Saturday, June 4, 2016

Conversely Conversed: Anil Dayanand on Understanding Performance

Anil Dayanand, LOVE HOLD, June 6, 2013, an interactive collaborative performance
with Pari Baishya at LA360 Gallery, Trivandrum 
Anil Dayanand is a multi-disciplinary artist presently based in Jaipur. With a formal training in sculpting from Trivandrum Fine Arts College and Delhi College of Art, Anil Dayanand’s works comprise a wide genre of formal choices, including detailed figurative painting, drawing, new-media, community-based projects, sculpting, video installations and research-based, cross-disciplinary collaborations that breaks the boundaries between studio and non-studio art practices. Anil has also been actively exploring the field of performance art since its maiden days in India along with his contemporaries Sushil Kumar, Inder Salim and Shantanu Lodh.

It was in the early 90s when nudity was not a frequently used tool for representation in performance art; Anil took up this challenge and performed nude for the first time for a video installation which was showcased in Lakshminagar, Delhi. Since then Anil has been a visible name in the genre of performance art. The unique fusion of conceptual understanding and practical manifestation in his work makes it intriguing for the spectators. Here he speaks to Samudra Kajal Saikia about his journey and understandings around performance... [Mridupankhi]

Understanding of Performance:
BYWAY, video installation 1994, Laxmi nagar, NewDelhi, pic. Imtiaz Ahamed
For me doing performance can be any situation that involves four basic elements: time, space, the performer's body and a relationship between performer and audience (interactive element). There for me has always been the element of the unexpected in my works. Could I have foreseen that ladies in the street would touch me, and interact with my being, myself, to contribute or engage with my work? Of course not. I accept that my body, my emotional charge, or neutrality, created a space where that invitation was conveyed, and an audience felt complete trust, without instruction, to participate. This always highlights to me, that the ordinary person, wants to engage, wants to participate in society, in ways that they have not been able to previously. That gives me hope, that the ordinary, unheard member of society, feels heard through my work, and it empowers them to join in, and for them, be seen and heard too. In a recent piece that was not especially political, the audience came to the floor to touch and smell devotional flowers, they took money from a pile of coins, for no reason, than the invitation allowed them to experience that curious moment, and they found themselves joyously reciting poetry to each other. I could not have scripted a show in that way, and they could not have foreseen their own participation. I enjoy the permission that real performance art affords the audience.

Anil Dayanand

On Impossibility and possibilities of Documentation:

In the early days of performance, there was little or no documentation possible. The obvious downside of this, is that many pioneering works are lost when we now try to collate the history of our art-form in India. On the upside, it meant that performers created their work with no ulterior motive, not seeking fame or glory, and leaving their ego behind, they just pressed on and used performance to educated, surprise, and in many cases activate and stimulate social and cultural change.

Anil Dayanand, Performance at Kochi Beach for "Artist Without Boundaries", 14th Dec. 2012
Social Span:

Time and space specific works are indeed designed to be ephemeral as you state. But, as I mentioned above, many performances have touched upon important social issues, and touched many of the audience in a way that is more humane than a work of art hanging in a gallery that they would never visit, nor understand. The performer, uses the body, and the now to express silence that cuts through the visual and for that moment, the audience is touched deeply about a social issue that has long been overlooked. In a recent show I held at a Kabir festival, the audience were academics and expecting to discuss beautiful ancient Kabir texts. My visuals juxtaposed ancient couplets with ironic but pressing social issues that included Aids, Homeosexuality, Hunger, Injustice and Rape. Were Kabir's couplets prophetic, that we stupid humans may not ever learn, or were his writings the wake up call that we so callously ignore again and again in our human pursuit of fame and fortune?

Anil Dayanand, "Those who are not corrupt may spill the muck over me"...
performance at Sarai 17th Sept. 2011. Photo credits. Pari Baishya

The ephemeral nature:

The ephemeral nature of the actual site performance can be packed up in minutes, the stage is never a theatre set with costumes and lighting or pre determined script, and yet, the passage of work, can leave a lasting impression with or without documentation. One thing that is becoming evident in modern works may be a change for the worse for the essence of the performance, but create something more spectacular for documentation purposes. Students may be tempted to move away from pure communication of an idea, and instead, because of video, and live stream facilities, may create their works to be more camera friendly. Thus, more of a spectacular show. We see greater high tech amenities being incorporated, an immersion into intriguing sound and lighting backdrops and with this comes the obvious need for sponsorship and money to pay the way. It may be important for us all to remain without the props and simply and powerful disturb the peace without so many new shiny toys to help us tell the story.

