Friday, May 24, 2013




In this candid interview, Nagpur based sculptor and performance artist Shweta Purushottam Bhattad speaks to JohnyML about her concerns as a woman living in contemporary India. She reveals the horrifying stories of child abuse within the domestic sphere by relatives. Shweta’s works extensively documents similar stories. Excerpts from the interview:

(Shweta Purushottam Bhattad)

JohnyML: You studied sculpture but you switched to performances. Could you please tell why you chose performance over sculpting?

Shweta Purushottam Bhattad: I did my studies in Sculpture but I always worked with the various mediums which I felt best for expressing me and my concerns. I started performing during my Masters but, those were performed in studio and then recorded in form of videos and then I used these video installations with my art works.

Sometimes I feel that for the work I want to do, or I want to show, the language of sculpture become very limited. I feel that I want to say something more but then I find my creations merely the show pieces for the walls. As most of  the concerns I am working with is related to some or other social harms and for that the audience I need is local people, I feel galleries have access to very limited people in that way.

Mostly I work on the concerns, which worries me, and I feel intense need to speak on it, to work on it… I feel my responsibility towards it… with my performances I can reach to mass public, who can be a Rickshaw Driver or a vegetable vender, or for whom access to art otherwise is not common. Also then the concern I want to talk on, reaches to the mass in that way… As an artist and human I feel more content in this practice, as I know what change it can bring and why in this time it is more important to do what I am doing. I feel that performances are the best way of expressing myself and to involving audience, so that they get involved with the performance which ends to a lot of questions in their mind, about performance, about what I wanted to talk on and then they start thinking, reacting on it and asking questions on it… I always design the visual of my performances keeping in mind that whom I need to reach and what seed I need to plant.
Most of my performance are time based and site specific.

JML: What was your sculptures like before you entered this performance practice?

SPB: In my masters I worked with the interviews of the girls who were abused… That was the time I did some installations, videos and some kinetic sculptures which revolve around the same concern.

JML: You wear a chastity belt in one of the performances and lie down on the ground in different locations. What provoked you to do this performance?

SPB: My works are very much connected to me and how I had grown up… It evolved out of my experiences…
My own childhood experiences, where I was living in the joint family, facing abuses from the summer guests crowding our huge joint family and my mind for many years… At the end of the academic sessions, every child in my school use to wait for summer holiday, leaving me restless…   My own experiences of how this guilt and fear started boarding my body, then mind, then feelings and thoughts, killing something inside me, leaving my stomach and words empty for many years, till I came to know about the similar abuses happening around me…
This anger got vent, when after so many years I could give speech to these sufferings through my art…

From past some years I am closely working with the women sexually harassed and also on its physio-psychological effects on them, the trauma they suffered after such abuses… closely conversing with different people in the field working on its long term effects and consequences… working with the interviews of girls who suffered abuses announcing for the open call for the women who have suffered such abuses I was shocked to find many untold stories every next door…  May be because of my own experiences of growing years, I can feel more attached to its sufferers and can work on it, because I can feel it… And because of this the inspiration comes from within my own concerns…

My previous works, during masters, started with the interviews of the girls who faced the abuses, including my own interview which I incorporated in the chastity belts, It was a cathartic experience for all of us who interviewed, because there we shared some untold secrets of our lives which were buried in us killing our souls for years. For the first time we freed ourselves in front of the world… I know how it feels being out of cage after the years of imprisonment. However, in these interviews I hide the identity of the girls…

There are many  numbers of reasons for Rapes, molestations and abuses… During these interviews while working and having lots of close conversations with many people, psycologists, doctors, social workers, lawyers and different people who are working with the rape victims and child abused girls, I found that though there are many reasons related to rape, but what our POP culture serves the youths and generations, through movies and TV serials also plays a very important role in educating them in either way… Sometimes In theaters I get shocked seeing people shouting, enjoying, commenting on such glorified Rape Scenes which makes me wonder that how these sufferings can amuse and provoke people to such extent that their sensibilities die, people say that movies are inspired by real life… But, on contrary large number of people get inspired by the living, fashion in films… So what effect does the eve teasing and the glorified rape scenes in the movies brings to people…?   All the movies serving glorified rape scenes, if we see their promotional ads in TV or posters or any social media, these scenes are shown highlighting and we see only action and not its consequences… Because of all these experiences, talks and observations I decided to do this performance.

