What is happening at the fifth edition of ‘Gender Bender’ in Bengaluru?

Expect a showcase a menstrual-themed tarot deck, installations, a web series on the caste system, marriage migration, among a whole host of unique presentations

August 23, 2019 02:48 pm | Updated 02:49 pm IST

Shining the spotlight on gender and identity, Gender Bender , a multi-disciplinary arts festival, a joint project by Sandbox Collective and Goethe-Institut Max Mueller, will feature 10 grantees from across India.

The event will also feature exhibitions, a sister and queer library, film screenings and personalities such as comedian Vasu Primlani, film maker Paromita Vohra, film maker Saba Dewan, belly dancer Eshan Hilal, among others. What’s more, entry is free.

The grantees talk about their presentations:

Disha Arora’s web series ‘Women and Caste in India’

Disha says: “My research focuses on the health status of Dalit women in Rajasthan in the context of access to natural resources and public health services,” adding, “I chose the medium of web series because it would allow me to explore different aspects of Dalit women’s lives in different geographical locations.”

‘Aguebao’ by Varoon P Anand and Gaurav Singh

“The action of Aguebao takes place through the conversations of two cis-gendered men somewhere in cyberspace, struggling with the concept of modern masculinity,” says Varoon. “ Aguebao is derivative of the derogatory Latin-American slang curse “Ahuevado”, which is, literally, to describe someone as an egg (huevo). The egg does not move, does not react, does not actively get involved or participate in anything and yet, is life. The invocation of calling someone “Aguebao” is a plea to action or realization.”

Raina Atef’s ‘While Being An Octopus’

“I have been working on topics related to maternity since 2018, and it is impossible to talk about motherhood for women without addressing the situation of women in the Arab world and the Middle East, where the presence of a mother/ woman becomes more complex,” says Raina. She adds: “The performance is a series of short videos, shot in different locations of home, and played at the same time through a projector and screen.”

Sanika Dhakephalkar’s interactive sticker zine ‘The Rainbow Book’

“Yayoi Kusama is one of my favourite artists and last year, I had conducted an activity with my kids where we made an Obliteration Corner in our classroom inspired by her Obliteration Room. Stickers have been on my mind ever since. It happened to be at a time when I was trying to understand the radical change in my experience of gender. One of the most apparent (even to me) things that was changing drastically for me was how I like to dress so that it could then change how I was seen or even how I see myself. I wanted to explore this aspect of trans and gender non-conforming identities,” says Sanika.

Ashok Vish and Joshua Muyiwa ‘Camp: Notes From Bangalore’

Ashok and I used the idea that queer men and women have embraced exaggeration and artifice as a means of marking themselves out in the world, and still using them as signals to speak to, and recognise one another in the community. It’s the way you might choose to clap, to walk into a club, or drink tea — it is dramatic but daily,” says Joshua.

“Ashok and I had just watched the “pink carpet” of this year’s MET Gala where the theme of the exhibition was Camp: Notes on Fashion, we were disappointed. While the exhibition itself was stunning in its ability to find elements that spoke to camp. The fashionistas and the celebrities on the “pink carpet” were lukewarm. Since, we couldn't pin what let us down, we thought we'd attempt to find it in around us, therefore the title of the work — Camp: Notes from Bangalore .”

AP Payal’s ‘The Fabulous Hysteric’

“I have created a menstrual-themed tarot deck that engages with themes such as menstruation, endometriosis, PCOD, infertility, childbirth, menopause and so on,” says Payal

Sandeep TK’s ‘Declaration of Empathy’- photographic project ‘Annamma’: A story on gender minorities

“As a queer (person) who grew up in Kerala, I know the hardships and insecurities one can suffer because of feeling and being different. Some manage to hide their difference (at least for a while), thereby keeping the peace and staying out of trouble. For others it’s nearly impossible to fit and blend in, their voice, gesture, and physicality giving them away all too easily. It is to those individuals I wish to dedicate this photographic project, to people who couldn't finish their education because of their differences and fought hard to embrace their identity,” says Sandeep.

Srota Dutta Acharya’s Interactive installation, ‘Framed Desire’

“The idea came when I saw an advertisement of a studio with a photograph of a local model at our neighbourhood. The copy had written ‘click photo for your daughter’s marriage’. While watching I found the layered message. On the one hand, it was propagating visuality of the woman in that advertisement. On the other it encouraged studio photography, particularly photograph of a prospective bride,” says Srota.

Ashmi Mridul and Sneha Joshi’s ‘Kahi Suni’, an installation on women's stories of marriage migration

The practice of marriage migration is especially prevalent in India as we have grown up listening to the stories of our mothers, sisters and sisters in-law. We managed to cut across various age groups, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds for this project,” says Ashmi.

Anjana Balakrishnan, Sunayana Premchander, Thejesh GN and Yashodara Udupa — ‘On Her Own’ (phone booth and audio stories)

“My stories were about women’s lived experiences.As a team we started to figure out the best way to present these stories to the public. Phone calls seemed to be the most natural way all of us share our stories with our friends and family. This led us to present the stories through IVR. Writing, audio-visual, tech and interaction elements came together to form #ProjectOnHerOwn,” says Anjana.

Gender Bender will be held from August 21 to 24 at Bangalore International Centre, Domlur.

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