Moving through glass

Parallel to Kochi-Muziris Biennale, the Hashtag# Collective collaborates with transgender models to create an installation that tells the story of transformation

Framed glass panels arranged in a grid, don rainbow colours, bearing a narrative of transformation.

Silhouettes of people, male, female; and of ambiguous gender too, are etched on the panels. As transgender models walk along the grid’s structure, the installation comes alive.

GenderFluid : identity * material * space — as the name suggests, is an architectural installation with a performative fashion component called FluidForms, created by The Hashtag# Collective. It is a response to changing paradigms of gender. This project was conceptualised, parallel to the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2018.

The concept arose out of the collective’s interaction with transmen and transwomen — particularly after the Kerala Metro authorities hired transgenders, and offered to help with the sex change procedures. “Increasingly, people are making conscious choices on who they really want to be, in response to the current environment. This recognition needs to happen,” says artist Parvathi Nayar. She, along with Abin Chaudhuri, Biju Kuriakose and Saira Biju have collaborated with designer Neesha Amrish, who has worked with transgender models in the past.

“Unlike popular belief, they don’t want to be identified as men or women, they identify as transgender. They are proud of being themselves,” says Parvathi. Saira chimes in, “We thought it would be interesting to do something with fabric.” Many ideas to do with fabric and costumes, however, did not seem feasible for an outdoor installation that has to stay for three months. That was when the concept of a performance around the installation, centred on gender fluidity, emerged.

A story inherent in the fabric used — Ahimsa silk, inspired the idea. (The silkworm is not killed, and instead, allowed to break out before taking the threads.) “Within the performance, we are referencing this idea of metamorphosis. The caterpillar with its beautiful stripes and pattern evolves into a neutral pupa, after which it hides. Not out of shame or fear, but to introspect. It becomes this creature, with its damp wings stuck to its side. And flight doesn’t come very easily. Over time, it spreads its wings,” says Parvathi. “We used panels, translucency, silhouettes and empty spaces to tell the story of the transformation,” says Saira.

Even in the fabric, geometrical patterns and striking colour combinations feature — an attempt at bold statement. “We came up with particular colours, and stayed away from motifs,” says Neesha, “The models were so forthcoming and cooperative, because it’s a celebration of their lives.”

The installation is on display at Gallery OED, Mattancherry, Kochi till March 30, 2019. The fashion component of the installation was performed on December 11, 2018.

Hear her roar

Parvathi Nayar will also be presenting her solo work, a series of six panels with an interactive element, titled Lost and Found as part of the collateral feminist show, Of Memories and Might, curated by Tanya Abraham. Inspired by Kudumbashree, the women’s collective’s work during the Kerala Floods in rescue and rehabilitation, the artist draws parallels to Devakoottu, a kind of Theyyam performed exclusively by women. “Here’s Nature turning around and slapping us in the face while these women (Kudumbashree) rose to the occasion,” she says.

Of Memories and Might will be on display at Kashi Art Gallery, Fort Kochi till March 30, 2019

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Printable version | Apr 8, 2020 2:34:53 AM |

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