 JML: How intense are you with the politics of gender?

SPB: Gender politics; It starts right from our homes and it starts in such tender age that many accept that being women is the curse of previous birth… I have heard people saying “agar is janam mai aache karam karonge to agle janam mai ladka ban kar paida honge”… The fact that before birth, gender identification results to female feticide itself is the big example of gender politics… I feel this reform should start from our homes, from the very infancy men get entitlement for many things, it starts from the very basic activity of dining, they are always served first by women ... The girls always face discrimination beginning from their homes, as a result soft mind casts to accept this prejudice as their fate, for them, then it’s no more the inequity… and vice versa for men too… Our society serves unfair to women; as a result males become incapable of respecting women as persons of female gender deserving respect just as themselves. Hence, the awareness of many such discrimination should be the part of school education and also the home teachings, so as through the roots we can kill this evil of minds, hearts and beliefs.

JML: How did Delhi audience respond to your Chastity Belt Performance?

SPB: I was called for this performance in Delhi during Art Fair in Feb 2013, in a event called Publica… I was supposed to perform this in “Delhi Hatt” which is a public shopping area and in a Mall called “Great India Place” It was a one week performance… I was first supposed to perform in the opening of publica in a hotel and then it was going to open for public… When I performed in the opening, I got good response from some visitors and media… some saying it was a shocking, intense, bold and shaking performance and others just viewing from the corners of their eyes, keeping the distance from performance… Next day I did not get the permission to perform from Delhi Haat and Great India Place mall authorities who were present in the opening day performance showing their worries on, what effect such performances in their premises will put on their image in media and public…

I was told that I can perform if I sit on chair and videos are not clear, or if they put barricades around me so that people will not have closer look to the performance or I change the video inside, which I later denied…

 JML: Tell us more about the performance that you did in a barren land?

SPB: It was in a one week residency at Barbil- Orissa organized by “Utsha Foundation” in collaboration with Arya Groups, which runs Iron & steel company and have some iron mines under them… Barbil is the place where there are huge Iron ore mines…
Staying in Maharashtra I know about the coal mines… But I had never seen Iron mines so was very excited to have opportunity to see it and how it works… we were taken to the factory where the company makes iron balls from the dust of the iron, before entering we were provided with the helmets’ and the masks explaining that the dirt and the smoke here consists of the fine dust of iron which is harmful for lungs and breath… Entering inside the factory I lost all my excitement, seeing a large number of labors, men & women working without any such mask and helmet… We were there just for a week but they give their lives to these factories… However now seeing those amusing machines and the question how the iron and steel made out of this dust never excited me… But what crowded my mind all through the residency was the red iron dust clad faces of the men and women working there… 

After the factory when we were taken to the mines, it was a huge land, a Jungle which was on lease by government handed over to a company… We were allowed to enter but with the special permissions and no cameras… When after asking a lots of questions the guards let us in, We were driven inside the area, A long patch we covered was very green with trees that might be aged for hundred of years or might be much more… It seemed like we were on jungle safari, unless after covering a large area we came across almost the same length of the area, which was converted into a dry, dead, barren land… It was hard to believe that after covering the kilometers and kilometers of green, rich jungle you will all of the sudden land to a burned, destroyed, raped land… And it was the same feeling grave and lifeless, which left my mouth dry… Wherever I moved my eyes till I could see the horizon I could never trace the evidence of green, not a single sprout not a single plant…!! The loss beyond repair and what can I do…?? Only I can answer myself that the iron coming out of these mines is used for our development… Development!! But whose development and on what cost? All in my eyes after that was the red faces of laborers and the red, dead dry face of the land… And only the word came to my mind that time was Faith… When you feel helpless, and your feeling cannot face the reality the only thing which remains with you is “Faith”… “Faith”, that everything will be in its shape one day…
So I decided to meet the land, the barren land with life once again and the 100 plants I chose to perform with...

JML: You assume a persona in your performances. Could you please tell us more about this assumed personality?

SPB: In most of the performance I wear white, because I feel that it gives the strong visual to the performance holding the attention of the viewer without revealing my Identity, sometimes which I feel is strongly needed…
Also white I feel is so neutral colour that it does not represent any caste or religion, the white wig hides the description of age and also it attracts the curiosity of the viewer which is the purpose of my performances…
In most of the performance I colour this white attire too, but it totally depends on what visual I want and so it is not necessary that I will forever continue with this persona…  

JML: What are your current projects and future ones?

