Communing with Urban Heroines:
A culture-specific visual project by Surekha
Video and Photo installation
Surekha’s urge for self-reflection defines her position as an artist, a woman, an urbanite – and creates in her an appropriate response to the modernist definition of an artist.
Based on a survey of unnatural deaths in the city of Bangalore, Surekha has created characters from urban and popular folklore and myth – larger than life images that act as real, symbolic and metaphorical characters. The situations are created/re-located in the present time. The focus is on domestic elements and also the relation between the body and natural elements like fire, water and earth. The role of the characters is intimately linked to the elements. In this case, urban women and their dreams act as metaphors for the domination of water, fire and nature. Surekha touches upon some of the basic sensory experiences and their connection with the body – as the expansion of an incomplete body. The focus is on the desire of the body to expand metaphorically.
Mortality is her leitmotif. Being urban has made her aware of it on a day-to-day basis. Re-intervention into myth and popular culture has become the artistic device for her to tackle these issues. A cautious but irresistible urge to address the gender issue – through visual media – forms a natural part of her creative methodology. Her videos explore the concept of the ‘body as a site of contestation and appropriation’ that exists in locations/sites that share similar/differing histories, addressing issues of feminine dialogue in mutually contradictory circumstances, redefining/relocating feminine spaces through the medium of video.
By engaging the body as a ‘form of intervention, real and/ or metaphorical’, within a given circumstance and discourse, private or public, there is an attempt to perceive the newer definitions that a ‘real’ and ‘imagined’ body acquires in dealing with its own ‘identity’, in the cultural time and space within which it is located.
Surekha uses technology as a device with artistic possibilities, as a mode of satire, irony and provocation. For example, while she verbally narrates the myth about Bhagirathi, she also focuses upon how the issue of the video camera, moving within confined spaces -like the urban bath tub – might affect our senses. Visually suffocating space is admixed with a wide landscape, formed through our remoteness from that particular myth, the lake involved in sacrificing Bhagirathi. A fresh correlation is intended between the folklore/myth and unpredictability of being urban.
(The artist is indebted to the “Vimochana” archives and newspaper reports on the unnatural death of women in the urban situation. The artist would like to acknowledge the support of the Goethe-Institut Bangalore and the Prince Claus Fund)