Anil Dayanand, "Small is Big", A date with Anila Begum

The sense of the immediate Now

Many of my performances have been about personal versus private space, gaze, touch, intimacy and voyeurism and my part is to be a catalyst to instigate the viewers to explore these notions for themselves as they arise. In a recent performance at the International Theatre Festival in Trichur, Kerela, this was an amusing interplay of human instinct and protection of personal dignity. Whilst the audience were keen to document my private space, when the cameras were turned on them, to document their private moment, feelings arose for them that were unexpected, playful and of course the irony was much enjoyed by all – the real issue of performance was revealed in startling clarity, Who is the performer? And who is the audience? The sense of the immediate Now, create this demarcation that confuses and delights, and this is a complete break from the traditional model of theater, where the audience is passively entertained. I love to interact with the audience, and each of my pieces that have been important have had strangers, literally find themselves fully engaged in the work without prior arrangement. That is the wonder of the work, not having the answers, neatly prepared, and not knowing what will come next.

Great performance art like a wonderful sculpture proposes a simple study of human emotion. A paring away of the script, and purple velvet curtains of traditional theatre. What the audience experience is an urgency of expression through a very sensual art form. The body contorts itself, and displays, fear, laughter, disgust, and all the 'rasas', in a reduced time frame. It calls for the audience to be alert, and feel their own body reactions, without the distraction of elaborate story, script, characters and of course, glossy theatre brochure, all of which are entirely distractions or decorative ornamentation.

The relationship between performance and documentation is one that hopefully does not focus solely on the performer, but really captures the spirit of the audience. Capturing their moments of awakening, recognition, is as vital to understanding the piece as simply capturing the 'actor'.
I am thankful that I have collaborated with photographers that have not focused on 'my show' and tried to keep the body of work faithful to the setting, the people, and the evocation of the inner space that work or idea created.
Anil Dayanand, "You Made me Communist",
at 20th CPM Party Congress at Calicut, March 31, 2012

Tracking History:

Perhaps this 'new' form of performance can be considered pre-dating our modern times, so influenced by the West. and can be better understood when looking at the ancient traditions of story telling in Indian culture. When we glance at an 10th Century Indian sculpture, we do not compare it to a European 18th Century Renoir and we are not interested in the price reached in an auction house. I feel similarly that performance art cannot be critiqued or compared to a dramatic director and cast led performance shown to an elite well dressed ticket paying audience in the suburbs of New Delhi.

There are many that do not 'get' performance, and simply state it is not Art. What is art? If a performance can touch another in a stirring of emotion, or wonder, or agitate the grey matter on an issue forgotten, or just indeed present a pure form of ethereal beauty, I, together with the myriad performance artists around the world, reiterate, our work may not always be understood, but it is indeed Art. Some Art is ugly, some is not well constructed, some astonishing, and much ground-breaking. So, to can be said of Performance Art and I salute you in your endeavors to document the work that is happening in India.

Anil Dayanand, "Those who are not corrupt may spill the muck over me"...
performance at Sari 17th Sept. 2011. 

Anil Dayanand (to Samudra Kajal Saikia) on 2nd March 2015

Sunday, June 21, 2015

AnecDOTes Gallery

AnecDOTes is a series of events as an extension of the project
"Understanding Performance as Art and Beyond: Multiple Gaze" initiated by Samudra Kajal Saikia

"About the growing interest towards Performance Art",
Rikimi Madhukaillya presenting a number of young artists and students in action; [
Raj Yadav, "Piece of Peace"; Rahul Gautam, "Character Exchange", "Erasing Self";  4 Aug, 2014, Monday.

Nitish Arora, "Is everything is Numbers?" And Performance on Gaza by a theatre activist group Paltan. [Abhinav Sabyasachi, Ajit, Shivendra, and Sushanta Das], 4 Aug, 2014, Monday.

"New Media and the alternative 'Live'ness", Artist's showcase and Dialogue by Amitesh Grover, interlocutor: Aditya Shrinivas. As part of the AnecDOTes, at Vadehra Art Gallery, 5 Aug. 2014, Tuesday. 

"Performance art is like Parasite!", Inder Salim with Anecdotes. 6 Aug, 2014, Wednessday.

"Performativity in Art and Performance Art", Artist's showcase and Dialogue by Paribartana Mohanty, interlocutor: Rahul Bhattacharya. 7 Aug, 2014, Thursday.

