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Updated: June 3, 2014 17:23 IST

Exploring spaces with Johanna Steindorf

PREETI ZACHARIAH
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Johanna Steindorf has attempted to discover how we negotiate personal space and how is this influenced by the circumstances we live in.
Special Arrangement Johanna Steindorf has attempted to discover how we negotiate personal space and how is this influenced by the circumstances we live in.

People’s experience with the same space is very different believes media artist Johanna Steindorf

Johanna Steindorf dips my hands in warm soapy water, dries it, rubs cream into it and then proceeds to shape and buff my nails. As she works, an audio clip she has recorded on her mobile phone plays out and I listen to it.

“The audio clip was taken at the Max Mueller Bhavan,” says Johanna. “I spoke to women living in different situations—some in PG’s and Hostels, some married and at home with their husbands, some still living with their parents—about personal space and their relationship with the city,” she says.

Parlor Talk by Johanna Steindorf is a reference to both the conversations that form the basis of the audio work, as well as to the performance that Johanna enacts during the exhibition where she attempts to discover how we negotiate personal space and how is this influenced by the circumstances we live in. In an attempt to create an approximation to these questions and to her counterparts, the artist recreates and dislocates a situation in a place regarded as a typically feminine domain, the beauty parlour.

“I went to several beauty parlours in the city to explore this theme,” she says, pointing to several photographs taken at the parlours she visited, which is also part of the exhibition. “A beauty parlour is a microcosm of sorts. It is a space only for women and one that is both private and public—although you don’t know the person who is attending to you, you are physically very close so there is a trust situation at play here.”

What also strikes Johanna is the irony of the imagery used in these parlours. “The image used is that of the typical Caucasian woman but most of the people working in the parlours are immigrants and their clients are Indian so neither of them fit the image. When I, a typical Western woman, offer this manicure I’m trying to invert that theme,” says the Ecuador-born media artist. Joanna was raised in several countries across Europe and Latin America and now lives in Cologne.

An alumnus of the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro and the Academy of Media Arts Cologne, Johanna is currently pursuing Media Arts at the Bauhaus-University Weimar, researching on the subject of Audio Walks and female migration.

“It is all about chronicling different experiences in the city,” she says.

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