nation and its several parts is no new story. Through this film the artist makes one wonder the weight of diversity against the friction it causes.

The artist starts with ‘drawing’, where she draws over a map, changing the existing boundaries. So easily through the medium we call a ‘map’ we completely cut off a population, make them outsiders

and on the other hand take over a population, compel them to become ‘insiders’. 

The second step, ‘making’ she cuts boundaries, ready to be affixed onto the map perhaps. Almost symbolic to the laws set, which make the map an absolute. These boundaries have made way for the several conflicts arising in our country by ‘others’, or the insiders, for a struggle to get out of these boundaries, take back once taken boundaries, or create new boundaries altogether.

The last step ‘dividing’  she cuts out the map unevenly, destructively. She chops off the entire form, the identity of the mp into smaller parts, which is what our nation is. The boundaries have given birth to conflict, to groups, sections, which in the process of making a nation come together are actually destroying it and leaving back a few fragmented pieces of paper. 

The film was inspired by the poem ‘Lakeer’ by Faiz Ahmed. The film to me speaks out about the callousness and how casually one simply cuts, divides and makes a country, as some sort of project. What effect this eventually has on the identity of the country is what the artist tries to show in a very simplified manner. 

Mahabharata by Peter Brooke

Peter Brooke directed a nine hour long play on the Sanskrit epic, Mahabharata. It is a great depiction of performance art. The opening shot starts off with a young boy moving through space with “diyas”, creating a mystical atmosphere. Once the space has been explored the play eventually drifts into the narrative of The Mahabharata, being recited to the young boy by a person of the elderly. Throughout the play, there is a constant movement of going back and forth in time periods, from when the story is being narrated until the actual occurrence of events. Peter Brooke’s effectiveness as a theatrical director was evident in the manner in which the dialogues were delivered.  The delivery involved pauses that exhumed a natural progression of the scene encapsulating the reaction of the audience. One of the flaws of the movie in my perspective was the casting for the play. The role of the Indians in the play was sourced out to Caucasians and dark skinned individuals that were of a greater concentration that Indian or Indian-origin actors. These casting decisions made by the casting director took away from the visual authenticity of the representation of the Mahabharata. Though the play was about nine hours long and the production aspect of the play was a great depiction of performance art, yet as the whole the ninety minutes that we saw in class, in my opinion did not do justice to the cultural representation of the epic tale of Mahabharata.

The State of Architecture

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The exhibition takes you on a journey through time and spatial dimensions. The circular structure of the NGMA building spirals forward into time as one proceeds into the history of architecture in India, its influences, its causes and its consequences. The manner in which the exhibit was designed was fascinating and enthralling.

To me, the use of colour was the key element in bringing out the structure of the space. Red and yellow walls created a paradigm for the viewer to follow, and at the same time when one stopped to read and look, gave a stationary tactility. The space was designed in such a way to create boxes of thoughts, with a lot of reading material for one to read at their own pace creating a comfort zone for them. The way the exhibition escalated from wide open spaces to walk on the ground floor and slowly shifting to closer, enclosed zones as one moved forward was an interesting transformation. The most intriguing component of the exhibit to me was the origami wall on the third storey. The floor was constructed in a maze-like format, with little windows allowing one to peek from on side to the other.

Hundreds of paper cubes constructed in a way to create a labyrinth, and censors giving this structure life. The movement of people made these cubes cave into the space, reinforcing the concept of how strong a catalyst human presence becomes in collaboration with something as concrete as architecture. The walls of this floor were engulfed in text, raising questions between the relationship of architects, society and the lifestyle they’re making. The entire floor seems to be in a dialogue with the viewer at all levels, giving information, making them aware of their presence and by raising questions in their mind making the overall experience of ones journey through this space not only informative but also reflective.