"The Becoming: a woman, a performance artist", Artist's showcase and Dialogue by Manmeet Devgun, interlocutor: Shaheen Ahmed. 8 Aug, 2014, Friday.

"Performances along with an Artists' Collective", showcasing the artists' Collective WALA, with Akansha Rastogi, Sujit Mallick, Paribartana Mohanty.  11 Aug, 2014, Monday.

the artist is (not) present, Talk and presentation around Performance Curation by Parvez Imam. 
12 Aug, 2014, Tuesday.

Amorphous Acts: Performance and Practice, Artist's Dialogue with Sreejata Roy. 12 Aug, 2014, Tuesday.

Creating Platforms : Experiments in Cooperation, Showcasing KIPAF [Kolkata International Performance Art Festival] from the platform of Performance Independent. Joint presentation by Rahul Bhattacharya and Anirban Dutta. 14 Aug, 2014, Thursday.

Manifested - Performance and Activism through intercultural exchange, Presentation by Julia Villasenor Bell and Priyanka Choudhary, part of the FICA Homepage series of events.  16 Aug, 2014, Saturday.

Performance, Documentation, and Collaboration: some Reflections, Presentations and discussion by students from AUD, Nahusha Ks, Aruna Rao, Shivangi Singh, Karthik KG and Arya Krishnan, and Zooni Tickoo, 19 Aug, 2014, Tuesday

PERFORMANCE and discussion by Zooni Tickoo, 19 Aug, 2014, Tuesday

HARKAT by Inder Salim, 20 Aug, 2014, Wednesday

Pushing the boundaries: the other circumstances in performance, Artist's showcase and Dialogue with Zuleikha Chaudhari, 21 Aug, 2014, Thursday

Saturday, August 23, 2014

In conversation with KIPAF: Recollections and Reflections

Report by Zooni Tickoo
Creating Platforms : Experiments in Cooperation, Showcasing KIPAF [Kolkata International Performance Art Festival] from the platform of Performers Independent. Joint presentation by Rahul Bhattacharya and Anirban Dutta. 5-to-7 PM, 14 Aug, 2014, Thursday. An AnecDOTes event. AnecDOTes is a series of events as an extension of the project "Understanding Performance as Art and Beyond: Multiple Gaze" initiated by Samudra Kajal Saikia. At Vadehra Art Gallery, Delhi.
Rahul Bhattacharya and Anirban Dutta at AnecDOTes 
The AnecDOTes session with Performers Independent or Pi had Rahul Bhattachrya and Anirban talking about their journey for the last two years and more. They were invited to talk about “Creating Platforms: Experiments in Cooperation”.  Performers Independent describes themselves as “independent artists' collective, experimenting and exploring the traditional, modernist and contemporary spaces in the cultural paradigm”. By their own definitions, they intend to create a space, a corner for performers who want to make art and performances with bare minimum availabilities. With this aim, Kolkata International Performance Art Festival (KIPAF) got instated as an accessible platform for artists from all genres, from local to international. In this session with AnecDOTes, Rahul and Anirban began to talk about KIPAF after donning dark tinted sunglasses inside the gallery space, in effect setting them apart as performing entities demanding attention. But this position kept itself fluid, as throughout the session they kept wearing them on and off, perhaps wanting to bring about a sense of alienation within the audience. Nevertheless, both the presenters took turns to talk and explain, completing each other whenever needed. However, gladly there were a couple of other KIPAF participants from amongst the listeners present who significantly contributed to the discussion. 
at AnecDOTes 
They began by elaborating that the intentions behind a project like KIPAF also revolved around allowing artists to indulge in their very quirky yet immediate artistic voices, to execute their preliminary plans or to shape them further. Anirban stated that with regards to Performance Art, one can simply use words like “blah blah blah” and that can in fact be the answer to it. But this did not serve much in realizing a festival or even as an event. Therefore, continues Rahul, that he noticed in Kolkata itself, there were numerous activities going on in the performance arena. It was here that Pi felt that an attempt to give “structure” to these activities was needed. Also then, Kolkata becomes an ideal location, as Rahul genuinely felt that circles of Performance Art had largely become concentrated in gallery spaces of Delhi and Mumbai. KIPAF then also meant for them to think on the lines of “de-curating” and thus they chose not to follow a structure of biennale but do more experimental executions every year with local cooperation.

