Is what you see, what you want to see? How do you look to someone on the outside? Do they only see what they want to see?
The punch in a sentence, the masaaledaar bit of the sentence, is often caused by emphasis. The choice to emphasise a certain word in a sentence draws attention to that particular word, giving it more importance than the others. It also changes the meaning of the sentence—it sheds light on a certain interpretation as opposed to the many others possible.
For instance, in the above sentence, to say “main dukaan gayi, aloo khareedne,” with emphasis on the main, would mean one is attempting to convey that it is they who went to the dukaan, and not someone else. Alternatively, if emphasis is laid on ‘aloo’ instead, it would tell the listener that you bought ‘aloo’, and not carrot or gobi. It then becomes interesting to note that the interpretation or meaning of a particular spoken sentence is often in the hands of the speaker—one can choose what they want their listener to understand or take away from their words.
Identity seems to often function in a similar manner, where one emphasises a certain element or shade of their personality as opposed to the others. Who is responsible for whose identity then? Do we choose what we would like to make the “punch element” of our identities, or does someone else? Will it ever be possible to move past this specific identifier and look at the whole as opposed to the fragmented?
Since this is a sensorial performance, we are hoping to explore the use of multiple senses. What happens when various sensory experiences collide? Is there something new that emerges out of this collision?
"How do we make space and hold space for unsettling conversations? How does the very organisation and set up of a space influence the way these conversations will move? What are the differences between when you tell/listen to stories on a train or in a performance hall, or with the person lying next to you in bed? Are we constantly shuffling around the make or take up space as we perform our identities in the multiple spaces we inhabit throughout our lives? Might seem like a simple metaphor for much more complicated questions, but who we do or do not decided to sit next to seems to speak a lot to how we locate ourselves in the physical spaces we inhabit. Is it possible to unsettle the organisation of these spaces so our reactions are not so determined?"
-- Josephine Haworth Lee
Why has art today become a space where people come to silently sit and receive without engaging with the material presented to them? The intention of art is to create a space of engagement, where people come to interact with one another, give rise to conversation, conflict, discussion and debate. If we, as members of the audience, step into a space simply to observe instead of strike a dialogue with what is presented to us, we help create a space lacking creation--a space where information is presented to us as instruction. During our journey in Platform 1, we attempted to create a space where people gather, engage with one another and with the performers, and a space that welcomes creativity and innovation.
However, were we successful in the creation of such a space? When the performers attempted to bridge the gap between themselves and the audience through jokes, the creation of suspense and performative gestures intended to draw the audience in, they were met with some suspicion and hesitation. The audience, comprising of young students in the aforementioned case, "looked slightly nervous when asked questions, as if they were expected to give ‘the right answer’ when responding". Despite there being considerably little space between the performers and the audience owing to it being an intimate arrangement, the gap or the boundary between the two exists symbolically in the minds.
It is this gap that perhaps lends to the static nature of performative art today.
It is important to stick with something in order to see how you can try and bring some difference to it. Picking one idea and working with it, even when you seem to have run out of content, is what could help generate nuance or add layers to it. It encourages thought and seems to imbibe in its very act of repetition a need for challenge and thus a furthering. When asked to repeat the same incident that was narrated in a previous exercise, we all seemed to have added, modified and subtracted details from our stories. Focus shifts, emphasis varies and it is perhaps this that invites a furthering of ideas and questions.
It also becomes symblomatic of what this work is trying to bring out. We want to revisit questions and discourses around identity, engaging with this and attempting to probe at the fissures of these discourses in order to generate something new. There is a need to actively revisit what already exists in order for there to emerge something new, not out of nothing but from some thought and understanding that arises from the process of interrogation.
“As a child, I always loved the colour saffron. It gave me a lot of happiness, and was simply a colour that I was very fond of. Over the past couple of years, however, there is a certain disappointment I feel when I see the colour—I actively try to not like it. I understand that the colour saffron now comes with some baggage and there is a fear in me of being attached to a particular identity that the colour seems to entail today.
Not only with this, but also with my religion. I love my religion, and the stories that come with its canon, but whenever I find myself talking about it now I also cut myself off. I am scared that I will be considered to be part of an identity that I do not associate myself with. I am scared of what people will think.
It’s like being in love with a criminal.” — Varun Kurtkoti, when asked to talk about an incident that triggered some thought about the theme of identity.
What does it mean to see yourself in a certain way, while also being scared that someone else will see you in a different light?
My mum was making ghee rice
When I slipped out for my first ever chicken wings.
The chicken wings were delicious.
He was making me laugh
When I dropped that extra spoon of salt into my dhal.
I want the dhal to be delicious.
The best fish was served to me
When I fell terribly ill with needles in my veins.
I don't know if the fish was delicious.
They made me drink the goumutra
After mixing it up with milk and honey.
The goumutra was not delicious
The pork was made with a lot of love
When I fought for my food to be cooked in another kitchen.
I don't want to know if the pork was delicious.
They dragged me out and beat me up
When I was cooking my beef at home.
I will never know if the beef was delicious.
