The body, as canvas

Published: Jan 03, 2020, 07:00 IST | Dalreen Ramos | Mumbai

Artist Arpita Akhanda attempts to start a conversation on identity and migration with a three-hour live art performance at a Thane art residency

Akhanda performing in the premises of the residency, where the upcoming event is scheduled. All image courtesy: Piramal Art Residency
Akhanda performing in the premises of the residency, where the upcoming event is scheduled. All image courtesy: Piramal Art Residency

Carol Hanisch, who launched the Women's Liberation Movement in the 1960s, addressed the distinction between the personal and the political in an essay saying, "There are no personal solutions at this time. There is only collective action for a collective solution." Drawing from the title of that very paper, the phrase "the personal is political" echoes louder than ever today — in response to apolitical stands. As an artiste, Kolkata-based Arpita Akhanda weaves this sentence into every aspect of her performances, including her upcoming one at Thane's Piramal Art Residency this Saturday.

The event that begins with a talk and presentation by writer and curator Shubhalakshmi Shukla on text-based works will see Akhanda engaging with the space to spark a dialogue between body, land, trees and memory — politics, being central to all these elements. The piece was planned 10 days ago and her rehearsal entailed dropping by the site regularly, increasing the time and dialogue spent in
every visit.


Having obtained a BFA and MFA from Kala Bhavana, Santiniketan in painting, she found herself drawn to the form of performance art. "At university, we couldn't just stick to a fixed idea. I was able to grow conceptually under the guidance of professor Sanchayan Ghosh. So, I started exploring performance as a way of art, coming out of the '2D' notion," she informs.

Akhanda, part of the one-month residency's 24th cycle, will infuse personal stories into her outdoor act, having grown up hearing the struggle of her grandfather in light of the Partition. "He arrived from Bangladesh to India for an education. And December 1946 was the last time he visited his homeland, clicked some pictures and brought his camera along with a few other things, before the division. So, even though you could find a house, how can you build a home? This difference between a house and a home has influenced me," she explains.


The 27-year-old also had the opportunity to do a piece in Chittagong a couple of years back, standing in the same place as her grandfather. It all felt real. That's why timelines occupy a special place in her oeuvre. And the audience can be a part of her journey, while finding resonance with theirs, too. The event tomorrow will be an interactive one involving rubber stamps bearing the numbers zero to nine.

She will use these to form important years right from 1941 when her grandfather arrived to India to 2003 when he passed away, 1947, the year of India's independence and 1971, when Bangladesh was formed.

"I will be using these on my own body, and will also invite people to form the dates relevant to them to do so as well. So, the audience become performers, too," she says. For Akhanda, using her body as a medium hasn't been about gender or sex but more as a carrier of memory. The act is due to take place for three hours, but there is no specific end time as there is no script. But the artiste conveys a vague ending. "Maybe. I will wash the stamp marks away or erase it."

ON January 4, 2 pm onwards
AT Piramal Art Residency, Piramal Vaikunth, Old Agra Road, Balkum Naka, Thane West.
CALL 30466981

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