at AnecDOTes 
Anirban explains further that there is no corporate funding involved in KIPAF.  They collect money from localities, or self fund the events. It may look like anarchic, he remarks, but it is not. Both maintain that they are doing things in art but with alternative means. For example, Rahul adds, the organizer may ask the participating audience to walk the whole evening to the destination space, in anticipation of a performance event, but in fact that walk itself would be the performance work. He believes that these interventions “contest the idea of contemporary”. PI as an organization maybe does not totally defend the idea of “utopia” but it explores to create other means and ways in art. This is further given shape in their Web link with vernacular writing reports in Bengali. The purpose, Rahul explains, was to “decentralize” the idea of performance art. Also they wanted to explore how documentation of the art works can follow these new trajectories, through, “sound memories” or through vernacular blogs, etc.
Anirban adds that the design and the dynamics of KIPAF is open. So, many theatrical groups come along to participate, but they rightfully gain their space in KIPAF through practice and then feedback.

At this juncture in the session, Rahul led the discussion open for former participants to include their views. He especially asked performance artist Inder Salim to express what his experience was after he participated in KIPAF 2014. Before he began , Inder thanked KIPAF or inviting him, and he recognized that two of his important works took shape only at KIPAF. But Inder on his part had several interjections to make to Rahul and Anirban. He felt as an artist some of his observation soured the overall experience for him. He pointed out that mainly during the festival there were some “obstructions” created by organizers themselves. His frank and foremost complaint was regarding some “un-professional” attitudes towards other participants and the events scheduled as he pointed out such experience. The fact that artists from far and away had come to be involved at this festival, completely on their own, was not well respected. Furthermore he noted another fellow artist’s statement regarding “Performance Art is Dead” and added that it was “absurd” to declare such statements when in fact the artist community in Indian subcontinent have not exhausted even it’s beginning.

Inder went on to add that when the aim is to give Performance Art activity a shape or a structure, thus it becomes inevitable that some definitions and guidelines be laid out in the beginning itself. Also,  he felt it becomes pertinent that Performance Art must shake or disturb the existing order by having genuine questions and serious approach. At the moment, he expressed doubts on this front regarding KIPAF but accepted that being in nascent stages the festival has immense scope for growth. 

Samudra too interjected the discussion by stating that the autonomous energy to begin with is good but there must be some goals, explicit or not, that the festival should strive to achieve.   Also he felt that the idea of the vernacular that has been stated does not seem to be fully in execution since most of the participant artists are from the mainstream.  To this, Rahul responded in agreement. He shared with the audience that brainstorming on similar lines has already taken place. Therefore, in KIPAF 15 there may be a curated section where some well-known art practitioners shall be invited. This, he confessed is a strategic necessity as the local media needs be involved in publicizing the events so as to disseminate the acts and motives of KIPAF to larger audiences and readers. Then there is an open-call for young practitioners from all around to send their proposals so as to integrate fresh works and perspectives.

The monetary angle of the festival raised several questions from Inder who lamented that KIPAF must rise above the influences of leftist trends typical in Kolkata. He clearly pointed out that “Left as a straight-jacketed strategy” does not work. Otherwise, he added, it would be a great loss to witness KIPAF follow the fate of organizations which aligns themselves towards more political rather than artistic. He suggested some examples of Sarai and SAHMAT, that in the present situation and times, one has to subvert the idea of funding agencies by using their funds while still being able to continue with similar performance motives. Both Rahul and Anirban claimed in agreement that they were in fact looking forward to local patronage and the doors for monetary assistance are of course open.

 Samudra, at this point wanted to know about the problems of performance art that PI had encountered in the previous two years. There was also an interest in knowing how KIPAF would handle explicitly subversive acts like stripping or nude performances. Rahul replied that usually they don’t work by procuring top-down permissions from local police, that is why they get local community involved. Towards the end of the discussion, some music could still be heard within the audiences as Pervez Imam, artist/film-maker wondered about the contradictions inherent in the design of the festival. He noticed that the organizers somehow aim towards guerilla performance events, and yet require funds and structure to accommodate the art and artists. Then perhaps a lot of re-thinking about several practicalities need to be done, at conception level itself. Most of the discussion then focused on KIPAF’s structural debates regarding ideology, goals and experiences. However, the works of artist participants over the past two years were not touched upon greatly. Reflecting over all the suggestions above, the session culminated with promise of an upcoming KIPAF 2015 along with improved work over propositions raised in the discussion.


