A collection by five women artists from Mumbai, Goa and Delhi, titled, ‘Persistence of Memory’ is being showcased today at Project Café, Assagao. The artworks range from printmaking, mixed media, installations and technology-based projects. NT BUZZ gets you the details
Danuska Da Gama I NT BUZZ
‘Persistence of Memory,’ relates to the title of a painting by Salvador Dali, in which he painted soft, melted watches. In this exhibition, artists Saba Hasan, Megha Joshi, Katharina Kakar, Nandita Kumar and Ipshita Maitra look into memory, thus, recapturing, transforming and freezing it through creative processes. Making their subjective truths felt, the five women artists allow for an inner dialogue and push imagination into new directions.
‘The Skin Remembers’ by Megha Joshi is a sculpture-installation – a unique mix of abstraction and realism, depicting 30 scars based on the concept that skin has memory. “Our skin is our first defence and protector from all of life’s assaults. When an invasive procedure takes place through our skin, it heals and tries to erase the trauma. But however pleasant or unpleasant the reason, our skin ‘remembers’”, Joshi explains.
The inspiration: The work was inspired by the idea that every scar has an unforgettable story. It is a common aberration to what we consider a norm – unbroken skin. Ranging from life-saving surgeries to elective procedures; bullets in a war to self-harm, the reasons give a much deeper commentary on the nature of trauma.
Form used: While some scars were deep, some were superficial and thus Megha experimented with many materials but wanted something that could be subtle and fragile on the top layer with a softness beneath and solidity at the base. Liquid rubber on fabric (lycra) was used for creating the scars, sponge for beneath and mounting it on plywood squares to highlight just the scar surface.
Using memories for art: Megha says that in creating this work, she got lessons in pain, healing and care. Each and every scar led to a deep observation of human nature. While a bullet wound scar made her think of patriotism and nationalism, a self-cutter made her realise how much pain they feel mentally that physical pain just eases it. Someone with bariatric surgery was fed-up with having such a fat body, someone suffered from such extreme low-esteem because of her small breasts, etc. Each story behind the scars gave insights into the human condition.
#metoo in the art world: I liked to believe that the art-world would be better, with more progressive thought, greater sensitivity and egalitarianism than other worlds. While it came as no shock, I have felt dismay at the stories of rampant abuse and harassment in the art world. The Indian art world is fairly small and, there is no set hierarchy of position- sometimes it’s an artist, sometimes a gallerist, sometimes an auctioneer who is the ‘star’. Abuse of power and everyday sexism has to go.
It is a struggle for my gender to just get the artworks done. After that one expects a world of understanding, acceptance and safety, especially women- and this is not happening as has been recently revealed.
Ipshita Maitra’s works titled ‘Paved Paradise’ talks about the dehumanising aspect of urban gentrification. “We lose, not just structures – but also communities, a way of life, a certain rootedness, a feeling of belonging,” she explains. Treated as memories of a time gone by, they evoke feelings of nostalgia providing a sharp contrast to evolving mega cities that once had their ancestral heritage and charm intact.
The inspiration: These works stemmed from a primal feeling of loss as Ipshita saw her quaint neighbourhood being torn down to make way for hip gentrification. “It felt like a deeply personal transgression as gradually one saw all the things that one was familiar with and attached to, owing to memories of association, being replaced by an anonymous homogeneity,” she says.
Form used: Ipshita’s works have assumed various forms of printmaking and mixed media installations as she uses various photo manipulation techniques to create burnished handprints and photo emulsions. The hand prints – made in the style of impressionist sketches conjured from memory have been made by burnishing layers of images into watercolour paper pushing the parameters of traditional giclee printing. The layers of rust and metal overlaid on remnants of what neighbourhoods once were like represent a takeover.
Using memories for art: “Memories are actually very integral to all the different selves we evolve into… without memory – we would be ‘lost’ so to speak, it gives us both identity and association, and this also links to our inherent need to make records in various ways,” Ipshita says, before adding that the most spontaneous and enjoyable way of creating records is via the lens. Historic handcrafted techniques of producing images is linked to reclaiming her heritage as a photographer and preserving knowledge of an age old methodology becoming rarer with the progressing times.
