Reflect on this

Published: Nov 19, 2019, 07:00 IST | Suman Mahfuz Quazi |

A talk and screening at a city museum will explore the fascinating world of mirrors with films that look at the intersection between performance rituals and art

Teyyam performer looking into a mirror at the Kalarivathukkal Bhagavati Temple Chirakkal, Kannur
Teyyam performer looking into a mirror at the Kalarivathukkal Bhagavati Temple Chirakkal, Kannur

At what point does a sculpture stop becoming a sculpture and become Goddess?" Harsha Vinay, director of the Alice Boner Institute, Varanasi, tells us. Vinay's inquiry into the intersection between art and rituals can, to some extent, be traced back to his days as a student in Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, where he was pursuing a Masters's degree in Arts and Aesthetics.

Having worked at museums and art establishments for the past six years, Vinay’s interaction with living traditions materialised in many ways, and became more layered, as the years passed. For instance, while researching for projects during his stint as the associate curator at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Bengaluru, Vinay found himself travelling through the Malabar Coast, where he discovered many odd and fascinating sub-cultures.

Then, two years ago, The Rietberg Museum in Zürich contacted him to work on the India chapter of an exhibition on mirrors. "The idea was to understand how different cultures interpreted the object," he explains, adding that it led to a more focused study and culminated in four short documentaries (helmed by Vinay) on rituals prevalent in the region that use or interpret mirrors in their practices.

"There is a performance ritual native to northern Kerala and parts of Karnataka, called Teyyam, which is a spirit-possession ritual. It is interesting because they use a mirror to transform from human to the divine," he shares, while explaining the subject of one of the films. Similarly, there's another short on Ali Chamundi Kaliyattam, a performance ritual of Ali, a Mappilaiii Muslim fruit trader whose reincarnated spirit is worshipped by Hindus and Muslims, at Arikkadi Bhagavatī Temple, Kasargod.

Today, in an event put together by CSMVS, called Mirrors of the Malabar, all of the four films will be screened and interspersed with a lecture by Vinay. "My background has been in exhibitions, where I have had to travel to various places. Then, during my time in Delhi, going through the archives of the Lalit Kala Academy and the Sangeet Kala Academy exposed me to fantastic footage on living traditions and ritual performances. So, this was an interest that lingered. I was also interested in documenting craft, which I have done with the Crafts Council of India, Chennai. But what I was most keen on understanding, was the relationship between craftsmen and idols," the 33-year-old shares, explaining the genesis behind this inquest into the fascinating world of mirrors.

ON Today, 5.30 pm
AT CSMVS, Mahatma Gandhi Road.
CALL 22844519 (Museum entry charges applicable)

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