Gigi Scaria, one of the renowned video artists in India, talks about the possibilities of ‘video art' as a medium of creativity, as Nita Sathyendran listens
Taken from atop the minaret of the Jama Masjid, ‘Panic City' is a series of panoramic stills of Old Delhi that have been “stitched together” juxtaposing the old with the new and depicting the capital's struggles to accommodate the frenzied construction and clean-up drives in lieu of the upcoming Commonwealth Games.
‘Amusement Park' in black and white, meanwhile, creates an allusion of the city as an amusement park, which, among other aspects, is transient, escapist, modern and, at times, even sinister. These two works of ‘video art' are fine examples of the creative genius of Delhi-based Malayali painter, sculptor and photographer Gigi Scaria, who is also one of the country's most celebrated video artists.
Video art vs. film
“Video art is a popular medium that came up in the 1960's and 70's; a medium that is still in its nascent stage in India. It is a kind of art that captures moving images and should not be confused with a documentary or an experimental short film because ideally it has no linear narrative, no actors, plot or any other discernable feature that generally defines a conventional cinematic medium. Rather it is something in-between,” says Gigi, who was in the city to conduct a workshop on video art for students of his alma mater – the College of Fine Arts, Kerala.
“It is the possibilities within these in-between spaces that fascinated me as an artist. Through these spaces, video art allows me to extend my vision by exploring and even transcending the boundaries of the medium, without having to deal with the nuances of a full scale cinematic production,” adds the artist, a native of Kothanalloor in Kottayam district.
After his graduation in fine arts, he moved to Delhi via Baroda and subsequently completed his masters in fine arts from Jamia Millia University. His participation at a Khoj (an international artists' association) workshop “opened his mind to alternative forms of art” and winning the Inlakhs scholarship sent him on a residency to Cittedelarte in Biella, Italy, where he made his first video art work – ‘Stampa,' a three-minute video that deals with one method of tattooing.
Here Gigi creates the impression that tattooing can also be seen as “an imposed act on the body, like an official seal on a written text.”
However, it is in the reality of urbanism in Delhi and its many facets, especially the bitter realities of migration and displacement that Gigi found his niche.
“There is a certain rudeness to how Delhi behaves. The city truly represents a cross section of India with its shifting nature, rigid class structure and many levels of hierarchy. All of this is best reflected in the life of the migrants many of whom – like me – come to the city in pursuit of their dreams. The city shows us the way and gives us opportunities to realise our dreams. However, it also leaves us with a sense of not belonging; a feeling of being rootless. Moreover, Delhi has many layers of history such as Mughal Delhi, Lutyens Delhi, Nehruvian Delhi…the extension of all of which are to be found in the psyche of the city and its people. All of this, and personal experiences too, inspire me,” says the artist whose solo exhibition (titled ‘Absence of an architect') on the theme, in Delhi in 2007, won rave reviews.
Gigi will be exhibiting his recent works which include videos, sculptures, photographs and paintings at Art Dubai – the world's biggest art fair, later this month. Four of his works were also screened at a private screening of ‘Gallery 360' in the city. And what about exhibiting in Kerala?
“I would love to but I am still waiting for an invitation. And for that I believe the art scene in Kerala needs to change. As of now we don't really have a culture of buying art. Plus there is still, to a large extent, a rigid colonial-style approach to the study of art and a rather satirical approach to the appreciation of art.”