This piece was created during a two week residency at Good Earth Enclave in Bangalore, in association with the Art Ecology initiative (co-founded by Veena Basvarajaiah).
An experimental medium, Lord, have you forsaken me thus? is a query of nationalism, religion and identity, as viewed from my perspective as a first-generation Australian of Tamil South Indian descent.
Points to note in viewing this work are as follows:
1. The reference to ‘falling between nations’ in the first part of the piece refers to my unclaimed citizenship status at the time of my birth: as per my birth certificate, I was not deemed a citizen of Singapore when I was born there to my Indian parents (who were not Singaporean, but Indian citizens). However, due perhaps to bureaucratic processes, I was also not given an immediate status as an Indian citizen. Rather, it was specifically cited that my birth occurred within the Indian mission of the hospital. For a period of several months therein, my status buoyed untethered between these two nationalities. This is an occurrence I find curious and rife with questions, particularly considering the untethered statuses of so many people that are born in circumstances of severe displacement and humanitarian crises. How does this bureaucratic displacement at the time of birth impact a longer narrative of opportunity and identity-formation throughout ones life? More importantly, how many are born untethered that never receive citizenship? What does that make you? What have we learned this means?
2. The terms ‘new Gondwana-lands’ refers to the name of an ancient supercontinent from the Neoproterozoic period (550 million years ago), from which Australia and Antarctica are believed to have broken off from during the Cenozoic period. This reference is used rather than the term ‘Australia’, in homage to the ever-changing nature of nation states, land masses and continents, which are determined first and foremost by nature.
3. The format of the work is a poetic homage that addresses God (or the idea of God) directly, and via complaints to the ‘Sakhi’, or friend. This format is borrowed from the class of Bharatanatyam dance known as Padams. Padams employ the Sringara Rasa, and denote an emotional tone/expression of romantic love with God. Hence terms such as ‘Petal-lipped One’ or ‘Rubied Saviour’ are used in endearment towards the Godhead, as is commonly articulated in Tamil/Sankrit – English translations of Carnatic music. In this way, the poetry here mimics an English translation of an Indian song that has never existed.
A Note on Process:
Having recorded the key movement aspect during a casual improvisation, with no intentions of using it for this piece, I am struck by the way in which performance and art-making practices speak to each other over a non-linear continuum and address the intention of the artist in unexpected and unplanned ways (that too, often subconsciously). Therapeutic art process often refer to this phenomena as ’emergence’ or ‘content-in-process’, whereby unbeknownst to the art-maker, a medium acts as a reflection or further of a sense or idea that is present within the artist.
Recording the secondary figure, depicting Bharatanatya mudras and movements, and adding this to the interaction with the primary figure, the relationship between the two bodies further serves to articulate the binaries within the performance of identity/ies. In this case, it is the propriety of the moods of ‘classical’ Indian dance in opposition to the casual abstractions of improvisation. Upon my first attempt to perform the piece entirely in a deconstructed Bharatanatyam style, it felt inauthentic to the work. Rather, the focus on my unconstructed self, my placid, introverted and ‘non-trying’ self, spoke to the intimacy of the subject-matter.
These thoughts fuel my ongoing inquiries into what this space of creation offers.