NEW DELHI: One hears the sound of themselves loudly and clearly, perhaps for the first time. You’ve spoken words but not your mind, many a times. After voicing a 10 minute monologue, when you take a pause, the impact of what you’ve said tears through the silence of the room and makes you recognize the pain, despair, exasperation, bitterness, even helplessness that’s just slipped through the layers of your otherwise ‘built for the world’ ratiocination. “Who is this person” you may ask yourself. And the answer is a disturbing “It’s very well me.” That’s exactly the kind of acceptance and power artist Baaraan Ijlal is trying to make people aware of through her work titled Change Room, an ongoing sound installation of censored voices.
Individuals, specially women with, for far too long, and even today, continue to strangle their legitimate right to expression. Change Room is a free space where you talk uninhibitedly and someone non-judgmentally listens. It doesn’t dictate the content of the conversation. It doesn’t dictate the content of the conversation. Good, bad, ugly... all is welcome. However, there is one expectation on your part—honesty.
The room where we meet Ijlal has a microphone in the precise centre of the table that’s been placed close to the entrance. She and we sit cross from each other.
Whenever you feel comfortable, you begin to talk. It was the lack fluidity in people’s thoughts that made the artist question rigid boundaries and binaries that we’ve built around us. “Additionally, the representation of people in social media as one single identity disturbs me. Such representations could have a disastrous implication in the future, which will be dominated by automated technology. Which is why, in my work, I try to break stereotypes and reach out to a spectrum of opinions within communities,” she says.
Ijlal’s piece of work raises pertinent questions about how women continue to find themselves suffocated with impositions that society expects them to follow. They’re ‘suppose to’ be a certain way, without anybody questioning what those two words mean? Patriarchy continues to puncture voices in the bid to establish its supremacy and the opposite sex gets caught up in the name of gender hegemony. “These voices are the result of a repressive society. Voices have been muzzled for expressing even fundamental desires of individual being. It’s a historical phenomenon,” believes the artist.
Which is why, maybe, the reason why a lot of women responded to the exercise of recording their thoughts. “Given the patriarchal set up, women rarely get the space to speak, leave aside speak openly. There is simply no space for that,” she says.
The possibility of nurturing permanent spaces to hear people could conceivably change the way we express. There are redressal cells in every institution, atleast as a formality, says Ijlal, but it’s only a matter of making them functional and accountable. But when and how will that happen, we wonder.
A version of this voice installation was installed at Conflictorium Museum in Ahmedabad in April this year, as part of the artist’s residency programme there. Right now, she is looking for spaces, events and exhibitions and to put up this recent piece. “Showing them in public places and events will justify the act of recording these voices. It’s for people to hear people just like them with issues just as they are grappling with,” she says.
Till that happens, she is getting diverse voices together. One thing that’s emerged from all her sessions so far is the attribute of courage. To sit in an unfamiliar room, in front of a stranger, with the understanding that you are being recorded, requires nerve. It also shows you that talking freely can liberate your soul. “There are more commonalities than differences as far as basic human emotion goes. They are the need to be loved, respected and heard. The most recurring emotion is fear.” So set sail on a sea of voices that carry waves of tumultuous emotions with the hope of docking at a suitable port.
For announcements on future recordings, keep an eye on Conflictorium Museums home page.