#metoo in the art world: She believes that it is very important that people speak up if they are wronged, and hope that justice follows due course for the victims. “In a country that believes in the concept of worshipping the feminine energy – Devi, it should follow course that everyday women too are allowed to hold up their dignity and respect. It angers me greatly to witness exploitation and abuse,” Ipshita says.
Multimedia artist Saba will be showing mixed media paintings and a video of her poems/installations. Her short film on water was screened at the Bali International Film Festival last month and another at the Chelsea Film Festival, New York. Her works being showcased are part of her work spanning over two decades with book installations, photographs, large charcoal drawings and mixed media paintings.
The inspiration: The Urdu text used in the paintings is from letters her mother wrote to Saba, so, it is an artistic delving into personal history to find her reality. Some text passages are also from feminist writings in Urdu literature, questioning patriarchy in South Asian societies demanding a reformulation of conservative norms and ideas. Racial profiling, womanhood, intimacy and mysteries of nature are basis for the concept behind the video
Form used: Saba has used performative video in which she reads poems and showcases five mixed media paintings. “Memory, personal history and my vision of the world are all expressed in multiple media and here the paintings show my use of burning as a technique as well and my own writing and voice as materials. Saba has used different materials in the artworks like an alphabet to signify various aspects of life like jute, nails, wire, thread, fire, etc, that all come together.
Using memories for art: Her mother’s letters to her in Urdu signify a loved culture under attack, “a feeling I reinforce by burning my material or the script. My poems are in a homeless language, a paradox of connections between places that I have lived in Russia, India, America, Switzerland, France and a mystifying preoccupation with songs, called ghazals. From Tagore to Pushkin, Ghalib or Lorca, I have learnt to speak in a voice invoking many myths”, explains Saba.
#metoo in the art world: I am in complete support for the metoo campaign in this society where due process has not provided survivors with any redressal. Fields like art which are subjective in their judgments are rife with people who abuse positions of power like the Kochi Biennale, where three senior artists and curators have been repeatedly named as abusers, yet they haven’t been boycotted and the men haven’t been questioned.
It is a social responsibility and not just the struggle of individual survivors. Since the perpetrator is often backed by a powerful infrastructure, it’s important to understand and respect anonymity of survivors.
126.22hz is inspired by graphical notation, where music is represented by visual symbols outside the realm of traditional music notation. Inspired by the sun and its effects on Earth, the data is gathered from the beginning of time.
The empirical data inspires sound through symbolism and intuitive interpretation of the form of the image. Literal interpretations also create new associations when they are juxtaposed against each other (for example, the sound of birds taking off against the sound of ice melting and cracking).
The inspiration: Operating on the edge of science, this data-driven artistic experiment probes the politics of environmental metrics and explores methods of engaging audiences with issues of environmental health.
In most graphical notation scores, images/color/forms/shapes/lines directly translated into music but the shapes by themselves have no meaning. She takes it further by using data and connects her interests to ecology, technology, science and community. A pallet of sound and images found/created formed the basic premise of the score.
Form used: There are three parts to this installation which contain a thirteen-foot graphical notation score on archival paper alongside the video and sound being shown. The score which is formed of data on an A3 poster explains the schematics of the data. The last part is a twenty-seven feet installation which is not being shown. Through sound, data and an immersive score this installation explores methods of engaging audiences with issues of environmental health.
Using memories for art: “We are all carriers of memories in the form of biological data which transmutes from generation to generation. I believe this memory is recorded in our DNA which contains not only our biological traits but also emotional, intellectual, environmental and cultural information,” Kumar says. She goes on to say that a section of this cacophony of sound of past, present and shaping of the future is being presented in the form of a score to show the interconnected world that we live in.
#metoo in the art world: “Previously independent artists/cultural workers were only warned about an existing predator through verbal warning. These warning only existed within trusted networks and lacked accessibility to the new/young entrants, making them more vulnerable. Most victims were also afraid of speaking out loud due to a direct impact on their careers, as the cultural industry is based mostly of interdependent human networks which give support, references, recommend artwork for exhibitions/scholarships/grants/ commissions/ purchase etc,” Kumar explains.
“The art world is currently being toilet trained in the etiquettes of appropriate behavior patterns in cultural spaces where the work space/ networking space exists everywhere. I also feel that the #metoo movement lacks internal criticism, which would have been helpful in strengthening their cause. Due to anonymity and lack of accountability, it can lead to wrongful abuse of this system,” she adds.