Exciting world of video art

New Medium

Exciting world of video art

 Sudarshan Shetty’s ‘Six Drops’.

A young girl gasps for breath trapped inside a plastic bag (Aaditi Joshi, ‘Suffocation’), a foetus floats inside a womb anxious before being let out into a world full of chaos (Sharmila Samant, ‘Dilemma’), a man doubles up as the ‘Narasimha Avatar’ to raise questions on war and peace (Ebenezer Singh, ‘Narasimha Avatar’), two clay figures try to outwit the other with allegories of fear and desire (Manjunath Kamath, ‘Talk’) — these are only some of the intense imagery that surfaces in over 60 video works shown at New Delhi’s Gallery Espace’s recently held exposition on video art.

What had begun at Espace last year July as a modest programme of showing four to five video works on the last Wednesday of each month, the ambitious three-day finale of Video Wednesdays exhibited not only a wider and far more comprehensive selection but also a glossy tabloid on this fast-catching up art form.

According to curator Johny ML, “When the idea of Video Wednesdays at Espace occurred to me in early 2008, Indian contemporary art scene had a handful of artists doing video and amongst them some were more equal than others. Some of them were called video artists while others artists doing videos. With Video Wednesdays project, my intention was to collapse this hierarchy and establish a common platform for video art. The next question was if we will find enough video artists in India to sustain a year-long project.

As you can see at the grand finale, that question has been satisfactorily answered.”
Equal credit must also be given, according to the curator, to Galley Espace, for taking on the project which by no means could be termed commercial. But Renu Modi, director of the gallery is a content gallerist. She says, “Video as an art form was waiting to be launched. With the finale behind us now, we will now take the project to a wider international audience and show select videos at the upcoming Art Summit.”

That video art has indeed come a long way since it marginal existence in the late 90s was evident from the fact that the five guest curators associated with the project were able to present videos from artists of diverse backgrounds and aesthetics. Nancy Adajania, Bose Krishnamachari, Arshiya Lokhandwala, Suresh Jayaram and Gayatri Sinha selected work that cuts across genre, situations and symbolism.

While some video artists use performance (Nikhil Chopra, ‘Yog Raj Chitrakar’), some capture social situations through mere representation (Navjot Altaf, ‘Lacuna in Testimony’) and others use high-end technology but all create art that is at once interactive and democratic.

Perhaps, that is the reach of video art as well. While it’s easy to connect with Anup Mathew Thomas’ ‘Light Life’ that depicts the empty interiors of dance bars in Mumbai, Sudarshan Shetty’s minimalist ‘Six Drops’ also speaks volumes about the fabled haunted space of The Turbine Hall at Tate Modern.

Each work is original even when dealing with the seemingly innocuous issues like everyday domesticity. For example, in Surekha’s ‘Cooking Concepts’, a woman views the kitchen as the site for both erotica and domestic violence with the mundane act of mixing and kneading metamorphosing into an evocative game just as N Pushpamala plays a mother in her video ‘Rashtriya Kheer & Desi Salad’ to craft an ironic view of the an ideal modern Indian family. 

Social prejudices find a voice in Ambuja Magaji’s ‘Almost Desire’ portraying confused value systems and Bharatesh D Yadav’s ‘I am a Bad Guy’ about rural identity, but most notably in Umesh Maddanahalli’s ‘Black Towel’ that records a brief intimate encounter between a brown man and a white woman, which although frivolous, portends far darker issues of racial prejudice.

Using technological interventions to create stunning visual effects, Gigi Scaria’s ‘Panic City’ comments on the latest construction drive and cleaning process in Delhi for the upcoming Commonwealth Games while Babu Eshwar Prasad’s ‘Vortex’ is a journey through the debris of a mechanical world that has become obsolete.

Citing these examples, however, in no way takes away from the others that were on display. To give a chance to younger artists who are not part of the curated sections, a special monitor-based projection space called ‘Video Adda’ had been devised for exhibiting experimental videos. Featuring one-minute videos by 10 young artists who were part of a video workshop conducted by Mumbai’s Sharmila Samant and offbeat videos by Satya Sai and Somu Desai, ‘Video Adda’ will remain a permanent feature at Gallery Espace.

This is what you call thinking out of the box, or the videotape, perhaps?

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