Friday, January 27, 2017

A Mirror To Your Different Selves

The installation, 'Reflecting (on) The Inhabited Crossroads', by The Hashtag#Collective, makes you look into yourself and wonder which is the real you

Photo of Parvathi Nayar by Albin Mathew 

By Shevlin Sebastian

Roy Edwards, 58, from Perth, Australia, steps into the mirrored installation called, 'Reflecting (on) The Inhabited Crossroads', at the OED Gallery at Mattancherry. As he walks through a small maze, he sees himself from different angles, thanks to the 60 double-sided mirror panels that have been put up.

At the centre is a chair. Roy sits down and observes himself once again. Later, he tells artist Parvathi Nayar, “It made me realise the kind of faces that we put on, in front of society. I am smiling but, suddenly I see, from a reflection in the corner, that my smile is slipping.”

Another elderly woman says, “It is very disturbing to see these multiple selves. After a while, you don't know what is real and what is not.”

One eight-year-old boy tells Parvathi, “Aunty, it is a nice playground.”

Parvathi smiles as she recollects the memories. “The mirrors follow the design of the naalukettu house,” she says. “It is built around a quadrangle. When you navigate the maze, you can get confused. You don't know which mirror turns and which does not. By the time you come to the chair, at the centre, it is a place of stability, which resembles the middle of the house.”

It took over a week to put up the panels. “They were made elsewhere in Mattancherry, and brought here,” says Parvathy. “There were a team of workers who put up the metal framework. We were also helped by architecture students, as well as photographers. Then we had the lighting designer, Ranjith Kartha, do the lights in the inner square. In the night, when you walk through, you are moving from darkness to the light.”

There are other subtle messages, too. “Because of urbanisation, we are all trying to come to terms with what to keep and what to give up,” she says. “There is also the larger tussle, between modernity and the past, the new and the old. To each of us, it is a matter of confusion: what do we retain, and what do we give up.”

This project, on display till March 28, is placed in a collateral space of the Kozhi Muziris Biennale. And it has been set up by The Hashtag#Collective. Apart from Parvathi, the other members are the Chennai-based architect Biju Kuriakose, and Abin Chaudhuri, an industrial designer from Kolkata. “We have our own careers, but we come together to do something creative,” says Biju. In fact, this is the group's first major project.

One of the collective's ideas is to bring art to the people,” says Biju. “Usually, when you see interactive and experiential art, it is art-centric and esoteric. But what we have put up is art which you can actually experience, remember, and take away.”

Meanwhile, what enriched Parvathi was her interaction with the people who set up the installation, and the many stories that she heard. “Ravi, who helped with the fabrication, told me about his life in Mumbai where he worked in a pharmaceutical company,” says Parvathi. “Then one day he lost his job and had to return.”

Then there was the fisherman Johnson, who had set up the ropes to anchor the installation. “He told me about how his mother kept crying because he drank so much,” says Parvathi. “He also went to so many places to work, but had to come back because of a lack of opportunities. There are so many rich and colourful stories in Mattancherry.” 

(Published in The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)

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