Saturday, November 24, 2012

'of bodies, armour and cages'

An unconventional solo exhibition of works by Shakuntala Kulkarni takes place at The Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in Noida.

The series, entitled ‘of bodies, armour and cages’ attempts to address the relationship of the body to the dual notion of protection and entrapment. A curatorial note by Roobina Karode elaborates: “From her earlier concerns with human predicament, the artist has shifted attention to gender specific issues over the last two decades, making an enquiry into the lives of urban women and their space within patriarchal societal structures.

“At different stages of her art practice, she started addressing issues like pain, claustrophobia, alienation, fear, violence, etc. experienced by women within city spaces, examining ways of possibly dealing with it. The body language in her work becomes the site of contestation for addressing her concerns through performance videos. While the cane armour that the protagonist wears becomes a metaphor for protecting the physical body, it also stands as resistance to the invasion of cultural and historical spaces.”

The works recently showcased at Mumbai-based Chemould Prescott Road were conceived as a space wherein historical objects, such as the armor and the elaborately designed costumes/dresses of different communities were brought together in the contemporary context. The artist did so by re-articulating the usage and the medium, collapsing and metamorphosing the two, thus blurring the cultural and visual boundaries. Entitled ‘Of bodies, armour and cages’, the project was borne out of her fascination by the very structure, and the grandeur of the armor: masculine, stiff, strong, lasting and peerless in nature.

Armour of the yonder days were worn by these warriors to protect themselves during the encounters or wars. Made of metal and leather, these armor were designed to look grand.

The cane armor /costumes in this project spoke of the grandeur too. But the elaborately structured dresses looked relatively feminine, linear, fragile, and organic in nature, protecting the body, breaking the gaze by the joineries of the pieces of cane and the weave. The project here tried to fathom the relationship of the body to the notion of protection and the notion of being trapped. The indoor and outdoor performance photographs addressed this concern further.

The cane armor while being a metaphor for protecting the physical body also stands as resistance to the invasion of cultural and historical spaces. The project thus attempted to address the systematic erasing of histories and culture in Mumbai today. The photographs showed the protagonist wearing the armor, posing in different locations in Mumbai that are threatened. They became a documentation of the rapidly, in a way…

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