Physical memories

Janaru, an art festival, explores themes of body politics, gender hierarchies, and more through experimental performance art
Krishnakshi Goswami
Krishnakshi Goswami

BENGALURU: It is often said that wounds heal, but scars remain. Similarly, even when memories are suppressed and forgotten, the body remembers. Beru Art and Cultural Foundation is bringing a unique two-day art festival titled Janaru, which explores difficult themes like inappropriate touching and abuse through experimental performance art. “Janaru means people in Kannada. Our effort is to give upcoming artists space to create innovative work,” says Dayanand Akilesh J, one of the festival’s organisers.

Two performances from the festival uniquely tackle themes of gender, abuse, and social hierarchies that perpetuate everyday violence against women. Bengaluru-based artist Durga Venkatesan will showcase her bold take on the theme of inappropriate touching with an experimental non-verbal performance art piece titled Touchy Topic.

“I wanted to work around sexual harassment and inappropriate touching, which I’ve personally faced,” shares Venkatesan, adding, “Coming from Delhi, that fear is drilled into you. I wanted to explore non-verbal communication because it’s very difficult to talk about these things, so I wanted to see other modes of expression that people can engage in.”

The 60-minute performance is simple yet powerful. Venkatesan will stand motionless, inviting the audience to place white paint fingerprints on her at spots where they have been touched inappropriately. “The preparation is very internal,” she explains. “Grounding is essential to keep me from feeling overwhelmed since this is also a piece where you might feel personally invaded. It’s about consent and control, knowing that I’ve given consent to be touched is a statement in itself.”

Durga Venkatesan
Durga Venkatesan

Meanwhile, Krishnakshi Goswami’s work intersects theatre, storytelling, and dance, reimagining the acclaimed Northeast poet Easterine Kire’s poem The Body is a Map, which explores the connection between the body, gender hierarchies, and personal experiences. “When I was reading many poems by women writers from the Northeast, I became curious about this connection between land and the body. The poem really resonated with me,” she explains.

With Kire’s consent, she has reimagined the poem with influences from her own experiences. “While working on it, I also let my personal stories come through, connecting with the poem’s theme of how the body remembers. I think most women have had experiences of abuse or uncomfortable experiences with their bodies, which relate to gender hierarchies in our societies,” says Goswami.

The piece features voiceovers and a soundtrack by artist Gillian Avril Kharshiing. The festival will also feature a performance from dancer Siddhhi Pillai, who will reimagine the traditional Bharatanatyam Margam and share the potential for freedom within well-defined structures.

(The performances will be staged on June 22 and 23 at the Shoonya Centre of Art and Somatic Practices. Tickets available on bookmyshow.com)

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