IMPLICATED IN ART

 

WEEK 01             

GARBAGE OF THE MIND

ARTIST HARIBO

ARTISTIC RESPONSE 

 

DESCRIPTION: The image has a person’s hand holding a miniature version of a garbage bag and small artefacts of different kinds of garbage are falling out. It appears that the person is throwing the garbage out the window and onto the ground below where cars are parked. 

From the artist’s note:

“Yuck”, “chee”, “ywack”, “thoo”...The classic situation I came across that stood for all these feelings stood for me was my friendly neighbourhood roadside dump. The smell, the colours, the textures, but ultimately...its existence. On my walk, I noticed a young couple driving by, casually flinging a black bag into the merry party. And I realised...what disgusted me more than the waste was the mentality of people to contribute to the same. Sharing with you “dimagi kachra” or “Garbage of the mind”. “

SEE-SAW REFLECTIONS

The horror of the apathy around us can shock us at times but in those moments of horror, the realization that we are not all that different from those for whom we feel disgust can evade us. 

 

WEEK 01             

I HOLD MY BREATH

ARTIST Z

ARTISTIC RESPONSE 

 

DESCRIPTION: The image shows a black colour plastic garbage bag that is tied with string and has a letter inside it. The excerpt from the letter is mentioned in the main text.

 

LISTEN TO THIS POEM

00:00 / 01:23

 

DESCRIPTION: Typed English poem - “I hold my breath” - in black font against a white background.  Transcript and recording of the poem is provided to the right of the image.

From the artist’s note: 


Sep 13, 2021  

Week 1: See-Saw 

Dear Lavendar Hippo,  

Here is a poem ‘I hold my breath’, as the artistic response for Week 1 of See-Saw.  

Using the prompt was an interesting experience for me, as it brought out unexpected  insights. If I had been asked to write about what disgusted me about my neighbourhood, I would have had a long list even without the walk as a prompt.  However, consciously observing my body and senses during the walk around the  neighbourhood, made me realise that very few things disgust me, but quite a few  things make me anxious.  

I noticed that my body is desensitised to so many sounds, smells and sights that I would  expect to be overwhelming or unappealing. I tend to walk around my neighbourhood  looking up at the sky because the trees comfort me – the bright new Honge leaves  sparkling in the afternoon sun, or the red-orange leaves of Teak trees glowing in the  morning. In fact over time, I have started doing this consciously as an escape – ‘Let’s  pretend this is not a city’.  

The poem that I have shared is about what I learned from this experience by observing  my body. I noticed that I sighed every time I passed by a heap of garbage, and there  are several such heaps around my neighbourhood. I realised that it brought back a  memory of a garbage bag moving and rustling. What could be creepier than our own imagination! 

I also noticed that my body responded the same way to a house on one of the streets.  Though I pass by it several times a week, I had never noticed how uncomfortable it  made me with its lack of conformity. This exercise also helped me notice how much  conformity there is in my neighbourhood, despite it being multi-cultural and in flux. This conformity provides me an illusion of security.  

I look forward to receiving your artistic response for Week 1 and also getting to know  you a little each week, through your art. 

warm regards,  

Z “

SEE-SAW REFLECTIONS

The privilege of being a flaneur...we are a part of the roads we tread, the trees that soothe us, the garbage we loathe. We are because they are. 

 

WEEK 01            

CHEE OR YUM

ARTIST LAVENDER HIPPO

ARTISTIC RESPONSE 

 

DESCRIPTION: The image has a black background with six small pink folded envelopes stuck on it. The words ‘Chee or Yum’ are handwritten in white ink below each of them.

Excerpt from the artist’s note:

‘Dear Z,


I went out near my neighbourhood about twice, and once I felt a dirty smell come along with me throughout. Turns out that it was coming from me – well it was my bag. Previously my dad bought meat in this bag, and the blood from it had leaked out into the bag and the smell never went away even after it was washed multiple times. Every time I had a strong reaction to a smell I felt in my chest. 


