Pierc­ing Re­al­ity, In­ter­pret­ing Bound­aries: Video as a Test­ing Ground for Ched/Bhed

Domus - - CONFETTI -

“Video is like the mind. Ideas and im­ages keep switch­ing all the time, ap­pear­ing, over­lap­ping and dis­solv­ing si­mul­ta­ne­ously…” – Navjot, 2009 [1]

Navjot’s in­ter-me­dia in­stal­la­tions and video works emerge from her en­gage­ment with the pol­i­tics of rep­re­sent­ing marginalised in­di­vid­u­als or com­mu­ni­ties who live in the penum­bral zone of non-cit­i­zen­ship: the mi­grant, the sub­al­tern artist or the sur­vivor of a geno­cide. The artist’s re­la­tion­ships with these marginalised fig­ures are not pro­duced se­ri­ally, but emerge from what Mi­won Kwon has called the “un­even con­di­tions of ad­ja­cen­cies and dis­tances” be­tween the self and the other. [2]

Be­tween Thick De­scrip­tion and Div­ina­tory Method

I would sug­gest that Navjot’s ap­proach in her videos bears an affin­ity with those of cul­tural an­thro­pol­o­gists such as, in their dis­tinc­tive ways, Clifford Geertz and Mar­garet Mead. By this, I do not mean to limit Navjot’s art to the ethno­graphic, or to posit any sim­ple cor­re­spon­dence be­tween art and an­thro­pol­ogy. Rather, I point to a rich and com­plex trans­dis­ci­plinary re­la­tion­ship. As we know from the work of Geertz and Mead, an­thro­pol­ogy can­not be treated as a sci­ence among other sci­ences. Their writ­ing demon­strates that the ethno­graphic ac­count is al­ways a nar­ra­tive me­di­ated through the sub­jec­tiv­ity of the an­thro­pol­o­gist, who can­not re­main a pas­sive or ob­jec­tive ob­server of his/her sub­ject. Not sur­pris­ingly, Geertz was trained in lit­er­ary crit­i­cism and deeply in­ter­ested in nar­ra­tive as lit­er­ary form [3], and Mead re­garded her­self as a lit­er­ary artist.

‘Thick de­scrip­tion’, a term that Geertz bor­rowed from the philoso­pher Gil­bert Ryle, refers to a method­ol­ogy that does not merely con­cen­trate on hu­man be­hav­iour, but at­tends to the con­text within which that be­hav­iour un­folds, is un­der­stood and is ac­corded sig­nif­i­cance. As the con­text changes, so does the mean­ing of that be­hav­iour. As Geertz ex­plains, “...cul­ture is not a power, some­thing to which so­cial events, be­hav­iours, in­sti­tu­tions, or pro­cesses can be causally at­trib­uted;

Still from Wa­ter Weav­ing, video in­stal­la­tion, sin­gle chan­nel pro­jec­tion, 18 min­utes, 2005 (Pre­vi­ous page): Mul­ti­ples, mixed me­dia work, 2000. Ex­hib­ited at The Guild Art Gallery and Prithvi Gallery, Mum­bai, 2001

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