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Turning Tables

Zuleikha Chaudhari’s exploration of space turns audiences into performers

Written by Nikita Puri | New Delhi |
Updated: November 23, 2014 12:00:10 am


At 24 JOR Bagh, a studio space, close to 2,000 ft of running wooden beams seem to surface from the ground, or grow downwards from the ceiling. Crisscrossing one another, they run across the property at Lodhi Road, through the walls and across two floors, like wooden shoots in a geometrically governed concrete world. Attached to these beams are tube lights that make those beams more pronounced. And the walls, some painted and some more raw in their cement form, have running text that seem to be instructions on how to navigate through this space. This dramatic set up is theatre director and lighting designer Zuleikha Chaudhari’s way of making viewers rethink the dynamics of space and movement.

The show is called “The Transparent Performer III: Some Stage Directions for [24 Jor Bagh]1/x.” Chaudhari has collaborated with Outset India and The Gujral Foundation for the project. She says, “I have always liked the idea of a new structure emerging from the older one. You are no longer navigating through this space normally — the beams obstruct you, making you more aware of your movements and physicality.”

The text on the walls serve as stage directions, and some of it is as doable as others are not. One instruction reads: “Place your first foot on the ceiling and after a brief hesitation, also the second.” The artiste says, “These are just instructions and it is up to you whether you want to follow these. The idea is to make the audience a performer.”

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Though some of the directions can’t physically be carried out, your mind still carries those instructions out, thus breathing life into Chaudhari’s idea of a transparent performer. She had explored the concept of the transparent performer earlier this year, once at Khoj Studios and then with the Raqs Media Collective.

Navigating from room to room and floor to floor, the performer/viewer experiences the navigational difficulties as he manoeuvres his way through the hindering beams. The treatment of the set up further fogs the distinction between the stage and off-stage area. There is no place for the viewer to be, but on stage, charting a way across the beams that make you bend, stoop and hop. Chaudhari elaborates, on the lit tubes, “Some of the light reflects off the glass, and creates a slightly disorienting effect, it make you even more conscious of your movements, adding another texture to the performative space.”

The show is on at 24, Jor Bagh, Lodhi Road, till November 23, 5 pm to 8 pm

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