- Lavendar Hippo’

SEE-SAW REFLECTIONS 

Memories are also encoded in smell even when sight has exhausted its utility. The unexpectedness of smell can be as petrifying as a ‘Boo’ in the dark. Smell also tells the stories of our forebearers and carries traces of the journeys we have all taken along the lanes of power, access and identity. 

 

WEEK 01             

BODY WASH

ARTIST STREET STORE DOLLS 

ARTISTIC RESPONSE 

 

DESCRIPTION: Typed text in English in black font against a white background.  Transcript is provided to the right of the image.

SEE-SAW REFLECTIONS

The stories of our lives and our evolving relationships can sometimes be told through our everyday consumables.

 

WEEK O2             

WHERE IS MY MEDAL

ARTIST JEISI AMAWASA

ARTISTIC RESPONSE 

 

DESCRIPTION: The image has hand drawn text in the centre that is in all capitals in block text font. The text reads ‘I acknowledge my very gross privilege. Ok where is my medal?’

SEE-SAW REFLECTIONS

Self-reflection is intrinsically valuable and is a reward in itself. The absurdity of thinking otherwise! 

 

WEEK 03             

MAYBE I SHOULDN'T

ARTIST LAVENDER HIPPO

ARTISTIC RESPONSE 

 

LISTEN TO THIS POEM

00:00 / 06:36

 

DESCRIPTION:  Typed English text - “I Think… Maybe I Shouldn't ” - in brown font against a cream background. Transcript and recording of the poem is provided to the right of the image.

SEE-SAW REFLECTIONS

Judgmentalism lies in the eyes of the beholder. But don’t blame yourself too harshly. The structures of seeing and the platforms that position us as seers precede our existence and we see only at their pleasure. 

 

WEEK O3             

THE ABYSS

ARTIST JEISI AMAWASA

ARTISTIC RESPONSE 

 

DESCRIPTION: There are four squares, each consisting of black and white drawings and hand written text. The first square has a drawing of a hand pointing to the screen of a tab. The tab has eyes and at the bottom of the screen the word ‘Swipe’ is written with an arrow on each side of the word pointing in opposite directions. The second square reads ‘For when you gaze long into the abyss’ in capital letters. The third square shows a hand emerging out of the screen of the tab and pointing towards a pair of eyes. The word ‘Swipe’ is written below the pair of eyes with arrows pointing in opposite directions on either side of the word. The fourth square reads ‘The abyss gazes also into you.’ in capital letters. Below this text is a pair of eyes and the words ‘Well, shit’ written in a speech bubble.  

SEE-SAW REFLECTIONS

Surfing, browsing, and swiping are never solo pursuits. Shut the windows, slip under the sheets, escape to the solitary confines of Mother Nature: our urge to surf, browse, swipe undrapes our cloak of isolation to reveal our social selves. And through our raining glimpses, we are always being watched.

 

WEEK 04              

A LETTER TO AMU

ARTIST Z

ARTISTIC RESPONSE 

 

LISTEN TO THIS POEM

00:00 / 02:44

 

DESCRIPTION: Contains an image and a poem. The image is of a painting titled - The Maid in the Kitchen, by Anna Ancher, 1883-1886. In the image we see a woman wearing an orange skirt and a black top standing with her back to us. The woman is facing a countertop with utensils on top of it and a window above. She is in a room which looks like a kitchen with the door ajar to the right. Sunlight is seen entering through the window that she faces. The kitchen colours that surround her are brown, light green and beige. The poem is written in black font against a white background and the transcription is provided to the right.

From the artist’s note: 

“Dear  Lavender  Hippo,  

This week’s prompts were interesting for me, especially the Vim bar. While I enjoyed playing with Surf because it was familiar, I did not enjoy using the Vim bar. It was so granular, so medicinal green, with little lather, sticky on my fingers, and the fragrance did not evoke anything. It was the opposite experience of the Vim liquid detergent that I regularly use. Also being a Rs.5 bar, I kept judging it as an inferior product.  

