Gitanjali Dang and Khanabadosh curate this project — ‘Invisible Light’ — under which, so far, two themes have been introduced: Jagte Raho and Committing a Dream.

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Committing a Dream: Chapter 4Opening the door to Prajakta Potnis

(Above: Prajakta Potnis, 7.10, 2019)

Sylvia Plath wrote her first tragic poem when she was 14. The poem commemorates a pastel drawing made by Plath, and accidentally smudged by her grandmother.

Plath was showing the still life to her grandmother when the doorbell rang. On her way to the door, the grandmother took off her apron, tossed it on the table, accidentally sweeping the drawing and blurring bits of it.

“Feeling responsible to be answerable,” says Prajakta first up about her on-going relationship with the doorbell.

What would happen if Prajakta didn’t get the door?

Often, in cities like Mumbai, crime comes to light when the doorbell goes unanswered. But if you’re alive and kicking and still not answering the door, then that in itself is a crime.

Prajakta Potnis, Untitled, 2019

(Above: Prajakta Potnis, Untitled, 2019)

First came the drawing because calm before the storm is the norm.

“I am glad the rain is coming down hard. It’s the way I feel inside,” tweets Plath from one of her many Twitter accounts.

The grid of the drawing possibly expresses desire for a space of control and harmony. Speaking to the idea of how we go around straight-faced pretending everything is a-okay when it is not. Mauvaise foi, much. The absence of vulnerability because we cannot afford to let our guard down. Because capitalism is an overwhelming emotion.

But then again, part of the joy of being a ‘third world nation’ is that we are still not entirely and highly sanitised. Carrying emotions on the sleeve — for better, or often for worse — is still very much on the cards.

Once Prajakta started scoping her suburban neighbourhood for visual and aural clues, the Zen-faced drawing transformed into a cacophonous collage, into an image of our much-loved messy and outrageous Bom Bahia (Good Bay).

Who will get the door? Who will bell the cat? A group of feral cats is called a destruction. A group of doorbells ought to be called a castrophony. When doorbells become markers of identities, often religious, they may also be called alarm bells. Who wakes up first to the doorbell? Who sleeps through its ringing? Who gets to hit snooze repeatedly? And who must leap out of bed in alarm?

Ironically enough, while the doorbell is an interruptive presence in Prajakta’s world, it also shows us the way into her artistic world. Where under the artist’s eye the everyday is dramatised and made poetic or haunting, or both.

Hong Kong is an old haunt of dragons. To avoid blocking the way of dragons, travelling from inland to sea each day to drink and bathe, several high-rises in Hong Kong have dragon gates, i.e. glaring holes through which the creatures may pass unhindered. Dragons don’t ring bells. Mumbai — one of the densest cities in the world, denser than Hong Kong too — makes allowances for no one, not even dragons. Making allowance requires room, and Mumbai has got little of that. Out here, each person has 1.1 sq metres, or less, of open space.

Earlier this year, Prajakta, born and brought up in Mumbai, made a presentation about her work under the title Making Art in One BHK. “I spoke about the seemingly ‘weird’ spaces where art can get in,” explains Prajakta, who has always worked out of a one BHK situation. While fresh out of art college she shared an apartment of similar specifications with others, currently she has such a space to herself.

These spaces are containers for other definitely ‘weird’ spaces, like the ‘cavities of objects’ for which Prajakta professes a particular fascination. But cavity, or no cavity, through household objects, Prajakta routinely offers perspective on what happens when the familiar gets, in her words, ‘hijacked’.

“The works are not autobiographical per se,” says Prajakta “but, of course, they do offer an individual’s perspective.”

Hotplates, mixers, freezers, washing machines, curtains, pillows, cracks in the wall, chopping boards, leakages, floor titles and a lot more have all been hijacked by the artist. A sense of foreboding is always present. Be it escalators inserted inside a freezer or flowerets of cauliflower glowering apocalyptically from inside a blender.

Percussive maintenance is the term for hitting malfunctioning objects until they work again. Safe to assume then that the doorbell is always broken? Escalators work best when everyone standing on them is standing still. Maybe doorbells work best when they are not used? Hard to verify because the placebo button is actually a thing.

A placebo becomes a nocebo when people expect to suffer negative side effects so they feel worse, even when the ‘medication’ they're taking is an inert substance.

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Artist in Focus

Prajakta Potnis’ practice includes photography, painting, site-specific sculptural installations and public art interventions. Her work has been shown extensively at venues like The Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah, Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Kochi, 11th Gwangju Biennale, Gwangju, KHOJ, International Artists' Association, New Delhi, Kadist Art Foundation, Paris, and Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai. Prajakta lives and works in Mumbai, India.

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Main Index

Invisible Light (Curatorial Note and Themes)

Jagte Raho (Curatorial Note and Chapters)

Committing a Dream (Curatorial Note and Chapters)

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Gitanjali Dang is a curator, writer and overall shape-shifter. In 2012, she founded Khanabadosh, an itinerant arts lab.

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