SPB: Presently I am working on some performances, which I have planned to perform in the villages near Nagpur in collaboration with some people who are social workers, farmers and film makers… Also I have my studio at Nagpur, where I am working on some art works and video installations…
One of the current performances I am working on, is to be performed in the villages nearby… In the farms there is the extensive use of synthetic wire net… Farmers use it for monkeys, but lots of birds fall its prey… However these nets are not useful for frightening monkeys too, but there is not proper awareness about it… Recently I come across such incidents and feel the strong need to work on it…


An Artist’s Psyche

Tangerine Art Space, Bangalore presents a show of paintings by artist Ramesh Chandra, in a show of his recent water colour works. Ramesh is fascinated by human psychology and skillfully incorporates it in his strongly narrative and visually engaging works.

Human figures and human psyche are intertwined in an array of seemingly simple water colour paintings. Conflicts are enhanced using myriad hues and a sensitive relationship between form and content is brought to the fore.

Metaphors of flowers and vines as qualities of the heart to be nurtured and preserved are seen and human beings with twisting tongues depict the nature of mankind to control things.

The show is on view till the 5th of June 2013.

Art Museums in India - A lecture

The Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai presents a lecture by New Delhi based curator and researcher Vidya Shivadas on 25th of May 2013. The topic of the lecture is ‘Site Under Construction - Notes on the Contemporary Art Museum’.

The lecture is a part of the exhibition ‘Zones of Contact: Propositions on the Museum’ co-curated by Vidya along with Akansha Rastogi and Deeksha Nath at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, (KNMA) Noida.

The lecture draws excerpts from the working notes of this exhibition and examines the role of contemporary art museums in the sub-continent. Taking cues from James Clifford’s ‘Contact Zones’ where the museum is seen as a zone for interplay between cultures and communities of diversity, and promoting engagement and interaction, the exhibition tries to incorporate these points when addressing the future of private museums which may change the landscape of India.

Vidya intends to address the issues of globalization with respect to the Indian scene of private museums and formations of specific identities therein.

Vidya Shivadas is a curator and researcher based in New Delhi. After completing her Masters in Art Criticism from Faculty of Fine Arts, M S University, Vadodara in 2000. She has been working and curating shows at the Vadehra Gallery, New Delhi, since she joined in 2002.

The lecture will take place at 6:30 pm on the 25th of May 2013.

Women-speak-  Feminist Mappings - II

Art Heritage Gallery, New Delhi presents a two persons show titled, ‘Feminist Mappings II’. The participating artists Neena Nehru and Anita Tiwary display an array of sensitive and questioning works which examine the issues of women in today’s society through their collection of paintings and installation works.

While one section explores the changing face of women’s persona through out their lives, as seen in Neena’s works, another section explores the quiet communication  and interplay between what is real and unreal in her paintings. Obscuring reality and bringing forth abstraction as a visual to portray realities is what Anita’s work seems to depict.

The two diverse artistic expressions evoke a certain amount of curiosity in the viewer and question their sensibilities with regard to women’s issues and gender related issues.

The show is on view till the 25th of May 2013.

WALA’s Multiplex - a performance

 The Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art, (FICA) New Delhi presents the fourth part of a public event by WALA, as part of the ‘ Kachra Seth’s Observatory’ project which received the Public Art Grant in 2011.

‘WALA’s Multiplex’ is taking place on the 26th of May 2013, 6:00 pm onwards.

The event is fourth in the ‘Kachra Seth’s Observatory’ project. Earlier projects were ‘ Narcissist in the Mirror Shop: a Walk from National Museum to National Gallery of Modern Art’ which took place in March 2012, ‘WALA’s Metro Adventure: A Guided tour From Central Secretariat to IFFCO Chowk’ in  May 2012,  and the ‘Sprawl is Louder, Louder and Louder’ in February 2013.

WALA is a Delhi based collective formed by Akansha Rastogi, Paribartana Mohanty and Sujit Mallik. WALA acts as a producer of situations, encounters, devices , formats that allow interactions and dialogues with artists present or in their absence. WALA is associated with performance art and community art projects.

The venue for the event is : S-Block, Gate No.1, DLF, Dilshad Extension-II, Sahibabad, Ghaziabad, or call call us at 9999349379, 9911455909, 8285966059.

(News Reports by Sushma Sabnis) 

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