Notes On Remembering Else Where

May 2013 came with some overwhelming surprises one of which was a much awaited residency at Khoj in Delhi as part of the Peers 2013 Artist in residence.

A packed Suitcase with my essentials and a bunch of art material, and I was ready to begin my month of discovery at Khoj.

khoj2013Montage        Khoj  New Delhi 2013.

 My work so far has always drawn me into the intricate details of the narratives that exist deeper within the lives of people I see on a daily basis, in the citys i have traveled to over the past few years, I have watched, observed, interacted with and documented the lives and work of practitioners of pre-modern. that dot the cityscape, jotting down ideas that I have later woven into  narratives of contemporary urban street culture into my work.chandi chowk6rs

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During my time at Khoj, I explored the urban street culture at Shadipur Depot which is home to an assortment of street artists and performers, from singers to puppeteers and magicians. 

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 I interacted with a slew of Shadipur’s singers, puppeteers and magicians, spending my time documenting their work, their lives and their home. The work that I  developed at Khoj resulted in a translation of my experiences in Shadipur on to a wall in my studio, which played the role of a page in my visual diary.

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Matchboxes, as faded bits of memories help translate the experiences through my interactions with the people of Khirki Village.Marking patterns of my memory on the wall of my studio, was like unfolding stories.

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how and when does an experience become a memory?

Tools of the Trade

openshop barbershop.

open shop barbershopCult Of the street. Open shop barbershop.

Part 2 of Cult of the street:

Barbers shops speak of beautification of the body, sexuality, male power, and vanity depicted through the curiosity as an on-looker/passer by, to something that is considered to be otherwise private. This is where i began exploring the rich traditions of the Naayi /Hajaam’s of Mumbai city.

Openshop Barbershop

Openshop Barbershop

My exploration led to representations of what I saw, in a mix of different mediums.Through photographs, drawings, video and sound installation.

Installation.

Tools of the Trade. from Niyati Upadhya on Vimeo.

In the arsenal of your average Naayi: Blade clippers, trimmers, shears, razors for styling, straight razors, clipper combs: for all-purpose cutting and tapering, for free-hand clipper and clipper-over-comb work, to create outlines and trim beards; to cut, layer, thin, blend, shave. Brushes – round, paddle, vent, combs, oil, gels, foams, mousses, spray bottles, curling irons, blow driers…The stories of the barber are sometimes poetic, sometimes dark, and always poignant.

 

 

 

 

Cult Of The Street travelled to Bangalore.

Cult Of The Street.

Bone setters and Barbers shops  An exploration in mixed media,

documenting these unique professions though photographs, drawings,video, sculpture and sound.

Cult of the Street Niyati Upadhya

This is a compilation of 2 bodies of work that traces the lives of two of Bombay’s most queer professions: the bone setters and the barbers. The exhibit takes viewers thought some of my picked documentation of the city’s streets, which showcases the nature, dynamics and reactions of the people and their business, with the common man, set stage in the by-lanes of Mumbai city and a few other cities.

My exploration led to representations of what I saw, in a mix of different media.  I have documented these dying professions with a keen closeness to the senses.

2 business, 1 human body

While the compilation depicts 2 very different professions, they are both closely linked to the same human body.

Bones speak of fragile bodies, mortal remains, healing and restoration form within.

Barbers shops speak of beautification of the body, sexuality, male power, and vanity depicted through the curiosity as an on-looker/passer by, to something that is considered to be otherwise private.

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Cult of the Street travelled  to Bangalore and had a rather happy opening on the 19th of April, at 1 Shanti Rd  An Artist Collective Center, run by Suresh Jayaram and Cop Shiva.

It was great to be doing a show in the very city I have been brought up in, where the seeds of my explorations were first sown.

Being in Bangalore gave me a sense of familiarity, but also came with the extra effort of putting up an entire exhibit in a city I don’t live in anymore. Right from transporting my work to Bangalore, finding the best framers, getting all the props and electronics I needed, finding the right printing support and finally setting up the show was a great learning experience.

1Shanti Rd setting up

1Shanti Rd

For me, it was also special to see my work up in a space totally removed from the space it originated from. Putting up a show also brings with it a sense of separation from my own work. The minute the frames and sculptures find their place within the defined walls of a gallery, there is a detachment, where I stop viewing the work as my own, but as a subject that finds interesting reactions in those that come to view it. Gauging what people take back from what you have left them with, completes the entire process of creation, for me.

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Having this opportunity to share the Cult of The Street story with people I have grown up with, as well as those I have come to know through my recent interactions as an artist, was a special one. It was good to see the sense of curiosity in the minds of people who visited. There were lots of questions about the subject and why  I was drawn towards it.

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And for an artist, it is always nice to see peoples’ reactions to something that is new to them, but that grows more and mroe familiar to me with every passing show.

Cult of the Street, The Bone setters and Barber Shops.

The Cult of the Street is a series of visual diaries that documents the ‘professional underbelly’ of the Indian city. It is an essay in mixed media, exploring the Naayi and the Had-vaid through photograph, drawing, video, sculpture and sound. The stories of the bone setter and the barber are sometimes poetic, sometimes dark, and always poignant.

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Poster Design By Mana Dhanraj.

We’re only layers of skin hiding bones

It almost seems impossible until its done!

On July 6th, 2012, the doors to my first show opened at False Ceiling — a quaint gallery in Bandra, Mumbai. Lots of friends and family and art enthusiasts strolled in that evening, and I watched expressions and reactions to the story that I had laid out before them.

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The series I was presenting: Cult of the Street started out as a self initiated photo essay, looking out for quirky old livelihoods, perennially teetering on the edge of extinction in the city of Bombay. And the bonesetter is one such profession.

Much like the minimality that characterises bones themselves, bone setters are creatures that belong to the space between the past and the present, of disrepute and grudging respect and, ever so slightly, between science and magic.

With this body of work, I’ve used various mediums to translate my story of the bone setters. And what started as a photoessay one year ago slowly transformed into a multi-disciplinary body of work, documenting the spaces in which the bone setters practice, looking at the anatomy as a form that holds the body together, and translating it into various mediums.

This experience has been one of new beginnings and discovery. It has been an overwhelming experiencing, of telling stories through my pictures, drawings and an installation.

Thank you to all the people who had to bare with my madness, and who were a part of making this dream a plan. Special Thanks to Kamayani Sharma, who very skillfully translated my visuals into words.

6th July 2012.

THANK YOU.