It also made me think of our previous house help, Amu, even though she had never been responsible for doing the dishes at our home. It made me wonder if she had used a bar like this. It triggered a memory of her sharing with me that she had to do all the housework at her home as well. I had asked her if her three sons ever helped.  But she justified their lack of help by saying that their tap was outside the home and hence it was embarrassing for them to wash dishes outside. I remember this anger rising within me then, but I kept silent. I know the anger was triggered from my own  experiences of being a woman within the boundaries of marriage and patriarchy.  

I decided to write about this memory and feeling through an epistle/epistolary poem  – which is a poem in the form of a letter. I have never tried this form before, but it seemed ideal to me. It helped me focus on someone else’s story, while indirectly expressing mine. The epistle also feels very intimate and personal because it is addressed directly to someone (as compared to an anonymous reader), which I thought would work for this content.

warm regards, 
Z”

 

LISTEN TO THIS LETTER

00:00 / 02:08

SEE-SAW REFLECTIONS

A mundane household chore and the key object necessary to perform it can evoke memories of a dear figure long passed, as well as the realisation that both are patriarchy’s ever-negotiating daughters. In this sense, artistic creation can create a discourse of empathy between the creator and the subject of artistic inspiration. 

 

WEEK 05             

BLACKJACK WITH LABELS

ARTIST LOKI

ARTISTIC RESPONSE 

 

DESCRIPTION: The image shows a person’s hand holding a number of cards with different pictures on them. The first card reads  ‘the feminist’. The card is divided into three parts. On the left side is an image of a woman with purple hair and an orange shirt holding a cigarette in her hand, looking slightly up. There are small white and yellow and orange flowers emerging from the cigarette in her hand, near her mouth and nose going upto above her head,  from her sleeve and on her shirt. On the right side is black and white image of a woman in a short dress sitting with her legs folded. Her head is replaced by a half bloomed rose flower and her body has thorns in different places. The third section is a repeated image of the faces of five women with different hairstyles, hair colours and skin tones. Their eyes are closed and their heads are resting on one another. This image repeats four times on the top half part of the card. The pictures and the text on the rest of the cards are not clear. 

 

DESCRIPTION: The image shows all 16 cards laid out. The description of each card is available in the dropdown to the right.
 

 

DESCRIPTION: The image shows all the 16 cards with a traditional red, cream and brown design on their cover  laid down and with 1st, 4th, 6th, 8th, 9th, 14th and 15th cards turned over.

SEE-SAW'S ANALYSIS

So which position would you like to occupy today? 

 

WEEK O6             

LEGS THAT FEEL

ARTIST MORTY SMITH

ARTISTIC RESPONSE 

 

DESCRIPTION: The image is a painting of a green boot with a brown sole and brown laces. The word ‘Qualities’ is written with black pen on the front of the shoe, the word ‘Characteristics’ is written on the sole and the words ‘Replicate’, ‘Feeling’, 'Empathise’ and ‘Understand’ are shown emerging from the boot. Behind is a beige background.

From the artist’s note: 

“Dear Gulla, This is Morthy Smith
This week’s prompt for me was all about “in one’s shoes”. I noticed interesting patterns. As I began to do the exercise, I was merely trying to replicate the qualities mentioned about the spider. Once I became comfortable, I started to [think] about how it would “feel” to have those qualities (eg: having electric – field – detecting legs).
Gradually I transitioned into moving what “ being” a spider would be like. The entire process of empathy and what it is to “ be in someone’s shoes”

SEE-SAW REFLECTIONS

Sometimes the closest that we can come to empathising with “the other” is pondering over the structures of prejudice. 

 

WEEK O6             

I AM FRAGILE

ARTIST JEISI AMAWASA

ARTISTIC RESPONSE 

 

DESCRIPTION: Two hands are holding a piece of paper on either side. In the centre of the paper is a drawing of a bat’s face with a sad expression and sharp teeth that protrude from its jaws. Below the image is the text ‘I am fragile. Please hold me tender and sweet.’ Beneath this is a small hand-drawn picture of a heart.  

