Have a question on death? Book an expert and have it answered today at IGNCA in a performance work conceptualised by German art practitioner Hannah Hurtzig
To the extent possible, we abstain from recommending here but somehow, for Hannah Hurtzig’s project to be showcased at IGNCA on Saturday, one feels the need to, if not recommend, at least tell people to go and experience it. A lot of you will realise how something common has been transformed into so uncommon. So, just outside Maati Ghar in IGNCA, the amphitheatre area beneath the huge peepal tree, people will witness about 42 people in a dialogue.
While 21 experts will sit on one side, seated across would be the person who would have ‘booked’ the expert and the ‘client’ will interact with the expert on the subject of death. “I just hope it is less cold that day and it doesn’t rain,” states a vivacious Hannah, who has been in India for over a month to work on the project, “Last Minute Exercise”. It is part of INSERT2014 — an exhaustive exercise involving artists, poets, thinkers, architects, etc, to reflect on the world through exhibitions, performances and talks. It is being presented by The Inlaks Foundation.
“I think there will be a diversity of talk around death. Death is so banal. You don’t choose it. It is okay to not talk about it, but my concern comes from Europe where religion is not such a part of your life. What happens when you take religion out of it? How do you then look at it?” asks the Berlin-based art practitioner.
She is slightly concerned at raising the topic of death in a country where it is such an intrinsic part of culture and traditions. “I was worried if people would be interested in the subject but with the kind of experts we have, I am happy,” she says. Raqs Media Collective, Artistic Directors of INSERT2014, helped Hannah connect with people like filmmakers Sanjay Kak, R.V. Ramani, Pinki Virani, Nivedita Menon among others.
The experts will talk about different aspects. “You can book a one-on-one conversation with any of them on the website, choosing from these different narratives around death. Anup Surendranath is a lawyer who will speak about convicts on death row. But it won’t be just that, it will be much more than that,” explains Hannah, who ran a theatre and worked on theatrical productions before she started to make projects that would engage the public on a deeper level.
“It is a coming together of a wealth of knowledge. And when one comes here, you will have lots to choose from. If you want to be in conversation with the expert, you can book online or come here and get the help of the person on the counter to choose your expert. You can also just listen to these conversations on these headsets or just sit in the amphitheatre and witness. If you want a private consultation on the subject of eternity with artist Inder Salim, there is that option too.” It is modelled somewhat on her hugely successful “Blackmarket” work which has travelled to different countries and now, with its license being bought by people, it continues to be in circulation. “Someone has bought like a franchisee in Latvia where it will be performed and I will go there as one of the experts. The main difference between this exercise and my Blackmarket work is in terms of scale. That has 100 experts on board and thousands of people watching it. Also, the topic is not so specific.”
Some might question the artistic validity of the exercise, but Hannah, who moves between various disciplines with ease, remains nonchalant. Blurring the lines, Hannah is excited to create unique experiments that can’t be boxed in, just like her. “After having done so much work, I really don't know how to describe myself. I refuse to call myself an artist.”
“Last Minute Exercise” can best be described as a unique experimental project — using elements of theatre — which is right in the public sphere not just to be simply absorbed but engaged with at a different level. “The field that I am working in, we can’t say let’s have a product. My work really has to do with our scattered lives and its complexities,” says Hannah.
(The performance will take place at IGNCA this Saturday from 4 p.m to 8 p.m. To book an expert, write to email@example.com)