‘The Anatomy of Celebration or The Party Plot’ by Vasudha Th

‘The Anatomy of Celebration or The Party Plot’ by Vasudha Th

Postby Surabhi Trivedi » Fri Mar 30, 2012 6:00 am

New Delhi: Bhavna Kakar, Director, Latitude 28, presents ‘The Anatomy of Celebration or The Party Plot’, an exhibition of recent work by Baroda-based Vasudha Thozhur at Latitude 28, F-208, Lado Sarai, New Delhi from April 5 till May 10, 2012, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Phone @ 46791111. The body of work, comprising digital prints and four videos, is an intent examination of the nature of ‘celebration’ set within the context of our unique cultural and political milieu.

Says Bhavna Kakar, Director, Latitude 28: “Living right next to a ‘Party Plot’ - a public space that hosts weddings, functions and parties in Gujarat - Thozhur is a constant witness to the elaborate preparations and festivities that are so characteristic to our present day celebrations. The venue is invariably abuzz with the construction of temporary sets, aglitter with the massive arc lights and fireworks, and resounding with music at potentially hazardous decibel levels. Identical is the situation at some ten other party plots proliferating in her neighbourhood, given the lucrative business they have become. It is against this backdrop that Thozhur raises an array of pertinent questions – Is this ‘celebration’? Do the participants even know what they are celebrating? What is it that they experience while celebrating, and how does it enhance their lives, if at all? Or is it merely a safety valve or a smoke-screen, sometimes provided by the powers that obscure the poverty - material, emotional and cultural - that needs to be urgently addressed?”

Says Thozur: The ‘Party Plot’ is a new genre in terms of public spaces that host weddings, functions and parties in Gujarat. I live right next to one, and there are ten or more in the vicinity. They represent a lucrative enterprise: agricultural land grapples with the encroachment of urban development to produce instant, temporary financial benefit before being absorbed into the frenzy of residential construction sites. The temporary ‘sets’ that are erected are more and more elaborate and spectacular as the years pass, and create yet another architectural genre. The decibel levels are unimaginable – several such events happen or rather collide - simultaneously in the same locality, giving rise to a new genre of music, one best described as phantasmagorical – and sometimes death-inducing, as a few persons are reported to have died of cardiac arrest at the intersections of such celebrations. There are certain sounds that one will never hear again; the receding whine of the some of the louder firecrackers is, in actual fact, the sound of a dying frequency; we are rendered progressively deafer as yet another, perhaps less dire consequence. Music mimics music, to an audience that mimics enjoyment and can no longer appreciate the difference – both have evolved through a series of simulations have long since obliterated their origins in experience, and are reduced to incomprehensible abstractions: a common enough occurrence in today’s increasingly estranged world.”

All this against the background of an otherwise troubled political climate, and the stringent moral policing that has become a part of the nightlife of Baroda and Ahmedabad, make it even more inexplicable. Still, it is a visual experience - with a darker edge. Thozur has shot some very shaky video footage from her terrace and during a walk along the highway at night. “The digital media are an unavoidable part of our lives, and therefore incidental as opposed to an artistic choice, at least in this case. I wondered what I could do with the footage. The content seemed more like weird wonderlands in haphazard sequence, with no obvious narrative; the handling of the camera was hopelessly inept. There emerged, however, from this set of dysfunctional relationships, the undeniable fascination of glowing nocturnal dreamscapes shot through with dazzling displays of lighting and fireworks. They were in fact panoramic artworks that performed a very significant function in mediating the events that were staged in their midst, on a scale and with a conviction that is not often achieved in the ‘real’ world of art. Addicted as we are to pondering on the function and meaning of art vis a vis so-called reality, it was intriguing to see how interchangeable the two were,” she says.

As a painter whose affinities lie with the fragility and power of the brush mark, the experiments and excavations that this body of work represents is, among other things, one more reflection of the continuing location and interrogation, within artistic practice, of media that answer different needs/occasions. The slow, painful imparting of bone, flesh and spirit that marks handcraft, the flash that captures the instant: they give rise to differing perceptions of time, and therefore belie a connective temporal and spatial matrix which is actually all-pervading. The micro-narratives within it, in terms of stories as well as the sequence and history of evolving methodologies that tell these stories, are deceptive in that they are tinged with the tantalizing aura of the fragment, of transience and detachment, novelty and precedence.

What is unique, however, is not the medium but the re-configuration that marks every deviation or inclusion, the path that one chooses in finding one’s way through new maps, and the continuing awareness of the distance and the closeness between oneself and an ever-receding horizon.

The extensive use of cosmetic devices such as photoshop and aluminum composite board (which is used to clad the outer surfaces of buildings and is the true architect’s nightmare) assumes a special significance, one of equivalence with the artifice that is being investigated. One arrives at these choices through a process of research, creating thereby an ongoing commentary – there is an aesthetic investment, and also a discourse.

Despite the problematics raised by these questions, the sheer force of the aspirations that are released actually create artworks/performances that are astonishing in scope and visually, as are the party plots themselves. The digital photographs become panoramic artworks performing a very significant function in mediating the events that are staged, on a scale and with a conviction that is not often achieved in the ‘real’ world of art and the shaky video footage of fireworks and lights transform into nocturnal dreamscapes. Indeed the abstract, grim rendering of the works is deliberate, referencing the dark side of the subject itself.

Thus playing on the rather obvious pun, the series is an attempt to unravel the ‘plot’, excavate answers and trace the paradoxes through the media best suited for the articulation – thereby discovering a route that would lead back to the heart of the creative process, regardless of the accompanying disquiet.

About Vasudha Thozhur:
Born in Mysore in 1956, Thozhur completed her Diploma in Painting from the College of Arts and Crafts, Madras in 1979 after which she did her post Diploma in Painting at the Croydon School of Art and Design in the United Kingdom. Since then she has held over 15 solo exhibitions and has been part of numerous important such including 'Bapu', by Saffronart in association with Berkeley Square Gallery, London in 2009; and ‘New Narratives: Contemporary Art from India’ at Chicago Cultural Centre, Chicago and ‘Horn Please: Narratives in Contemporary Indian Art’, at Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland, both in 2007. Most recently, her work was exhibited in ‘The Intuitive: Logic Revisted', at The World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland in 2011. Two grants, between 2004 – 2006 and 2009 – 2011, from the India Foundation for the Arts, Bangalore, supported a research project, ‘The Himmat Workshops’. Among other things, the project looked at ways of rooting art practice in ground realities as experienced in India. It involved collaborating with Himmat, an activist organization based in Vatva, Ahmedabad. She is currently working towards a comprehensive exhibition of the output.

She lives and works in Baroda.
Surabhi Trivedi
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