Neha (Zooni) Tickoo did Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and also in Kathak from Khairaghar University, Chattisghar. She also completed Diploma from Kathak Kendra – National Institute of Kathak Dance, autonomous body of Sangeet Natak Academy, Delhi, under the esteemed guidance of: GURU SHRI KRISHAN MOHAN MAHARAJ, of Lucknow Gharana. Presently she is pursuing Masters of Arts in Performance Studies from the Department of Culture and Creative Expression (SCCE) , Ambedkar University, Delhi.

She has a varied range of working experience from journalism to participating in international workshops to working as the editor-in chief in magazines. She presented Kathak and Experimental performances around Delhi and outside. Email :

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

AnecDOTes III: About perforations in the Performance Art of Inder Salim

Report by Zooni Tickoo
"Performance art is like Parasite!", Inder Salim with Anecdotes, 6-to-7 PM, 6th Aug, 2014, Wednesday. An AnecDOTes event. No one is invited. 5-to-7 PM, 13 Aug, 2014, Wednesday. AnecDOTes is a series of events as an extension of the project "Understanding Performance as Art and Beyond: Multiple Gaze" initiated by Samudra Kajal Saikia. At Vadehra Art Gallery, Delhi.
Inder Salim at AnecDOTes
After an insightful session with Amitesh Grover and his high-tech media savvy conceptual performance works on day 2, the following day at AnecDOTes saw rather intimately discursive evening with Performance Artist Inder Salim. As Samudra himself pointed out that the motive of AnecDOTes is not just to locate issues pertaining documentation of Performance Art, but also to assess how the physicality of the performing body can become a major grounding factor. Inder is a Kashmiri artist based in delhi and has been practicing art and performance for the last 20 or more years. Like many Kashmiri Pandits, Inder had to shun the turmoil ridden Valley in the ill-fated years of 1988-90 to seek a life outside, in Delhi. Although, he was never trained in Fine Arts, Inder began his career with painting exhibitions in mid 1990s but soon realized that being medium bound will not answer his artistic quests. Thus, Performance became an expression that not only strengthened his metaphors but still remains the way he leaves a radical impact on issues pertaining politics to the personal, and many things in between. Performance Art is then perhaps how he negotiates between being Inder Tikku, a typical Kashmiri hindu name and then choosing to be Inder Salim.

Inder Salim at AnecDOTes
The session begins with Inder showing a clip from his very recent performance that took place at SAHMAT in solidarity with the victims of Gaza genocide. It involved smashing down numerous water-melons on a busy footpath after which the onlookers could find olives inside the fruit wrapped with lines of poetry by Mahmood Darwish.  He elaborates that the sensory understanding of violence must penetrate in art, which gets highlighted specifically in this performance.
Inder Salim's performance with Mahmood Darwish's poetry
Next, he projected clips from Hakeekat e Kashmir, a performance which was in opposition of State sponsored Ehsaas-e-Kashmir that featured Zubin Mehta and his team of classical philharmonic.  He explains that his performance was about how the highly refined, classical music is played and promoted by the state whereas the haqeekat, or the truth is through mere sound. “Sound is rhythm”, he says. In the performance, he dons a folk performer’s (bhaand’s) perforated garment, and he recalls that was criticized for asking the Kashmiri audience to begin thinking about the sound “aa” first instead of “Aazaadi”. This was unsettling to many, Inder maintains, because it is his constant struggle to question even the objectivist understanding of Freedom, thereby, making it tricky to categorize his art and politics. To this, he eventually observes that even while he does abstracts , the viewers are nevertheless able to connect to some strands of his projected thought. 

Taking from similar experiences from political protests, there seems to have been a deep influence of stone pelters from the kashmir unrest making news for more that two decades now. He talks about performance he does against the capital punishment for Afzal Guru. He prints down the SC verdict as large " to satisfy the collective conscious ". The audience was then given a scrap of paper that was crumpled as a small pebble and pelted towards the upheld verdict. He talks how at Mina there is stonning of devil and how the largely Kashmiri audience was able to relate to the act. he basically compares the archetectural space of Mina and the auditorium space and draws it back to his previous I PROTEST performance dating back to 2010. It was not only this religious act that became the reference he drew this intervention on, but he also makes mention of being influenced by Allama Iqbal's 'Shaqwa, and Jawaab-e-Shaqwa', narrating how misfortunate the Muslim community has been in world order and justice.