Ayneh, 1997

Ayneh.pngThe movie Ayneh (1997) follows the path of a little girl trying to get home. The movie plays with paradoxical ideas between a choreographed, directed script and an impromptu twist where the protagonist refusing to act.It almost gives an alter ego to the story, running comparisons between how the girl interacts with different people in two different ways; one while playing a confused first grader searching for her mother, and the second one playing a confident second grader sure of where she needs to reach. One of the most interesting elements of the movie is the role of the camera. In the second half, the presence of the camera becomes extremely conscious, and it inhabits the role of a character itself. At all times we see the protagonist through the sneaky, stalking lens of the camera, which adds a distinguishable quality to the movie.

Even the contrasts of how spaces are depicted and shown is sharp. While the script was in play, all the places were being shown from the perspective of the little girl , and somewhat larger than life. When the girl had to describe a certain place, she did it in a more comic manner, remembering very specific symbols and forms which give  a glimpse into a child’s mind. She spoke of the heart shaped arches, the fountain in the middle of the square, but could never recall any names, which helps us associate with how she perhaps views spaces around her. The other aspect which formed an ongoing link to the whole movie was the constant commentary of the ongoing football match. This commentary helped form a time dimension, perhaps 90 minutes, which helped the audience position the actions and movements within this time frame.

The role of the microphone in the movie was also unique. The constant switching on and off, the blank silences made the scenario even more impactful. The concept of being deprived of one of the key sources of information about the girl’s journey added a suspense as well as provided the space to simply absorb the situation without any noise. The movie through the microphone gave a few suggestions and indicators of the socio-cultural life of the people too. The spaces, mainly buses and taxis, give the best glimpses of overheard conversations which subtly lay out the lifestyle of the people. The discussions about the role of women in society, and the insecurities by wives regarding cheating husbands are some of the topics that have been addressed, or rather been picked up amongst the various sounds.

The second half of the film was a continuous shot, with no cuts, which added to the movement through space and time. If one is to look at the film through the lens of performance art, it fulfils the three criteria of space, time and audience, but the ‘artist’ in play raises a question whether the ‘performer’ the girl unconsciously becomes the artist, or the director even though not actually ‘performing’ becomes the artist?

Overall, to me, the movie has an extremely drifting quality. Even though the question of how she would find her way lurks throughout, somehow the presence of the camera provides a sense of security to the viewer.The essence lies in the importance given to two inanimate objects- the microphone and the camera, and the unique representation of the simple idea of being a shadow.

Sri Sri Lanka

IMG_7063Sri Sri LankaPala Pothupitiya

Pala Pothupitiya

The most interesting aspect of the artwork is the marrying of the Sri Lanka map into a human form. The representation of wave like hair with a headgear placed at the crest perhaps has some significance to royalty, or a certain class of people. The robe like structure, with a darker underlying layer too in some way reflects a ceremonial robe usually worn on top of existing garments. The slight implication of a dagger or sword hidden underneath may have reference to the violence encountered by the country. Interestingly the print on the dagger is of paper clips. Since paper clips were used as a symbol of resistance in WWII, here too they might be symbolic of the same. Just below the ‘neck’ there are a number of tiny parrots symbolic of the hanging parrots of Sri Lanka, which are also found on their currency.

Performance Art

performance art

noun

an art form that combines visual art with dramatic performance.

Performance art dates back to the 20th century around 1960s, when artists wanted to move away from the traditional mediums of paintings and sculptures. Performance art served as a medium to explore and experiment with their bodies, objects and people around them.

Performance art stands on three bases, time, space and audience. If either of the three fail to be available or taken into account for, it no longer remains a performance art. The ‘performer’ is the apex of this pyramid, in whatever way he chooses to perform.

The performance might be completely planned or spontaneous, depending upon the random reactions of its audiences and spaces which add a completely new layer of audience’s contribution to the performance.

Taking the example of Nikhil  Chopra going onto the streets and simply starting to sketch on the ground. Although physically his body and work is limited to a certain area, the audience he attracts, the policemen with whom he has interactions with, and the curiosity and suspicion he generates all together become the performance. Again if the entire performance was not recorded, and only the final residual drawing on the street is said to be the proof of the occurrence of such a performance, it wouldn’t exist, and wouldn’t be called a performance art. That work would simply be a piece of art. Such is the importance of presence of people along with the responses around; it thrives on participation.

