Kolkata, November 2018: Our practice as artists are not far away from the lives we lead and the art we admire. Swarup started his questioning early. As a student of fashion, passionate about photography, experiments in imagery came early to him. As a photographer-scenographer-artist-designer, his practice everyday engulfs visual imagery of forms, lines, shapes, and silhouettes on one hand and pursuing their meaning on the other. The body is a reservoir of memories. It is subjected to gaze, to presumption, to judgment, to biases becoming a bed of politics and layers of subtexts. Swarup’s practice as an artist who visualises and actualises images to question the why and wherewithal of this process of subjection that the body undergoes and explore if in some realm of artistic suspension of disbelief the body can be free; free off every trope of identity construction that traditionally dictates what it should be and what it cannot or should not.
Swarup finds it more than a curious and amusing coincidence that all the interrogative questioning words in Bengali start with the letter ‘Kaw’? the first Bengali consonant?
Ki? (What), Key? (Who?), Keno? (Why), Kokhon? (When?), Kothay? (Where?) and Ki bhabey?(How?).
Swarup weaves in this labyrinth of interrogations about our identities and how we manifest them in our displayed and secret lives; how our identities are constructed and how they gradually dismantle. Swarup Dutta’s solo show KAW is an inquiry into these myths about our identity, who we are and how we become.
Kaw is a series of three bodies of work if viewed in the order in which they have evolved – Khelna-bati, Armour of Weaknesses, and Otherworldly progressing thematically from a space of androgyny to the periphery of struggle, to the eventual evolution of the mutant, ambiguous in both gender and identity. The three bodies of work raise questions about a few dominant ideas. First being ‘play’. This theme becomes a juxtaposition of child-like indulgence, unfettered dalliance to play-acting in a performative sense. His bodies play. With each other, with themselves, with an odd collection of kitchen props which placed out of the usual kitchen context become weapons, sex organs, costumes, and many more things. There is the play of power and there is the play of light. Androgyny is another theme that runs through all the three series. Swarup comments “It would be great if everyone is both male and female”. Swarup’s bodies are androgynous and never sexually obvious, they are various and non-conformist to type, shape, and size. Issues of identity plague us, everyone seems to be trying to save theirs. Which is leading to conflicts worldwide. The artist wants to address these questions of identity and the problems surrounding it, be it sexual, social, political or religious to name a few.
Armor of Weaknesses shows the struggle that the bodies undergo to assume other identities, to become other than what they are. The slipping in and out of painfully and expertly crafted bamboo structures almost like slipping in and out of real and assumed realities and identities.
Otherworldlytakes it to the other end of the spectrum where all lines blur and become hazy. What is may not be? It might as well be something else or something in between. The social construct of identities is kept behind to step into a world of phantasmagoria. In discussing fashion’s association with the otherworldly, he further says, “The individual, the outsider, the pioneer, and the mutant: these are the characters who so frequently lead that mutiny.”
KAW also explores the topic of our encounter with nudity in India. We usually stumble before we engage with this volatile pretension. What does nudity mean within the Indian context? Is it always in the context of erotica that nudity may be discussed? What other ways are there? Playfully nude? Seriously nude? Impoverished nude? Can anything be innocently nude? Are we ready to embrace it? When a Jain monk take his clothes off or a sadhu does the same, why are they any different? Or is it that in all this a subtext of sexual gaze is omnipresent?
KAW is a personal journey questioning who we are. The formats we follow without questioning. And the mythologies we live in. and the mythologies we invent every day. To Survive!!!
KAW: A solo exhibition by Swarup Dutta, Curated by Dr. Paula Sengupta will be hosted at Akar Prakar, Kolkata on 16th Nvember at 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm.
Exhibition Dates: From16th November till 14th December, from 11 am to 7 pm, (Sunday Closed).
Venue: Akar Prakar, Kolkata