The warrior stood.
And the door towered over him.
This gigantic, wooden door reinforced with steel that still glinted. Some things time cannot dull.
There were no walls on either side of the door. Just an endless stretch of dark. And amidst all that
black, stood the door, holding the amber and pink of the rising sun.
The warrior stood in front of her immenseness. And behind him lay the dark forest of thick, large
trees, coiled with vines and shrubs that competed with each other. The warrior had emerged from
that forest sometime ago. Had forgotten when. How many days had it been?
Each day was the same. He would wake, hunt, eat, wait, sleep. The only time he was awake was
when he stood waiting… every other moment seemed dream-like, fluid, non-controllable…
That worried the warrior. Control was at the core of his being. He had eventually learnt that an
effective way to control the other, was to gain control over the self. So, he had trained to master
control… but, here, while he stood in front of the door – his years of practice dissipated like rising
He was awake, but not in control.
The door was.
She had called and he had responded.
He had followed the signs, for there were no maps to follow – not in ink, or legends, or song. The
signs were all that were. Revealing to the ones who sought. In his journey through the forest, he met
many like him. Each, following signs that only they could see, each, speaking of the door.
A massive, wooden door reinforced with steel.
The warrior stood. Alone. Except for the soft murmur of the breeze in his ears, there was no other
Inside, was different.
Shrieks, screams, wails, gurgles, whispers, moans, cackles, sighs, hums, laughters…a deluge of
sounds, which had lost all meaning because contexts had become hazy.
The warrior stood and waited as contexts began to disappear, one by one.
Till only two remained.
(excerpted from a myth building exercise that each of us undertook during the Unreserved journey)
Is (from) elsewhere
And so also (of) here
(For) it is continuous
Like the journeys
Same, and not
Different, and not
(Not) yet. (Not) now
The way/s I think, and act. The way/s I am.
Is that also (not) how you think, and act. The way/s you are.
Is that also (not) why I think, and act. The way/s I am. The way/s you are.
Is that also (not) why you think, and act. The way/s you are. The way/s I am.
I am not
You are not
I am and am not
You are and are not
Neither I am nor am not
Neither you are nor are not
Is this (not) reality
(For) me, you, them, us
A question of (human) existence. Is a question of what. That becomes a question of what is. And
then a question of what is it/this/that – for it to be answerable. That simultaneously, almost, is also a
question of who. That becomes a question of who am/are/is. And then a question of who am I/who
are we/you/they/who is she/he/they – an answerable question. Subsequently, or simultaneously, or
(maybe) preceding these, are questions of where, how, why, and so what – of location/s,
mechanism/s, reason/s, and repercussion/s and relevance/s. With many answers to all these (and
more, un/related) questions. That depend on who, and/or what, is asking the question/s, of/from
who, and/or what, for what, from where, why, and how. A question of power, and its a/symmetries.
That order, and/or try to order, (human) existence, and its relation/s, to (the) self/I/us/this and (the)
other/you/he/she/them/that. Culturally, socially, economically, ecologically, politically. Constructed.
In questions. In answers. That depend on the question/s, questioner/s, answer/s and answerer/s.
And the stakes. For one, a few, some, many, most, all.
Again, and again, and again. Questions, for, and of, academics, activists, and artists. Of whoever,
everyone. Individually, collectively. Who are you? Who am I? What do you do? What do I do? For
who? With who? Where? Why? How? And so what? As people who speak of, and for, people, in the
margins, who may also (rarely, though more so now) be themselves, (self)represented,
(auto)ethnographically, as statistics, as events, as anecdotes, as (un/true, non/linear, non/multiple)
stories, as them/selves, as authentic. To show, and analyse, economic and social injustice/s, and
strive for reformative, or revolutionary, individual, and/or collective, social inclusion and justice. A
matter of politics, and what fills, and can fill, that politics. Matters of ontology/s, epistemology/s,
and methodology/s. Questions of what, and who, or of who, and what. Simultaneously, or first,
second, third, later, earlier, before, after, last. So that, what is it, for them, to speak, say of a
marginal/ised person, to show her/them, dis/place her/them, dis/place the academic, activist,
and/or artist, including the writer, the director, the (authoritative) author, dis/place authority and
power. A question/ing of (dominant) knowledge production. Who, and what, can do this, and how?
Bringing us back to the question of who is a/the who. Meaning, what, is, this. That exists, even as it
does not. And fight against what makes it exist, one/I/they/we must. As what, who? How. When.
Where. All the time, everywhere. How? Un/fixing what, and who? What, or who, decides, can
decide, should decide, (all of) this. As (not) one thing.
Can we (not) be.
Of ways, and means
To who I am (not), and you are (not).
Separately, and together.
(Hopefully) in places that are not modern, and colonial.
From times that can be such.
Becoming. Fragment/s. Fully.
In an I?
An understanding, a dominance, a subordination, a subversion, an overthrow
Of structures, systems, institutions, practices, discourses, of the dominant
This blog is an attempt to capture, in written form, some of our thoughts and conversations as we build the Unreserved performance.