India Today - - LEISURE - —Farah Yameen

Indu Hariku­mar’s il­lus­tra­tions of sto­ries of Tin­der dates ex­plore the nu­ances of re­la­tion­ships in the age of the in­ter­net

IIndu Hariku­mar’s apart­ment on the out­skirts of Mum­bai was the 19th house in the city to get an in­ter­net con­nec­tion in 1995. She has used the web to en­gage with peo­ple ever since. So it was nat­u­ral that she took to the in­ter­net to cre­ate and dis­play her art—which ex­plores love, sex­u­al­ity, de­sire, and vul­ner­a­bil­ity.

Cur­rently, her il­lus­tra­tions of sto­ries of In­di­ans on Tin­der, ti­tled ‘100 In­dian Tin­der Tales (100ITT)’ is on dis­play in Ger­many’s Kun­sthalle Bre­men art mu­seum. How­ever, she once had her doubts. “I thought this pro­ject was doomed from the very be­gin­ning,” she says. “Why would any­one want to share in­ti­mate sto­ries with me, a stranger, on the in­ter­net?” In­stead, 100ITT went vi­ral, with peo­ple shar­ing sto­ries that ranged from rom-com to risqué, and Hariku­mar found her­self flooded with re­quests to il­lus­trate them. Her page on Face­book and In­sta­gram be­came a plat­form where she found val­i­da­tion for her art and her sto­ry­tellers found val­i­da­tion for their ex­pe­ri­ences.

She has since found that lis­ten­ing to peo­ple on the in­ter­net is a po­tent source for fresh ideas. “Lis­ten­ing to peo­ple’s sto­ries, and see­ing them writ­ten in their own unique ar­tic­u­la­tions, al­lowed half-baked ideas to be­come con­cepts for new pro­jects.” She dis­cov­ered that it only took some­one to be­gin with a story of shame and fear for oth­ers to be eased into it. Her In­sta­gram page (@in­du­vid­u­al­ity), where she posts her art­work, has be­come not only a place for artis­tic ex­pres­sion but also a plat­form for di­a­logue on body pos­i­tiv­ity and abuse.

Hariku­mar’s ap­proach is dif­fer­ent. In­stead of pon­tif­i­cat­ing, her il­lus­tra­tions give space to mul­ti­ple di­a­logues about sex and sex­u­al­ity, some­thing she feels the in­ter­net has made pos­si­ble. The same pro­ject could not have ma­te­ri­alised in print, which suf­fers from too many gate­keep­ers, she feels. “On the so­cial me­dia, I am rel­a­tively free.” She be­gan with il­lus­trat­ing sto­ries cau­tiously. The char­ac­ters would of­ten be sil­hou­et­ted, the sub­ject hinted at. It has now evolved into bold de­pic­tions.

Her il­lus­trated tales of sex and de­sire have in­spired flat­ter­ing re­views from the in­ter­na­tional press, but such re­view­ers of­ten find it dif­fi­cult to rec­on­cile the frank sex talk with their cur­sory knowl­edge of ar­ranged mar­riages. Slowly, though, her art is open­ing up a di­a­logue about sex that forces it out of the frame­works of ro­man­ti­cised fan­tasy or stereo­types about how peo­ple must have sex in a sa­ree-clad third world coun­try.


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