An American photographer re-works old crafts and techniques to reflect over his life in India
I have dared to call this home read one of the 101 confessions of Udaipur-based 58-year-old American photographer,Waswo X Waswo,at his latest photographic adventure Confessions of an Evil Orientalist at Gallery Espace,Delhi. After his first book,India Poems: Photographs,which was released in 2003,was criticised for using posed models and sets for photography,the artist is back with his new exhibition which displays a deliberate sense of orientalist,neo-colonial oppression. Theres always a suspicion that comes when a foreigner is photographing India,that of having a neo-colonial outlook of the country. In some ways I understood it,but in others,I would look at the works of prominent Indian photographers and found that they could get away with being orientalist in nature. Where is that dividing line? questions Waswo. For this project,Waswo collaborated with two local artists from Udaipur Rajesh Soni,who works with the old technique of hand-painted digital photographs,and R. Vijay,who works with miniature artists. Over a year,the trio worked on the pictures and miniatures,which,he says,reflect my life in India,as they all come together to tell a story. His confessions came in different forms: a golden palki with a laptop that chants the confessions; in the form of legal papers from Rajasthan,and thirdly,through a comic booklet.
Another predominant feature was the use of Hanuman in almost all of his works such as Second Incarnation the First,The Second,and The Third,among others,with pictures of men with tails. I had done a series on Vishnu incarnations last year,where I toyed with Krishnas flirtatious nature. So through Hanuman series,I am dealing with a more aggressive form of masculinity, said the artist.
Even the evil orientalist is down on one knee and tearing apart his chest in a miniature,You Break My Heart ,which has been done by way of pigment and gold on wasli (a type of hand-made paper). Some of the things are not necessarily particular to white men. Anybody might be guilty of it. I hope it will make people question, said Waswo.