A DIALOGUE OF THE EYES
This collection of photographs- performed self-portraits really- is the artwork of a 23-year-old self-proclaimed novice from Bastar. I present it here for a variety of reasons.
The most obvious is this: when we ‘think Bastar’, our minds are instinctively flooded by images of the Bison-horn Maria tribe doing their peacock mating-ritual dance, the stalactite-stalagmite formations at the Kutumsar cave, and the primordial goddess Dantesvari with eyes of gold; indeed, the close-circuit camera-like shot of a boy emerging out of a Levi’s changing-room after trying out a fresh pair of jeans is the last thing we think of. Not so anymore: the hitherto unconceivable possibility that Bastar boys might well end up studying at top engineering colleges of India’s cyber-capital, Bangalore, has metamorphosed to reality, albeit not as pervasive as one might wish. [see photo 1: Changing-room]
Photo 1: CHANGING ROOM
They return, like migratory birds, to rest and surf.
The next reason of course is more universal: we are all voyeurs, you and I. The thought of stealing forbidden glimpses, howsoever momentary, into the private-worlds of the anonymous-Other, has always titillated our more basic- ‘beastly’- urges: the onset of the Internet- a virtual world full of web-cameras and multimedia messages- inflames those instincts in the comfortable and relatively risk-free privacy of internet cafés and bedrooms.
I find this both fascinating and disturbing: my communications with the photographer- when I first ‘met’ him on Orkut, he went by the nom de plume ‘hasta la Victoria siempre’ after Ché Guevara [see photo 2: Ché], and then he became ‘Creative Destruction’ until I discovered that his name is in fact ‘Saurav’- have thus far been restricted to the sequential exchange of text-fonts over the Google-talk/Ichat-Jabber interface; two MP3s of Bob Dylan (the slurry-diatribe against ‘the masters of war’ along with an equally apocalyptic ‘let me die in my footsteps’), and of course these photos.
Photo 2: Ché
Yet there is a feeling of strange familiarity, which I cannot quite comprehend. Even more perplexing, he- a creature possibly more at ease in the virtual world rather than the physical (why else would he makeup the silliest excuses imaginable to avoid telephoning?)- finds nothing remotely out-of-the-ordinary in this. [see photo 3: Surf]
Photo 3: SURF
When I ‘type’ ‘c’est tres bizarre’, he types back after what seems like an endless five minutes of staring at the bottom-most of a pop-up window: ‘hmm’. In any event, I am sucked into a Mephistophelean world that isn’t quite my own. [see photo 4: Awake]
Photo 4: AWAKE
Indeed, in a triptych of surreal photos, the invading fingers drawing menacingly closer to Saurav's carefree, smiling, laughing face, until he turns to confront them, are our own. [see photos 5, 6, 7: Invasion]
Triptych (Photos 5, 6, 7): INVASION
A third factor for publishing this collection lies in the fact that the photographer is also the subject: the eyes behind the lens and the ones in the front are the same. Needless to say, it is impossible for him to know beforehand exactly how each composition will turn out: a certain level of involuntary distortion becomes inevitable. The act of shooting oneself, even with the luxury of a timer, isn’t easy. Saurav’s lack of technical training- we cannot forget that he is after all an amateur photographer, whose only discernable ‘motive’ in shooting these ‘selfs’ was to woo women- has the desired effect: the loss of control liberates every frame from the photographer’s premeditations. Like a Jackson Pollock painting, there is a definitive randomness about them.
In the end, the character that emerges from these compositions is not so much an exhibitionist- incidentally this is one charge he doesn’t deny- as he is a contemporary Reincarnation of Narcissus. I asked him about his favorite photograph in this collection. He identified two (besides the Ché, of course). The first is a close-up frontal study of his face: understandably, he is naked in that one (i.e., you won't find any clothes on this photo!). [see photo 8: Nude]
Photo 8: NUDE
I would have left it out of this collection but for the fact that it, more than any other photograph, suggests what I call ‘a vocabulary of the eyes’: Saurav’s eyes don’t just look; they see. They speak. Consequently, the voyeur-viewer cannot help being drawn into a dialogue with the inanimate subject of this photo, now eerily resurrected to life through those penetrating eyes: but does he respond? The second one is of him striking a theatrical pose. Forearms elbowed over the forehead, head tilted above, fingers carelessly interwoven with hair, eyes closed: a post-modern visual allegory of the Pensées. [see photo 9: Pensées] No body in their right mind can doubt Saurav’s flair for the cathartic.
Photo 9: Pensées
For me, this Collection is an embodiment of the spirit of ‘Nava Chhattisgarh’.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
A DIALOGUE OF THE EYES