Artiste Avril Unger talks about Still Tangled and reaching a place of self identity

Artiste Avril Unger talks about her upcoming performance Still Tangled and how it picks up where her previous work Untangled left off...

Updated - March 17, 2023 12:34 pm IST

Published - March 17, 2023 11:35 am IST

Avril Stormy Unger

Avril Stormy Unger | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Say ‘tangled’ and a popular animation movie springs to mind and much like the protagonist in the first half of that film, Bengaluru-based interdisciplinary artiste Avril Stormy Unger, much like all of us, has battled conflicting emotions of whether to comply with convention or not.

Her most recent work Still Tangled explores her decision to be different and picks up where her last work, Untangle left off.

“Untangle was made two years ago as a video work centred on the conflicted relationships I had with my hair at that time — the work was an attempt to unpack or untangle internalised social expectations, and the unlearning of the same to be able to reach a new place of self-identity.”

Avril came to realise, “this internal process loops and each time it does, you have newer, layered insight. Though it started with my hair, as I looked deeper, it moved towards thoughts surrounding my sexuality.”

A still from Untangle

A still from Untangle | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Endowed with a curly mane, Avril says she went through a phase of straightening her hair and trying to fit in with standard ideas of beauty and social expectations. “I was allowing such violence on my hair and it got me thinking about facets of my life where I was straightening myself to conform; I saw myself looking at the concept of compulsory heterosexuality, where everyone is assumed to be heterosexual from childhood.”

“Soon after Untangle, I cut my hair and that started me on a completely new journey. Now, two years later with Still Tangled, I look at what has changed this time.”

According to Avril, while Untangle was about trying to fit in, Still Tangled is more about the cost of trying to not fit in and the power that comes with self-identity. The pros and cons, the power, joy and grief — all of these are navigated through this new work.

Still Tangled is the outcome of playing between two identities such as straight and gay, digital and embodied, short-haired and long, pre-pandemic and post — by navigating and interrogating these different spaces I identify with, as well as seeing it from a distance and over time.”

Maya Krishnan

Maya Krishnan | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Still Tangled will see Avril performing to music by artiste Paro, in front of the Untangle video, “a juxtaposition of who I am now and who I was then,” using movement-based practises and expanded choreography.

The programme will begin with a dialogue with theatre artiste Maya Krishna Rao and an ensuing interaction with the audience after which Avril will present Still Tangled.

“It was after attending a body movement workshop conducted by Maya that I created this work. As a performer and artiste who also works in the intersection of sound, movement, theatre and words, I thought it would be great to invite her to talk about her practice and process.”

Still Tangled will take place at Goethe Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan on March 18, 6.30pm. Donor passes and tickets (₹300) are available at https://imjo.in/sP3vrj

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