Tuesday, October 24, 2017, 7 pm
Timken Lecture Hall, SF Campus
Feminist Artist Statement
Engaging with feminist thought allowed me to see how rigid constructions of female sexuality and gender-based power are not merely reflected, but constituted and obsessively reiterated in storytelling and visual culture. In the process I noticed that social hierarchies and codes are upheld just as frequently via the absence and repression of narratives perceived as threatening to our world order, be it between lovers or empires. And so the gaps in official history, the open fields where history and myth meet, became a central engagement in my work. These gaps and fissures are evident in seemingly benign tellings of traditional, mythological tales that are intended as cultural enrichment or entertainment for children. Such stories routinely celebrate sex and violence to tell an engrossing tale, only to ensure their repression at story’s end, insisting upon appropriate behavior and gender expression by inventing disastrous consequences that accompany any attempt to transgress social norms. At the core of my work across media is a commitment to excavating and reiterating such narratives of transgression that have been systematically excluded from the official canons of history, literaure, and art.
My installation, photography and sculptural work is inspired in particular by mythological narratives, present day imperialism and queer politics, old Bollywood images and songs, lyric poetry, and erased moments in South Asian history. Taking these stories and integrating them with my own mythic imagery and text, the hybrid world of drawing and sculpture articulates both historical conflict and psychic transformation, embedded in a feminist and queer sensibility. Much of my visual vocabulary across media engages the term ‘junglee’ (literally ‘of the jungle’, connoting wildness and impropriety), an old colonial Indian idiom (still) used to describe women perceived as defiant or transgressing convention. I’m deeply indebted to and inspired by feminist writing that dismantles traditional structures in favor of radical experiments with translation and form including that of Clarice Lispector, Anne Carson, and books like Mrs. Dalloway, and Beloved. In layering disparate materials and visual languages, I aim to create alternative models of sexuality and power, in a world where untold stories keep rising to the surface.