Gigi Scaria


A Short note on my art engagements


During the last 11 years my art practice has been shaped by many factors. My studies at art school in Delhi directed my attention towards "maps" and "mappings". When we look at a map from a distance it gives the effect of colorful abstract territories. But upon close observation we come to know that each and every abstract form and line has a place to lead us and a purpose to exist in. In short maps teach us many things in terms of form, structure and content more than they describe a territory or geography.

During this period I concentrated mainly on painting and sculpture inspired by political and geographical maps. The idea of abstraction in contrast to specific details and structures mergedin many of these works. This was a time that I treated the idea of "map" or "mapping" more as a subject to paint or sculpt without questioning the formal aspect of the structure (painting, sculpting etc) itself.

In a later stage I tried to separate "mapping" as a concept from the territory of painted surface. The process demanded a great deal of mental exercise to understand the social reality with a completely different set of cartographic calculations. The perspective of territorial mapping expanded to the mapping of culture, mapping of the environment, mapping of the hierarchies and systems of the communities we all are part of. This is where my present engagement of "social mapping" begins.

The first and foremost idea of mapping is locating ones self in relation to the territory one is a part of. In the age of globalization and its market strategies a new territory was created which replaced political boundaries. From my critical analysis of globalization and its world markets; national and political territories have merged into a new world created by economic territories which no longer looks like the world we were once familiar with. Resistance or reflection on this issue is one of the main concerns of my recent works.

My first work in video "Stampa" made whilst in residence at the Pistoletto Foundation tried to deal with globalization as an imposed belief on individuals. This three minute video shows a man being forcibly dragged out of his sleeping bed by two strangers. They force him to walk through the streets and finally press his head against the closed window of a shopping mall. Then one of them pulled a wooden seal out of his pocket on which the world map was carved. They forcefully pressed the seal on the back side of his shaven head. The identity of an individual in a global market deals with the dilemma of imposed consumer belief which is being imposed from outside even with lots of psychological violence but seems to be a part of once own belief system.

I moved on to more socially engaged territory later. The ground realities of the cultural, religious and ethnic identities of my immediate surroundings were a major focus at this point. As a result reflections on social issues integrated into my work. The video entitled "Wounded" was a reaction to the communal riots and genocide that took place in Gujarat in 2002. The nine minute long video shows a man nursing his deeply wounded leg. Through out the act of washing the wound, putting the medicine and bandaging it, one can hear the sound of violence in the background. After bandaging he turns around and touches the tuner of a radio which is behind him. Whilst he tries to tune the machine the viewer discovers that the sounds of crying and howling were coming from the radio itself. He keeps changing the stations until he finds a song. When song starts playing he falls asleep. This video attempts to address violence as a charged emotion floating in the air like all other emotional elements. Maybe one has the ability to change ones own mental tuning from destructive waves to a positive one? The film hopes to indicate the fact that no remedy can cure the deeply etched mental scars of riot victims unless they make an effort to be alert/ aware of the blind force of violence that they are a part of.

The most recent video project of mine is realized during a 2 month residency at CCA7 in Trinidad & Tobago. My intervention in Trinidad society is an attempt to understand many issues layered under the nation building project. The past, present and the complexity of "living together" somehow helped me to observe this nation as a "microcosm" of the world. The sense of identity and the understanding of "belonging" have been constructed in human minds through "active subconscious" impulses. Through a series of interviews with people from different racial and religious background my attempt here is to get a glimpse of these impulses. These interviews were conducted on specific questions were based on ancestry, identity, nationhood and ethnic issues.

With these narratives I am aiming to generate a multidimensional dialogue within the social system that I am a part of. Even though the boundaries are marked and specified this is an attempt to respond and negotiate.