From the exhibition catalogue published by Eicher Gallery (1998).
How are you? You have asked me repeatedly for an explanation of my work. Here it is in small fragments and I do not promise that it is all coherent. I feel an overwhelming sense of relief at the opportunity given to me to show the exhibition “…Looks the Other Way”.
Perhaps the emotions experienced at the prospect of publicly displaying the works speak of the project I chose to undertake from Dec 1991. It’s taken me days and months of making sense of all the disparate thoughts I had around the photographs I chose to use in the work. It has evolved no doubt from the first xeroxes I tentatively made from the original photographs. The ‘cheapness’ of the material meant I could make copy after copy and intervene incisively into its historical preciousness, by marking, defacing, reframing, slicing the surface. With window frames I traversed anxiously the landscapes of each image. Looking for new relationship that could emerge from parts taken out of context. These sketches were crude but revealed a desire for search.
Technology encountered ways of articulating this work. I scanned the small photographs (often only 4”x5”) into the computer and set to work. (The show is an outcome of this).
I suppose I feel I would have completed full circle, when I show this work in Delhi in January 1998. It is like bringing back the photographs that were taken away and renewed and transformed into a series of “image punctuations”. The family photographs, which were taken at the turn of the century, could have remained in the boxes they were found in. Nostalgic mementoes, as well as documents of British India and missionary conversion. An era past.
There were so many of them, yet it was a limited number that I chose to “telephoto” into. In retrieving these memory plates from their resting place - sheets of photographic paper, developer, fixative that comes together to preserve a captured Life Moment - I was able to look at them with some critical distance. By removing them from their context, I isolated them as objects.
I suppose the work emphasis a kind of relationship to mental properties as much as to physical properties. Like linking the hand and the head. At the same time Form has unique demands. Resolving the visual is different from the literary or theoretical.
In the work there is a desire not to have beginning or an end. The images are repeated and punctuated with other images, to continue seamlessly out of the limits of the frames. They are meant to permeate subtly into the viewer’s field of vision. They are elements that structure a narrative without a story, without a climax. There is a desire to explore the relationship of the individual body/identity to the social. The Public to the Private. The Personal to the Official. To build up a kind of “armature for a body politic, from the politics and poetry of the body.” Yet it is not performance. It is sealed tightly within conventions of the most pervasive object of personal memory ad identity - the Photograph.
The body jostles in time and space, creating historical context. And time slices in many directions in “…Looks the Other Way.” In using everyday objects, by reworking them, I bring back a sample of the Past into the Present. By seeping movement into the frozen frame, I create an illusion of frames-per-second…rewinding the clock. Tine can be altered through methods of repetition, desynchronisation, slow motion. Any movement evoked in a “still” sets the ball rolling for interpretation.
To end I’d like to quote you a passage from my thesis I wrote, in 1995, in New York City.
“She Looks the Other way”
The title of the show was a part of the title of a work “She Looks the Other Way” (3 Computer manipulated photographs, masonite, steel). A sequence of three, the images are a part of a larger image.
Framed cinematically the first image is of a group of Indian men and women, with a Western woman, who is delicately positioned in the camera’s frame, yet out of the frame in that her gaze is shifted away from the camera to point outside of the frame of the image. Young and fragile, with a somewhat enigmatic look on her face, her white body and white dress merge with the exposed surface of the image, spilling out of its contours into the other members of the group photograph. Yet she looks the other way. She is barely engaged in being there.
By keeping the framing on her I panned across the image, keeping her in focus and making her displaced gaze the focus of the viewer by which another undetermined perspective is brought into the meaning of the image. In more than one respect ‘our lady in white’ disrupts the conventions of the group photograph. Within the highly conventionalised arrangement of the photograph, she defies that moment when the camera is clicked by the photographer, tearing herself apart from the group who intently and expectantly gaze ahead at the camera.
Evident in the dictionary meaning of the terms that load the title “...Looks the Other Way.” “Look” and “other” seem to imply the historial linking together of techniques of seeing and of vision with that of studying or looking at the “Other”, radically, culturally, etc. As colonialism, anthropology as a study and photography all emerged about the same time, “looking at the other” and “looking the other way” are both implied in the title as a metaphorical doubleness. While the title attempts to embody this doublness, the image transfers the doubleness (as in double consciousness) to the Western woman with the hat. It is her gaze directed elsewhere that becomes the point of fascination and enigma. Splitting up the surface of the images, ie the whole of the image is also an attempt to find other points in the classical perspectival relationship that the photographed subjects have with the camera and the cameraman.
“Looks the other way” points to the history of the one point perspective as well as to the possibility to multiple perspectives.
‘What was she looking at?’ then moves from being a question about the actual subject of her displaced gaze, to being philosophical one of what ‘other’ perspectives were possible outside of the classic perspectives. It is at this juncture that a sense of loss can be hypothetically implied.
a) Religious conversion
b) Conversion from the real into an image ie technological conversion. Once this conversion has been undertaken then the identity or representation explodes into numerous possibilities. There is an implied multiplicity in the reinvention. After all, in front of the camera it is not “my” real self that is looking ahead at the camera but instead as Barthes says in Camera Lucida.
“It can be said that I am observed without knowing it and again I cannot speak of this experience, since I have determined to be guided by theconsciousness of my feelings. But often (too often to my taste) I have beenphotographed and knew it. Now once I feel myself observed by the lens, everything changes: and I constitute myself in the process of posing, I instantaneously make another body for myself in advance into an image.”
I’ll end here. And look forward to hearing from you.
From the exhibition catalogue published by Eicher Gallery (1998).