New Delhi. New York. New Installation. This triangle of loneliness that dislocation brought to Ridhima Mukim when she moved from India to America at 23 changed her perspective. The journey from a collectivistic culture to an individualistic milieu is the story behind her new art installation, ‘(t)here’. It expresses the anxiety of a new outsider, the disorientation and the urgent need to reorient her identity. “I come from a culture where I was taught to think about others before I thought of myself, to another that teaches me the importance of creating my own identity and prioritising myself. I felt completely lost ground,” says Mukim, New York-based artist. The title of her exhibition reflects her state of mind.
It mirrors the pendulum like feeling about her sense of belonging between ‘there’ and ‘here’— the cities of the past and now. The duality is in its form as well: real and virtual. Unlike Donald Trump’s America, the Big Apple is the alter-America and teems with a multitude of individuals from different countries and cultures. The exposure framed her existential anxiety within the larger social context of cultural disruption of those who move to live in the US. The installation is sentimentally volatile: a maze of concentric and collective lines and sometimes claustrophobic patterns that interpret the physical space of the collectivist society she was raised in. “Watching it in virtual space with headphones on helps the viewer to understand the individualistic culture of the West. It isolates the experience into a solitary search.
The lines are smaller and mutually independent, and represents the culture I moved to,” she says. The wall in her Manhattan studio is the creative narrator, so to speak. In the physical space, the story is told with vinyl tape pasted directly on it. In the virtual space, she hand-painted the lines using a tape brush. While she paints using the controller while wearing her headset, the lines she draws in physical space are recorded in the virtual headset. One can even walk through the painted lines. In the backdrop, her voice replicates the voices in her head that are formulating her thoughts. The manner of creation was inspired by Indian classical music and dance, which she has learned. “In Indian classical music, a set of five to seven notes known as ragas provides the musician with a framework.
A raga is believed to have the ability to ‘colour the mind’ and affect the listener’s emotions. Drawing on this structure, I provide myself with a set of four notes in terms of materials such as sound, mark-making, light, and tape to improvise and create,” she explains. Mukim’s process reflects her training in Kuchipudi and Kathak. “The creation of lines involves the gestural movements of the body. The rhythmic repetition of the hand while drawing lines and forms are derivations of the dramatic recurrence of hand gestures in dance,” says Mukim. She has a BFA in Painting from the College of Art, Delhi and an MFA from School of Visual Arts in New York City. In the next couple of months, the show will travel to Delhi where it will be on view at her studio in Civil Lines; by appointment only. “The process of adapting my knowledge to new media and methodology has allowed me to make new connections across disciplines,” she says. “And ‘(t)here’ is a nesting ground of these musings.” There today and come tomorrow is one variation she can understand.