The Party Plot, a multi-media exhibition by Vasudha Thozhur examines mindless commercialisation that characterises most of our big, fat Indian weddings and festivities
The festive season is right here but before you start bursting crackers and indulging in a food fest, you may want to take a breather and ponder over a few pertinent questions like 'Is this celebration?' and 'Do you even know what you are celebrating?'
Still from a wedding mandap
An exhibition at Sakshi Gallery by Baroda-based artist Vasudha Thozhur raises such questions by exploring how weddings and other traditional celebrations have turned into a superficial charade or tamasha. Thozhur spent three years working on the exhibition, titled The Party Plot or The Anatomy of Celebration, which includes 40 multi-media photos and videos.
Residing in an area that was filled with several public plots that hosted weddings and other events, Thozhur witnessed the erecting of elaborate 'sets', loud music, the garish costume show that passes for celebrations and the money-spinning venture that such occasions have turned into. It provided her with food for thought. What emerged was shaky footage and visuals captured from her terrace and during walks at night on the highway nearby.
"I tried to read in between the lines and find out the 'plot' behind the mirage. I felt that it was a symptom of a larger malaise whose culmination might be a catastrophic event such as a riot or a carnage. It was a sort of mirror to how our traditional values are getting diluted and everything is about instant gratification," says Thozhur.
What disturbed her was the sheer escapism that had crept into these celebrations. "Festivals and weddings are supposed to be thought-provoking occasions but are instead tools to empower the baser instincts and ignore the frustrations of daily life. Eventually, everything stays the same. But there remains an undertone of violence probably due to the political and social turbulence of our times," she adds, commenting on aggressive behaviour and dances that she observed at weddings.
The exhibition includes stills from her videos which depict eerily empty mandaps surrounded by white chairs. The unintentionally blurry appearance adds to the jarring effect. There are inkjet prints on aluminum composite boards that have a shady appearance conveying the artist's unease with the celebrations. She has also compressed the prints to fit into two pages set in a notebook format, which are titled Notes and Investigations. Ironically, some of the images have been photoshopped to appear disturbing instead of pleasing (which is what the software is used for). Thozhur admits there is no easy solution. "I am revealing the possibilities behind this state of affairs; the visitors can draw their conclusions."