The remnants of performance arts are visual pieces, tangible objects.The performance is just a visual which becomes an intangible, non tradable work; art in it’s purest, most non commercial form, solely orchestrated for the love of art and expression.

Short notes on Artworks

V. S. Gaitonde:The Guggenheim Retrospective

#1

Untitled

The artwork creates three intermediary sections visually, almost giving the idea of three separate spaces. The tints and tones of the colour help in defining these spaces. To me it almost appears as three levels.  Starting from the bottom, it almost serves as a base, and maybe symbolic to stability. However there is also a sense of void, and emptiness. Going a little higher, there’s a bit of black creeping into this space, almost like a lurking darkness slowly trying to take over. It almost forms a transient space,  with a sense of movement happening around. The state of thought, the start of the chaos.It being the middle space too makes it feel constricted and uncomfortable. The top most section being the epitome of the layers has the largest amount of ‘blankness’ yet its adorned with strokes of black, which are so strongly fitted at the bottom, giving them the strongest hold and position in the artwork.

#2

Untitled 1962

The black faded figure forms the focal point of the artwork. There is a controlled chaos, a drag, a pull and then a stop. There is a sense of strain in the painting, which is completely isolated by the space around, making the tension of the black seem small. The only defined form is the conical form, which makes the visual of the long, pulled tear to a halt.

#3

Painting 4 1962

The painting gives a clear idea of movement in opposing directions. The focus is the central horizontal section which is brought to focus because of the blank space above and below it. It makes the viewer think of conflict, as the white space being some sort of pedestal. The blue further makes the section look more crowded than it is. The 4 elements in the space create a narrative, highlighted by the contrasting strokes of red, yellow and white. The role of space in the painting is to give the illusion of lesser space by restricting the elements.

Zarina Hashmi

इस चित्र मे एक काली लकीर एक साप की तरह काग़ज़ प्र फेली हुई हे| उसके आस पास धागे की तरह छोटी छोटी लकीर बनाई हे| जैसे सफेद दीवार पर काला रंग उभर के निकलता है, उसी तरह इस चित्र मैं भी ये दो रंग एक दूसरे के रंगो के मूल्य को और सुंदर बनाते है| इस चित्र मैं बहुत खाली जगह फेली हुई हे, जिस्मै थोड़ा थोड़ा काला रंग नज़र आता हैं| यह चित्र एक ऊन के कपड़े जैसे लगता हैं जिस पर एक बहुत प्रसीध धागा हैं|

Thinking Spaces

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Space is an idea, the word given to fill the emptiness around us.

The way this emptiness is rendered by ‘space’ is one of the most important correlations between what we actually see and what we perceive it as.

Space plays a key role in any kind of artwork or painting,the two main ones being either by drawing us further into depths of the three dimensional world it portrays through its flat surfaces, or by drawing our attention to a particular element.

The example of Camera Degli Sposi from the Palazzo Ducale Mantova, is a fitting one to conceive the understanding of space. The work is painted at the ceiling of the palace, which highlights the importance of the space in which the artwork is displayed. The position of the painting creates an illusion to the viewer from down, further enhancing its impact. The prime shape of the circle forces the viewers’ eyes to focus towards the area with the lack of characters, towards the blue sky. This simple vacancy perfectly fits the bodiless characters’ positions around the circle, giving the illusion of a well or some sort of hole. The baby cherubs along the corners of the circle give the viewer an estimate of the height of the circular protrusion, further adding materiality to the painting. The proportion of the amount of space contributed to the characters versus to the sky too helps the viewer imagine the vastness of the sky, making the viewer himself feel smaller.

By manipulating space the artwork manages to not only define its own dimensions but also the viewers’ own coordinates.