He returns to his methods, noting down that performance art has to draw from the material already available in the space of performance. There he also talks of a certain confidence that the artist must have. The I PROTEST tree poster, for example, is a clear indiator of how an artist looks for his expression even when not actively joining the stone pelting processions. He emphasises how it is necessary to expand the idea of protest, with respect to his art. Subsequently, he roughly talks of THE BLACK SNOW performance in Kashmir where he asks a barber to give him a hair-cut while the chopped hair fell on mountains painted with thick white acrylic on a white board. The final image formed was that of black snow over mountains.

On similar lines, Inder made mention of several of his political performances that involved directly subverting the metaphors to highlight discomfort with State apparatuses. Some more of these works involved one about unfurling of his own black garment on 26th January on a busy road in Mumbai, and another about the murder case of Ishrat Jahan performed with vegetables at Art Konsult in Delhi. The involvement of the physical body into the political critique is a huge component of his work, and gets highlighted in other performances like "India Blood Is On Your Hands", also first performed in Mumbai.

It was only after showing several such works that Inder began to delve deeper about the topic of the session : Performance Art is like a Parasite. He projects an image which he called 'The seat of Heart and Brain', which shows the brain under the bottom and the heart on the back. He narrates how the cusions were used by another artist, Hanna in Last Minute Excercise, ( at the Insert Exhibit) and how they have been re used in the image by Inder. In similar context, he talks of his latest The proposal of FOUNTAIN for the Kochi Muzhiris Binealle. How the common looking proposal, black text on white background itself becomes the object of art, occilating  between rejection and acceptance by the larger art community and patrons. He explains then that the term parasite corborates his work so as to peal layers of understanding in the art community. His maintains that his work hinges on introducing discomfort along with subjective quirkiness, thus, defying the pure or the acceptable.

Jeebesh Bagchi and Maya K√≥vskaya at AnecDOTes
With the end of the presentation by Inder, it was Jeebesh Bagchi of Raqs Media Collective who pointed out some of the most interesting and relevant questions in terms of Inder’s growth as an artist. First of all he pointed out that instead of the term “parasite”, a better term perhaps to use would be ‘epiphyte’, technically understood as a plant which grows by feeding itself from the atmosphere or the debris around it in the environment, and not from the host tree/organism. He prodded Inder to look at Performance art with similar understanding, not as destructive or parasitic at all times. He maintained that Inder’s art has been able to create a lot of it’s own as a repertoire and which cannot be limited to looking at it as an art parasite. Inder, on his part welcomed and recognized this suggestion.

Another issue regarding the larger presence of Kashmir politics was raised. Jeebesh called it “Kashmirification” of Inder’s performance. He observed that over the last 15 years or so,
there has emerged a lot of politically charged dissent in his performance language, stemming from his sensibilities rooted in Kashmir turmoil. He added that his art is now becoming easily decipherable and predictable to some extent, whereas in his earlier performances, there was some elements of evasive-ness that seemed hard to “chew” on. Jeebesh wondered aloud why Inder does no longer utilize “weird” turns that unsettle the comfort of the on-lookers. As an artist then, Jeebesh explains, becoming effortlessly predictable can lead to being bracketed in labels and categories such as “protest performance”, “political art” and can actually halt the growth. He also expresses a fear that it would be a great loss if Performance Art met the same fate as that of Street Theatre. This did not seem to find much resonance with another audience member, Maya Kovskaya, an art critic, who took the debate to a larger level to understand why the artist community is obsessed with producing more weird and “unreadable” work instead of generating functional dissent. She noted that there not only obsession but also certain extent of “valorization” of the un-readable, which she finds problematic and limiting. She also wanted Inder to talk a little more on what drives his work.

These interjections brought him to confess that the choice of works to be shown for the session has been a little faulty as it mostly consists recent political performances only, and that could have been avoided easily. Nevertheless, Inder willingly agreed to these questions being significant observations and a valuable constructive input. But he added in his reply that the idea and the politics of Kashmir at the hands of oppressive state mechanism has largely been absent in the interventions by the larger art community. The voices he incorporates in his performances are relevant, to say the least. Here he again re-emphasized his opinion that the current need of the hour in art making has to be cross-penetration of political voices and artistic metaphors. Another audience member added that perhaps one need not be afraid of the death of Performance art even if it means meeting similar fate as of Street Theatre, as it needs to decay and re-generate from time to time. To this both Jeebesh and Inder answered in partial agreement. They both agreed that Performance Art needs to rise beyond such insecurities while still upholding the ingredient of innovative and impactful critique along with resisting categorization. Jeebesh further added that the readability of a performance work must not become frivolous if that is not the intent, and should try be wide rather than narrowing down to being branded as “trouble maker” only.

