In 2012, there was wide coverage in the mainstream media about the exodus of people from the Northeast living in Bangalore. The images and stories of women, children and men fleeing in thousands on trains, with their hurriedly gathered belongings, was the starting point for the idea of Unreserved.
The incident itself created a marked dent in our understanding of identities. We began actively looking at how our individual journeys in search of identity, are also collective journeys. Several questions emerged; How are identities shaped? Is the formation of identity largely based on negation? For example, to be a man one must not ‘behave’ like a woman. Why do identities stick and persist? Should identity be limited to frameworks of conflict? Are there other ways to read it?
Unreserved is a quiet resistance. A gentle defiance of the single story, a refusal of the stereotype. Our wish is to find different perspectives of and around identity and share them as widely and publicly as possible. Our tone of inquiry is gentle and playful, yet provocative.
Journey as Identity
Unreserved was a 30 day performative journey on trains, that lay special emphasis on ‘playful’. Our work was infused with games, tricks, and songs that were performative in nature, designed to create a space for conversation that do not easily dissolve into binary confrontations.
Eight performer-facilitators travelled on 12 sleeper coaches, 4 unreserved compartments, and reached 10,000 people across the country, in 30 days. The attempt was to engage fellow passengers, TTEs, vendors, cleaners in a sharing of stories; stories that reimagined individual journeys of identity that were both universal in understanding, and deeply personal in experience.
Platform 1 was a sharing of the learnings from each leg of the train journey. At each of our destinations we engaged with a local art organisation, to collaboratively host Platform 1 in public spaces. Inviting members from the local community and students, Platform 1 was in the form of installations, podcasts, short films, sketches from the journey and short performance pieces directed by Anish Victor.
The idea of the travelling exhibition is to take learnings from the process to different public spaces. It is an effort to continue reflections from the journey, after the last Platform 1. The exhibition will be a basket of ideas - publication, short films, podcasts, sketches, maps, photographs curated to strengthen and deepen our engagement with students, artists and the general public.