Hello and welcome to my blog! Here you will find thoughts on art and literature, glimpses of my ongoing projects, exhibitions, and anything else that makes life meaningful and divine! Speaking of divine, I recently made a trip to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco and got lost in their feature exhibit, Divine Bodies. Much as the name suggests, the exhibition provides space for reflection, and successfully navigates between the transcendent and the mundane. There is a lot to see, however, I would like to bring your attention to two of my favorite contemporary works on display: Dayanita Singh's project, Myself Mona Ahmed, and Gauri Gill's Notes from the Desert, a subset of Traces, "a series memorialising unmarked and marked graves in the desert."
Myself Mona Ahmed
Singh's black and white photography showcases Mona Ahmed, a member of India's hijra or, the "third gender" community (read more about the difference in the terms, transgender and hijra, and why they are not interchangeable here), in a manner that is highly sensitive and, nunaced. Mona's myriad expressions, caught in the course of everday life--Singh collaborated with Mona over a period of time--are evocative; the video of a melancholy Mona lipsyncing an old Bollywood song from a 1950s film (Rasik Balma) is a show stopper. Singh says of Mona, "To me she is just Mona, but to her family she is Ahmed." Read her wonderfully candid account of her time with Mona here. Mona's story is poignant no doubt, but the heartbreak, and Mona's good cheer serve a gut punch when Singh narrates, "in the graveyard where she (Mona) now lives in a house built on her ancestor’s graves, she is building a palace." (http://dayanitasingh.net/myself-mona-ahmed/).
Notes from The Desert
Graves in themselves don’t necessarily interest me. Sure, I might walk through a famous graveyard for its sense of history but I won’t necessarily photograph anything. I am interested in these specific graves, for so many reasons. For one, there’s a tenderness to them because of this act of making. Even the gravestones might be handwritten. They exist among communities with limited economic resources, so there is a simplicity. People often gather materials from nature to create them. And they are located in the desert, which reabsorbs them over time. An outsider might not even know that there is a burial site here.
-- Gauri Gill (qtd. in Scroll.in)
Haunting and mesmerizing, Gill's work made me slow down...almost to a halt, as I took in the large, life-size, black and white images of seemingly unmarked graves. I imagine, these would be easy to miss, if one were just a passerby. Gill's close scrutiny with the camera gradually brings the intent of the grave-makers into focus with startling clarity. These images are from her archive of photographs taken in the remote villages of Western Rajasthan, India. Read more about her work here.