By Sadaf Inamdar
Pink Party, a mechanical ballet set in the era of cyborgs and artificial human behaviours, is the first immersive workpiece of many that greets you when you enter TIFA Working Studio in Pune. Comprising several scenes, the work by French artist Sandrine Deumier combines humanoids and objectified humans depicting the prefigurations of artificial humanity.
With her philosophical and artistic training, Deumier has tackled the issue of technological change and contextualised our understanding of sexual and gender spectrums while speculating where our interpersonal relationships will go with respect to the digital spaces.
Pink Party is a part of ‘Futures of Sexuality — Labeless’, an exhibition that explores the intricacies of sexuality, gender, self and vulnerability, which form the crux of intimacy. “The changing nature of these relationships has overarching effects on social ecosystems and it, thus, becomes important to understand these changes, especially in the context of rapidly changing digital ecosystems.
The exhibition asks what intimacy means today and how it will adapt in the future, what role digitality will have on relationships and how intimacy will evolve in an online and offline ecosystem? We also explore how it will affect youth culture and social structures. Does the future have labels? Does labeless mean inclusive?” says Aditi Rakhe, curator of the exhibition and Programs Leader at TIFA Working Studio.
The Anthropoid Within is an interactive piece that revolves around the themes of archaeology and anthropology. Conceptualised by Surabhi Chaudhary, an artist from Kolkata, it aims to question one’s existence in society. The work encourages you to be a part of this installation by treating your body as a transient entity and positioning yourself in front of mirrors labelled ‘We exist you exist I exist’ and enables you to engage with your own reflection.
To the artist, this is meant to symbolise how all identities are provisional and consciousness is malleable and ever-changing.
Lipika Bhargava from Delhi is an interdisciplinary artist who works with crotchet, digital media and photography. Her painting, Passive Dreams 1, tells a tale of exploring one’s body and questioning the taboo around female masturbation.
The conversation expands to how women are conditioned to be ashamed of loving their own body and how female sexual desire is treated with great suspicion.
There is also an exhibition of pictures showcasing the transgender community in different professions. Sandeep TK, who lives and works in Bengaluru, has documented their stories in his book, Declaration of Empathy. His photographic project was inspired by Annamma, who came out as a transgender at 17.
For the artist, it was important to display members of the community living life to the fullest, with zest and humor, far from the shackles of pathos and sadness. Through his works, he shows how the notion of transgendered individuals belonging to a particular caste and economic background is unfounded, as they can flourish if given a chance.
Challenging the gender binary in mainstream, Nachiket Prakash, artist, art educator and curator based in Pune, has explored the different forms of sexuality in diverse contexts against a background of increased acceptance of gender fluidity.
Prakash’s paintings imagine a future where all genders are one and interconnected. His works represent the binaries of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ as deemed by popular media and public, and uncover the ideas of our changing understanding of human sexuality.
For Aditya Verma, a painter, sitarist and ad professional from Delhi, the choices we make as individuals tend to define future expression of sexuality among human beings. His painting Nothing is ordinary. Everything is ordinary, explores fluidity and sexuality beyond binaries. Weaving a narrative of queer lives and the faces we encounter across the spectrum of sexual expression, the painting represents ‘light’ and ‘dark’ choices made by individuals.
In the same room, one finds Untitled by Ishita, an artist from Mumbai. Her works, drawn from personal experience of being constrained, judged and isolated as an unmarried woman, explore the pain, sexuality and stigma in a conservative society. The artist believes that since sexuality and intimacy are considered taboo in India, art provides a medium to explore the topics unabashedly.
The exhibition also showcases attitudes from across the world through works by artists from France, the US and China.
An 18-minute film, A Waking, by Clare Chong, a Singapore-based filmmaker, revisits a painful experience from when she was 16. She was visiting China, where a bus driver misbehaved with her. Clare, who has grown up in a house full of women, uses this experience to portray the sexual encounter of a young teenager and disorientation of her thoughts.
Amy Cutler is a geographer, filmmaker, and a research fellow in GeoHumanities at University of London. Her works often draw on unsettling ideas of nature by ‘hacking’ original source narratives and pedagogical voices, from radio to 19th century science textbooks. Her film All her beautiful green remains in tears discusses nature documentaries and their heternormative bias when visiting fables of reproduction, morality and motherhood.
Zander Porter, an American artist based in Berlin, also showcases his short film I’m Your Pixelpleasure, a take on the internet culture and social culture at large. For Rakhe, the idea was to start with an immersive workpiece and end with another.
Chaitanya Modak’s Disturbing is the final artwork in the exhibition. A set of visual poems hanging through the wall, they represent nostalgic conversations from a now broken relationship.