Excerpt from the artist’s note:

"Hello!

Like most people post 2020, bats remind me of COVID-19, the fragility of life and the transparent structure that holds everything that is dear to us together. However, in the midst of our own fragile lifetimes, have we once bothered to ask ‘how is that bat?’. Is it as lonely, fragile, tender? Does it have dreams and wishes? And when you hug a bat too hard as to give it wings, do you tear the wings away?

Love Jeisi Amawasa"

SEE-SAW REFLECTIONS

The personification of the bat could be seen as a form of empathy for the non-human world and a deep wisdom about the interdependence of all life forms. But to show empathy for the bat is also reflective of our fears about our own impending annihilation that could occur in the absence of this empathy.

 

WEEK 07              

नाम | NAAM | NAME

ARTIST KHWABIDA

ARTISTIC RESPONSE 

 

LISTEN TO THIS POEM

00:00 / 00:53

 

DESCRIPTION: Handwritten Hindustani poem in blue ink against an orange background. Transcript and recording is provided to the right of the image.

SEE-SAW REFLECTIONS

Just as we are pinned down by our identities, we also pin others down by theirs and use identity as a locus to determine what our most reliable structures of support are likely to be. A catastrophic moment can significantly unravel the hollowness of name-based classifications. 

 

WEEK 09             

ARTIST GULLA

ARTISTIC RESPONSE 

CARDS OF BELONGING

 

DESCRIPTION: There is an image of the eye with a QR code across it and pieces of the QR code are disintegrating to reveal the eye. 

Excerpt from the artist's note:

"Dear partner, 

The use of identity cards to get through registration purposes has begun to scare me. Originally, I think they were meant to provide for us a sense of belonging. But I can’t help but feel in danger every time someone asks to link my Aadhar card, my passport, my driving license. I don’t know what they might do with that data…
Gulla,
11.11. 21

P.S. sending you two responses together cuz I couldn’t send the last week’s"

SEE-SAW REFLECTIONS

We are made up of the very lenses of perception through which we identify and classify others and ourselves. 

 

WEEK 09             

ARTIST MORTY SMITH

ARTISTIC RESPONSE 

"I" OF COLOURS AND LINES

 

DESCRIPTION: The image comprises of multiple painted washes of colours in the background (blue, pink, green, purple) blending into each other. Black patterned forms, resembling  jellyfish with tentacles extend from the top left corner of the page into the collage of colours. 

From the artist’s note:

'Dear Gulla,

 

I want to say that I feel very uncomfortable with my identity. I always had difficulty in liking myself. When I say identity I mean all aspects that make me into who I am. There is always a longing for a “better me”. I feel angry/helpless/overwhelmed when I look at myself in the mirror for a long time. I have been consciously unlearning all the toxic conditioning of constant negative talk but there is a long way to go. Lot of times I feel that the things I hold on to as many identity doesn’t matter at all. I find it obscure. 

In the artistic response I expressed my thoughts and feelings around my “I”dentity through colours and lines.’

SEE-SAW'S ANALYSIS

Identities are neither entirely wounded attachments nor multi-coloured patchwork canvasses. Identities can be both the tentacles that stifle and the festivals of colour that give our lives warmth and meaning.

 

WEEK O9              

काग़ज़ | KAAGHAZ | PAPER

ARTIST KHWABIDA

ARTISTIC RESPONSE 

 

LISTEN TO THIS POEM

00:00 / 00:47

 

DESCRIPTION: Handwritten Hindustani poem in blue ink against an orange background. Transcript and recording is provided to the right of the image.

SEE-SAW REFLECTIONS

Our personhood matters only as long as it can be “mediafied” to make it intelligible to the state and to various other regimes of power in society. The intense personal frustration of having one’s entire personhood reduced to a mere piece of paper is captured in these verses.

