In the memory lab gallery of the second movement, we shared stories of collective history, with a personal twist. These stories highlighted the influences that have been drawn from the ancestral reigns and recorded by the voices of the families. The underlying forces of history flew within these stories in a timeless way.
I worked on this project with my memory of my grandfather telling us the stories of his past experiences while we used to sit leisurely in the verandah and how I used to paint while listening to him and slowly joined the rest who were listening, leaving my canvas.
I was able to recall one of his experiences which was related to the 1984 riots between the Sikhs and the Hindus. He told us that after the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984, the prime minister of India then, there was a retaliatory violence all over the country. Everywhere the Sikhs and the Hindus murdered each other. That time, he gave shelter to four/five of his Sikh friends in our house and for a week looked after their food and clothing before transferring them to a safer place.
Remembering his memory, I developed my artwork where I intended to portray how at the times of these conflicts, there must be chaos and violence outside the house to the contradictory calmness and fear inside the house. I incorporated my images of my grandfather’s story onto my canvas. Thus, I used the canvas as my archival object.
After knowing what I had to portray and make the people feel, it was a little difficult for me to figure out how should I execute what I was thinking. A couple of days went by. And suddenly, while discussing my concept with someone, it popped in my head, why shouldn’t I create a house? A human-scale space which can be thought of a house. That would be the best way to make the viewer feel what my grandfather must have felt then. Bingo!
I immediately started to think over the constructional elements and the materials that I would use for creating the house-like space. Initially I had thought of using mount-board sheets but as soon as I went to the market for purchasing them, my eyes rolled over the thermocol sheets. I don’t remember what went wrong in my head when I purchased a huge bundle of thermocol. Maybe the size carried me away. I never thought initially how trouble-some it would be to work with thermocol. Apart from that, I didn’t even think how the structure will be made to stand thermocol….the lightest material.
After discussing the structure with a couple of my friends, I decided to create a wooden-frame skeleton and then covering the frame with thermocol sheets.
On the day of the exhibition, I started working on the wooden framing on site. within a span of 3 hours, I was able to complete the structure.
Then I started placing the thermocol sheets on the frame with the two-way tape.
I soon finished the structure. Placed the table and chairs inside the space and the canvas and the related things outside.
My idea was to project the video of the events that took place back in 1984 on the backside of the house and on the opposite side, that is on the entrance side, I placed the canvas outside and let people enter inside after gazing at the image.
Although the idea sounds complete, it did not work out. When the visitors came in to visit the exhibition, they could not relate to the outside and the inside. Apart from that, they were unable to point that the video was a part of my artwork. The first day of the exhibition turned out to be pathetic for me. As my idea was not being conveyed to the viewers, the thermocol pieces were repeatedly falling off their places and I didn’t even work on the element of light inside the house. It never occurred to me that as the exhibition was to be held in the evening, light would be important. I gave up for the day and had made it a point that the next day I will definitely fix everything and make my presentation better.
On the next day, I went a couple of hours earlier to the gallery as I was prepared to see my structure naked. I was ready to make the changes that I had thought of initially.
First of all, I turned my piece at an angle of 180 degrees, so that the entrance of the house was at the same side as that of the projection. I then put all the thermocol sheets in place by binding them together with the packing tape so that they stay intact and do not fall off. I placed the canvas inside the house and added certain other elements to give it a homely feel, like the eatables and the tea pots. I lit the house by adding candles to the place. And last, but not the least, I had already changed the sound of the video which was now different and in contrast to the sound inside the house unlike the day before. Everything fell in place the second day.
The viewers could now clearly see what I wanted them to see. They could connect the inside and the outside. They could feel the coziness of the house an the happenings outside the house.
One of the visitors added a different meaning to my concept. As the structure of Jaaga was made up of waste materials and mild steel framing, the floor trembled while anyone walked on it. So, the viewer felt that the shaking of the floor was the violence outside and one could feel the tremors inside which added to the fear.
While working in the memory lab for this project, I went through and experienced all the steps of execution of any idea very deeply. The project was interesting and stressful at the same time which made it more challenging. I dealt with a comparatively new material this time – thermocol, and now I very well know where to use it and how to use it.
I was able to notice advancement within myself in terms of new ideas. Finally, the exhibition ended well because I was able to achieve what I wanted to