Moving on, and finally, Bhooma Padmanabhan noticed that Performance Art, the way Inder understands is mostly in varied unconventional spaces and with a relatively younger audience. Then, is there a difference in Presentations of performance and the performance actually and where does documentation become an important aspect, if at all. Inder seemed rather contemplative of these questions and said that all of these ideas are still being processed. But he believes in the way he practices performance, a video, or an image is not mere documentation of the actual performance. They tend to acquire their separate lives and entities as works. Yet he maintains that every time a performance is repeated, it garners a different set of meanings with different audiences, space, and materiality. 


Neha (Zooni) Tickoo did Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and also in Kathak from Khairaghar University, Chattisghar. She also completed Diploma from Kathak Kendra – National Institute of Kathak Dance, autonomous body of Sangeet Natak Academy, Delhi, under the esteemed guidance of: GURU SHRI KRISHAN MOHAN MAHARAJ, of Lucknow Gharana. Presently she is pursuing Masters of Arts in Performance Studies from the Department of Culture and Creative Expression (SCCE) , Ambedkar University, Delhi.

She has a varied range of working experience from journalism to participating in international workshops to working as the editor-in chief in magazines. She presented Kathak and Experimental performances around Delhi and outside. Email :

Thursday, August 7, 2014

AnecDOTes, Day II: New Media and the alternative 'Live'ness

‘Encountering’ Amitesh Grover.

 [Constructed Memory by ZOONI TICKOO]
New Media and the alternative 'Live'ness, Artist's showcase and Dialogue by Amitesh Grover, interlocutor: Aditya Shrinivas, 5-to-7 PM, 05 Aug, 2014, Tuesday. At: Vadehra Art Gallery, Delhi. AnecDOTes is a series of events as an extension of the project "Understanding Performance as Art and Beyond: Multiple Gaze" initiated by Samudra Kajal Saikia.
Amitesh Grover at AnecDOTes
Day 2 at Vadehra Art Gallery was in conversation with the artist and performance maker Amitesh Grover. Grover is currently a faculty member at the National School of Drama and has been practicing performance making especially incorporating the genre of New Media and technology. He has presented his work nationally as well as internationally, prolifically spanning  around 125 shows across 11 countries. In the session, focused on the topic of "new media and 'live'ness", Amitesh did not immediately begin from detailing his past works. He descended into the discussion smoothly by setting forth a stage of understanding performance, ritual, encounters and finally the idea of puncturing them in ways of his interventions of performance making.

Amitesh very importantly and interestingly began from his own private experiences from life. he chose to show images from his own marriage ceremony rituals and an image from another event of 'hawan' meant for the dead ancestors of his family. The motive of projecting these images was, he explains, to narrate how he had asked the sanskrit couplets to be translated into language of common use, and thus, "demystifying" the whole ceremony besides prolonging the same in time. this is how he begins to explain the intention of "puncturing" performative aspects of human behaviour and then how he manifests them on similar principles through his art projects.
Amitesh Grover at AnecDOTes
The impact of new media and technology and how it is intertwined in the functioning of the human societies forms a major part of Amitesh's art. He keenly observes the behaviour on  television and off it and the mannerism of performance generated by events like reality TV and also getting oneself photographed. He makes note of few such aspects into observation like: the public at the present moment is in a state of Hyper Performances. The evidence of it is seen in the self generative content on social media and the massive flux of information. This phenomenon he understands as the Post Media Performance, where the utility of the media and communication has been exploited to the extremes and in excess. He also seeks to grapple with the question of Public and it's constantly increasing fluidity. This construct of fluid public, he maintains easily sheds  it identities and relations to communities. Yet he makes note if how the speech or the element of the spoken sound carries an indicator of identity. This is where he draws strings of similar observations and plays with them by incorporating games that eventually get translated into performance projects.

