This Mumbai artist calls out victim blaming through art

Each letter is made from a grid of nine clocks   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

‘NOT ASKING FOR IT’, read 135 black clocks: their yellow minute hands joined together to form this phrase. Boldly vocal.

Titled 135, this installation, conceptualised as part of We the Women Summit held at Mehboob studio, Mumbai on Sunday, comes at a point when the number of crimes against women in India is on a stark rise.

This is much more than a 22-year-old artist’s emotional reaction; it is an open call to change. In the wake of the recent rape and murder case of a Hyderabad veterinarian, and many more possibly unreported cases of sexual assault, Mumbai-based artist Shreya Arora, who recently graduated from National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, through her work, questions the vicious practice of victim blaming, one of the contributors to the rape culture prevailing in the country.

“Last year, I had made a series of satirical posters on victim blaming called ‘The Good Victim Starter Pack’, which spoke about all the rules a woman is expected to follow to be considered a ‘good victim’ and be believed. Though I did receive a good response, I realised that it was creating an echo chamber — the people who agreed with it, were those who did not victim blame anyway, which is a very small section of people,” says the 22-year-old, over a telephonic interview. Shreya wanted to make this work more accessible, by simplifying it and reducing the amount of text.

“I wanted to use different media to look at each of these questions that are often asked —‘What were you wearing?’; ‘How much had you had to drink?’; ‘Why were you out so late,’ etc,” continues the artist. Which led her to come up with a research-based project, last year, when she created a wearable, ‘seemingly provocative’, paper dress with hundreds of tweets from India’s #MeToo movement.

This paper dress is made of (printed out) tweets from India’s #MeToo movement

This paper dress is made of (printed out) tweets from India’s #MeToo movement   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

The handmade dress — featuring accounts (with their permission) from survivors of sexual assault — was created using origami. “Before we start speaking about how consent needs to be understood, we need to unlearn. There is a whole rationale behind how it is difficult to pinpoint what consent is. I may have a different way of giving consent than you do. It is easier to educate someone in what consent is not,” says Shreya.

“The past week has been so horrifying. If you take the case of the Hyderabad veterinarian, she did follow all the “so-called rules”, and what she went through was inhuman, to say the least. Still, there were instances of victim blaming where someone had raised a question why she did not call the police, but her friends instead,” reflects Shreya.

Shreya Arora

Shreya Arora   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

135, is the second in this series. “This was a collaboration with We the Women. I had about a week to conceptualise and execute it. The question I wanted to look at next, was the ‘why were you out so late?’ In the dress, the whole message was the medium. So I wanted to carry that idea forward,” elaborates Shreya. Each letter is made from a grid of nine clocks, the latter being laser-cut from black mouse boards. The contrast in colour, is what makes it appear bold and striking. The entire phrase takes up 135 clocks, hence the name.

Shreya’s work, mostly published in the digital space, attracts a niche audience. This, she wishes to change. There are more questions that need to be addressed, says the artist before signing off, adding that accessibility is of prime focus in the years to come.

Shreya’s work can be viewed on her Instagram page, @arorashreyav

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Printable version | Jun 12, 2021 9:03:57 PM |

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