IN OTHER WORLDS
"WE WILL FIGHT/ WE WILL WIN"
A performed reading/ speech act in two parts on 17 Nov 2017, as part of a longer program "The Adventures of Will and Intelligence" convened and curated by the Raqs Media Collective, alongside Lantian Xie and Jay Pather, for SPECTERS OF COMMUNISM: A Meeting on the Revolutionary Century, to commemorate a hundred years of the Russian revolution.
A short summary of my performance (approx. 2 x 20 min):
Captures the struggle for justice that picket-lines represent and how revolution is marked through acts of everyday transgressions culminating in the grand movement, the massive mobilization, the churning of society. Hundred years after the revolution—when socialism is seen as a white male preserve/project—this work aims to reclaim the position of militant women workers, particularly women and Dalits from the margins—and rightfully place them at the centre of history.
In my own work, the figure of the militant female fighting for recognition as an equal has been an ominous, pervasive obsession and a recurrent theme—whether she is a wrathful deity demanding recompense, a writer staking claim into the male-dominated intellectual world, an old untouchable woman who holds a devastated, rebellious village together in the face of a massacre.
Also, in this reading that also looks at trade unionism in India, I demolish the hush-hush and hypocrisy around caste and gender within/against the class struggle. For an uninformed audience, draws out how capitalism exploited the structures of caste for its own entrenchment.
In reading together Marx and Dr.Ambedkar, the performed text will draw upon shortcomings of trade unions when it came to the question of gender in 19th century Europe and the question of untouchability in 20th century India.
This performance will use—as a starting point--the spontaneous eruption of protests on the streets by female garment workers in Bangalore (2016)—and how their courage secured a victory for all Indian workers, even as it looks at women-led worker strikes around the world, beginning with the inspirational March 8 protest of women workers in Vyborg, 1917 that paved the way for the Russian revolution.
My poetry reading in the midst of protesting students (January 2016) and a series of my photographs from a site of caste atrocity (Dharmapuri, October 2012), were used in the infra-curatorial project Vectors of Kinship, curated by Srajana Kaikini and exhibited at the 11th Shanghai Biennale, November 2016.
A Poem In Which She Remembers
The woman you once knew
will not own up to her face.
She'll tie her hair in a topknot,
guard its million tangles, skip
kohl that once defined her eyes,
forsake the gypsy jewellery, milk
cigarettes in her mouth, and stop
herself from dancing in the rain.
She'll curse her restless anklets
that break the silence of cruel days,
bury herself under a blanket that
betrays the shame of night hungers,
and sleep herself to a dream
of waking by your side.
She'll write you the daring first lines
of long love-letters she will never
send, struggle to prevent a poem
from forming within her mouth,
and in its place, feed the promises
of your kisses to her eager tongue.
I contributed to PIX Quarterly's 2014 issue on the theme THE INTERIOR, and I wrote in response to some of the work of Iranian photographer Arash Fesharaki (pictured above)
Tyranny and taboo mark the woman’s body. Inscriptions and exclusions are written on it by caste, patriarchy, religion and the state. The artist, as a prisoner of this regimented body, can sometimes use the very symbols that exclude and mark her as weapons. Words, as much as images, inflict violence; and these very words and images can be turned on their heads to reclaim the body.
Art here moves beyond artfulness to mock such oppression.
(Triptych) | 2012
Photographic Print on Paper
16.5" x 11.5" (Each)
Exhibited as part of R.A.P.E (Random Acts of Political Engagement), a group show of 24 female artists across India curated by Johnny ML
Art Bull, New Delhi
April 10-30, 2013