In the section detailing his conception of Media and the Body, he talks of his collaboration with theatre person and dancer Maya Rao in 'Lady Macbeth'. This performance which was conceived by Rao, was designed by Amitesh and it implemented the idea of fragmented physical body and it's multiple projections over live-feed. It also worked with juxtaposing popular TV actors of Macbeth with the live actor doing the character of ghost in the performance, simultaneously. Similarly another of Amitesh's work, that he makes mention of here, is 'Strange Lines'. It was adapted from a graphic novel. This project involved technology as a medium for interaction. On similar lines, was Amitesh's project inspired by writer Italo Cavino's Invisible Cities. This complex work of Calvino finds it's expression through Amitesh's interpretation as "Gnomonicity". This work dealt heavily on creating shadow audiences created through CCTV captures and collaborated with hackers who operated from different parts if the world like Zurich, Switzerland, Melbourne etc. another project called "Social Gaming" involved real time gaming in multiple cities and this involved giving quirky instructions like 'look without judging...' and 'collect a smile' and then send an SMS to score points.
Amitesh Grover at AnecDOTes
Through the works mentioned above there is an evident prominance of global hyper-connective world where Amitesh overtly exploits the same by using mechanisms of Skype conversations spanning continents. He invariably attempts to question the arguemet propunded by scholar like Peggy Phelan that a performance value is in it's "ephemeral" nature and that no two performances can be same. Amitesh, in contrast intends to understand and explain his performances through another scholar Philip Auslander's concept of the "liveness" by creating excess of virtual corporeality. This takes shape in his work called "Mahoganny is Everywhere" which was a long durational performance of 48 hours and carried out in a building. The performance included the participants to engage in transactions and activities involving a fake currency 'Neuro' only valid inside the building. he details how he himself played a palmist and how predictions he made decided the behavior of the participants in betting or in gamble. He also talks of intervening the proceedings with non-sense interventions thereby creating the effect of alienation.
Amitesh Grover at AnecDOTes
Finally he summed up the presentation with his forthcoming project, the concept of which can in fact resonate the sum total of his thought process behind most of his past performance ideas. “Encounter 6134” is perhaps as philosophically urgent as the need to address the discourses surrounding New Media or the hyper technological age. the rough idea he explains deals with the growing assertion from a new school of thought that representation of the capitalist world must involve greater speed, acceleration and excess so as to accelerate its collapse. The performance involves inviting the participants to come and be a philosopher and communicate with a stranger regarding topics like: beauty, death, time, and crisis. Amitesh surmounts this project on the quote by Alain Badiou, that can perhaps be paraphrased as mere random “encounters” forming capacities for multiple “beginnings”.
Amitesh Grover at AnecDOTes
In the Q-A discussion round-up, initiated by Aditya Srinivas, the debate began from pointing out how Amitesh’s work in fact easily breaks the bounding definitions of theatre, performance art, or participatory ritual even. What emerged from the post presentation discussion is that Amitesh’s work also, on several levels, questions the greater unified language and the loss of the native body reduced to hyper virtual. Important as an observation was also that his work is less directorial and more curational in terms of wading through and sewing together the live-ness of encounters in the age of new media.
Amitesh Grover at AnecDOTes 

There arose few questions about the frequent use of technology in his performances too. Artist Inder Salim raised doubts about the multiplicity of technologies as it is subject to availability. A dialogue ensued which prodded Amitesh to think further on de-stabilizing the human centric approach of technology. This interjection was towards perhaps the issues of, say, environment which has been victim of human explosion and thus need to be included in conceptual frameworks more often. The issue of documentation of his new-media performances also brought about an interesting point as Bhooma Padmanabhan asked Amitesh how it impacts the performance and his own repertoire. Amitesh seemed willing and agreed that documentation of his work is necessary for the sake of drawing on improvisations but since his interventions span from distinct cities to various media simultaneously, the registers may vary. He also points out that therefore in Performance Art, there is nothing right or wrong, and that such experiments form layers of encounters. These layers facilitate post-event narration thereby looking for newer beginnings. Interestingly, Amitesh speaks of all this as a mechanized process instilled in Capitalist society and which needs to be accelerated to witness multiple causalities and effects. Similarly, he notes that his forthcoming project is about the human sleep patterns, and how the mechanized ways of life have robbed one of their deep sleep. The project may involve participants to engage, simply, in sleep! 


Neha (Zooni) Tickoo did Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and also in Kathak from Khairaghar University, Chattisghar. She also completed Diploma from Kathak Kendra – National Institute of Kathak Dance, autonomous body of Sangeet Natak Academy, Delhi, under the esteemed guidance of: GURU SHRI KRISHAN MOHAN MAHARAJ, of Lucknow Gharana. Presently she is pursuing Masters of Arts in Performance Studies from the Department of Culture and Creative Expression (SCCE) , Ambedkar University, Delhi.

She has a varied range of working experience from journalism to participating in international workshops to working as the editor-in chief in magazines. She presented Kathak and Experimental performances around Delhi and outside. Email :