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Ways of seeing

Jasmeen Patheja's work reflects a fragmented urban ethos



Jasmeen Patheja: `A walk allows a free flow of thoughts.' — Photo: K. Murali Kumar

JASMEEN PATHEJA, graduate from Shristi School of Design, is concerned about urban ethos and the many fragments that make up that ethos in her photography installation, 2Feet Apart, on show at Alliance Francaise. The show seeks to re-create "the experience of walking". "Elements of pattern, logic, flow, interruption, shock, surprise, noise, chaos, and silence" inform the work, says Jasmeen.

"Walking two feet apart allows me to engage with many realities within a stride. While walking, I seek nothing. But an expectation builds up as unreal moments appear, disappear, and reappear. A flow begins and a pattern of logic creates itself, sometimes symbols scream," observes Jasmeen.

By its very nature, the walk allows a free flow of thoughts and ideas. There are moments of ease and dream mixed with being cautious, alert, and in a state of defence. The walk is private, but the route public.

The photographs are both in colour and black and white. The collection has emerged from her walks around India, France, Spain, Italy, and the United Kingdom. Back in her design school, she has worked with photography, video, sound, and performance. Blank Noise, Jasmeen's diploma project was her first exhibition.

The show has a variety of photographs reflecting the urban ethos: a relaxed couple in a park, a couple in a house tense while speaking on the phone, mannequins in a shop with a man, a child with a cat, women applying face packs, a set of shoes symbolising the walk in a city, women's bodies (real and made-up), people moving into a train, traffic lights... "These are all part of my walk that symbolise a freedom. I shoot at a given moment. It is not thought out."

Excerpts from a conversation with Jasmeen:

What would be the framework for the show? They cannot be entirely without meaning nor can there be deliberate imposition of meaning. Isn't there need for coherence?

It is my walk. It is as I see things, and what strikes me at a given moment.

One understands it is a personal work. But it talks of the public too. Art should communicate meaning within or about a particular context. Is being esoteric a virtue?

Well, I agree there are some layers to my work. For instance, there are many photos of the female body in public spaces. The body would be different in different spaces. In a sense, the show is about the urban space and the body.

The female body is not seen in terms of violation. It is aesthetised both in the way you have photographed them and the way you have positioned them among other photographs — of children, couples, Anegundi Bridge in Hampi, and so on. The work seems surreal.

My work is what I have felt about something at a given moment. I do look at how the body feels in different cultural spaces — what it feels like to walk in Paris and what it does in Bangalore... I hope people will be able to make the connections I make.

A viewer would find his or her own connections even if the viewer comes from the same context as yours. Of course, the viewer could also come from an entirely different context.

Yes, these are senses of personal freedom in my walk. But I would like people to see what I see. Yet, I am curious about what they see...

If a viewer cannot make the connections you are making, the artist and the discipline of art may not take the viewer seriously. Complete inscrutability is also not what you are looking at...

But of course, I would like to see who takes what kind of a walk... I also study what they react to and what they turn to first... I am interested in them as subjects.

G.N.P.

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