 

WEEK 10             

TOLD AND RETOLD

ARTIST JEISI AMAWASA

ARTISTIC RESPONSE 

 

DESCRIPTION: The image has drawings of a man shining a torch light onto a woman who is stitching a piece of cloth. There is also a woman who is mopping the floor. ‘Lights’, ‘Stitching’ and ‘Cleaning’ are written on the sides of the images and on the top of the image is the text ‘told’ and ‘retold’. 

From the artist’s note:

“Hello

I recently attended a Rangapravesha ceremony...and in addition to the Chief Guest proclaiming to be an anti-vaxxer, everything felt ridiculous. 

The girl thanked everyone in her journey for a good 15 minutes.

FIFTEEN MINUTES.

And nowhere was the househelp at her guru’s house, the driver who got her in and out of practice for 20 years, the lights staff or auditorium staff ever mentioned. 

And the performance?

Same one I’d seen twenty years ago at another event. Could grasp the same amount which makes me wonder,

WHO WAS THAT GRAND PERFORMANCE EVEN FOR?

 

<3 “Jeisi” “

SEE-SAW REFLECTIONS

Every reiteration of an “ancient practice” is made possible by the hands of many nameless others whose anonymity and erasure is vital for the sanctity of the practice to take place. But while reflecting on these structures of power, perhaps we have to beware of a holier-than-thou attitude...because what about the audience? On which rung of the labour chain do they stand? What is the labour of the beholder?

 

WEEK 10            

BACK TO BASICS

ARTIST LOKI

ARTISTIC RESPONSE 

 

DESCRIPTION: The video shows a group of five women performing classical Indian dance moves in fast forward mode. There is only music with no lyrics playing in the background. 

DESCRIPTION: The image shows a square banana leaf. 

 

DESCRIPTION: The image shows a square banana leaf. The image shows the square banana leaf open out like a page to reveal a QR code in the centre. 

 

Excerpt from the artist’s note:

“There is something immediately attractive about tradition, routine, rigour, repetition and the simple early old days.

Experiencing another’s art left me motivated, disappointed, inspired, jealous, feeling inadequate and excited by cynical all the same. Here is how I know to respond.”

SEE-SAW REFLECTIONS

Tradition offers the shelter of continuity and certainty with a tinge of nostalgia for an imagined biographical linearity that one shares with similar others. This is how tradition creates a sense of community and belonging. And yet, its monotony and its relative resistance to change and to the emergence of new struggles are evidently anxiety-provoking. Our attitudes towards tradition as a kind of solace or a source of alienation and angst carries embers of our social locations and identities

 

WEEK 10             

JEALOUS GAZE

ARTIST LAVENDER HIPPO

ARTISTIC RESPONSE 

 

DESCRIPTION: The image comprises a hand drawn picture of two eyes with blue pupils. Underneath is the beginning a nose that is cut off by a paper with typed font stuck on top of it. Below the paper is a fire. The write up on the paper is accessible in the transcript dropdown below.

Excerpt from the artist’s note: 

“Dear Morty Smith

… I finally decided that I will go to an art exhibition happening close to my house. I did not know what the exhibition was on. When I went there I realised that the exhibition was on Indian pride. The entire exhibition was Savarnas on full display. I did not see anything or any art representation from anyone who weren’t hindu. Needless to say this angered me and my artistic response could not have been about the art itself. Thankfully I went with a friend...I was very happy to have been with her in an art space again because we occupied them very differently

…”

SEE-SAW REFLECTIONS

Disembodiment is not the artist’s privilege. Every work of art carries traces of its creator and the entire lineages and structural positionings of the artists whose works were displayed in the exhibition resonate through their work even though they were absent. And these resonances evoke a variety of angst in the writer of the above piece whose precarious social position in relation to the absent artists becomes particularly pronounced. Yet, we cannot forget that it is through her sight, her perspective and her ocular claim to agency that we “see” absences and erasures without being privy to any knowledge about what was actually on display in the exhibition.