Translated: As Above, So Below (2021)
Film produced in collaboration between Kinnari Saraiya (sculptor) Sangram Mukhopadyay (performer)
How…can we restore the voice of our speech, when it is not our speech alone but the voice, its caress, that is being stolen? Earlier in this century, it was the word that was being stolen, not only of the colonized groups of people, but also of the colonial metropolitan individual himself. Sooner than our own political independence, they lost their individual voice to mass communication. Until then the poet was our priest and healer. The painter, the sculptor, the dancer, the architect contained our directionless energy, giving its ambivalence a greater richness. The musician preserves our voice. Until then. Until now.
- Kumar Shahani, Cinema and Politics, 1986
There is no way we could have had a sculptural tradition without a performative one preceding it.
- Kumar Shahani
The rhythmic recitation of the hymn brings alive all these memories - where the chants ends, the dance starts, where the gesture ends, and the ritual begins.The flow of this work lies in the capacity of the ear to accommodate and assimilate an infinite number of words, syllables, patterns and notes in rhythm with the cosmic.
The unobvious synthesis of two artists, one who works to capture time and one who writhers in it brought a whole palette of possibilities. Decolonising the mind and body and therefore one’s work has been the underpinning of the collaboration and that led to the imaginative construction of how does a sculpture at the helm of refugee identity respond to its changing landscape. It bears testimony to multiple political, social and economic interventions and sanctions but looking at the current turmoil with the legal exercise being conducted to find illegal migrants to new kind of homogenising identity as ‘refugee’ slowly relegating the memories of the birth place to margins in the squatter colonies of cities, the project looks at who belongs where and how does that reaffirm?
One such epic centre has been looked at precariously over a brief period of time(two weeks) with an intention to look forward as it is to be historical. This statue is located in Southern Kolkata, called Netaji Nagar Colony, the name itself carrying the memories of refugee resistance and their politics of representation. The refugee statue and the colony committee office on the right-hand corner has an additional geographic peculiarity. What marks another tangent to the gaze is the cultural congregation behind the Refugee statue which brings in many entry points. Where does the cultural disposition as a collective emancipate? And is the Refugee statue losing its virtuosity? The interesting findings via translations and transliterations have given way to interrogate how interconnected and uninitiated it is, which also makes one more conscious and interested in one’s own language, biography and history through tangential motifs.
Rhythm of the air once alive on their tongues,
Is now embodied in mine,
Let them grow into what they will be,
Let the rest remain sown.
Stills from जैसा ऊपर, তত নিচে , 15 minutes 41 seconds, 2021
While extensively documenting and researching, what becomes apparent is that a peek with inquisition takes you through a rabbit hole of many disciplines, including migration, history, gender, political economy, and language. The exploration has been unorthodox and playful, therefore allowing it all to fall and fold in its own ways not necessarily in any hierarchy or academic rigour. The space (be)holds but never ceases to restrict. What looks inclusionary from its roots seems to have exclusionary practises branching out into the wide, as above so below.