On a casual stroll down the street, how many of us stop to notice what is around us? How many of us see without perceiving? A tree here, a few buildings there, the broken pavement before us — all, for the most part, unacknowledged.
It is this complacency in urban engagement by the average citizen that Maraa, in association with the KHA Foundation, sought to highlight in their performance, Moving Time.
The event, which comprised surprise performances by actors as the ‘audience’ took a walk around the familiar hang-outs on M.G. Road, was part of the 12-day October Jam organised by Maraa.
Starting from Koshy’s on St. Mark’s Road, the 40-minute walk ended at Brigade Road, with the audience of walkers slowly expanding as the event picked up momentum. The theme-specific performances lasted for about five or ten minutes each. The walkers would be taken by surprise when asked to stop to watch a performance, and often enough, the performance itself had to be pointed out, so integrated was it with life on the street.
Whether it was the ‘invisible’ flautist, face covered by a jacket, whose music wafted past the walking audience; or the more conspicuous ‘bucket dancers’ who could stop just about anywhere on the route to break into an impromptu; the performances had the onlookers guessing as to the purpose of it all.
“The idea behind these performances was to stimulate the space through the body,” explains Deepak Kukri, artistic director, KHA Foundation.
“At first you are studiously concentrating on what the performers are about, holding buckets over their heads or moving lethargically over compound walls of insignificant old buildings. But then you look around trying to occupy yourself with something more interesting. That is when you begin to discover the delights of the surroundings.” The quirk here is that while the spotlight is on the body, it also consciously turns the viewer’s eye away from it. Take the dancer who performs on the first floor of a building opposite to Bookworm on Church Street. He moves to a rhythm all his own, his movements unsynchronised with the notes of the flautist on the street. Your eye notices the ambient activity — the working environment, as it were.
How many of us give a thought to the construction workers of the metro? Moving Time conjures up a performance by actors dressed as workers, and you begin to realise just how unseeing you have been of this important part of the urban milieu.
And what of the non-audience, the other inhabitants of our street-space? If we, the ‘audience’ found our preconceived notions of watching an entertaining dance performance shattered, for the average passer-by, the performances appeared as eccentricities open to all kinds of interpretations. For the ‘deliberate’ as well as the ‘accidental’ audience, however, Moving Time was an experience that breached our comfort zones and opened our eyes to a city’s life as performance.