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BETWEEN CLOUD AND RAIN: International Behavioural Art Festival

Updated: Jun 1

A presentation by HexxyDuxxyBox, an artists’ collective


by Georgina Maddox


What does it mean when an artist covers himself in white powder and crawls in the clay, or when an artist dips her hair in black paint and sprays the canvas with the colour-soaked strands? Is it a mother-daughter misunderstanding, when they sing and dance but end up fighting, or is it a metaphor for nations at war? If you ask the artists, they will tell you that when words are not enough, action speaks louder – in fact, performance art brings a message that is open and multipronged, which is where its strength lies.

 

Unfolding over the summer, Between Cloud and Rain, an International Behavioural Art Festival presented by HexxyDuxxyBox (an artists’ collective) touched upon issues of climate change, gender inequality, war, marginality, and the desire to be free of the fetters of oppression, through the visceral art of performance at the festival that recently unfolded across Delhi and Dehradun.


Nicholas Aca


The multiplicity of the messages conveyed during the five-day festival was quite stunning, and it confirmed that no matter from which part of the world the artists came from, the concerns and unrest were similar and universal. Nicholas Aca from the Philippines employed all his bodily performances to speak about his fascination with the non-violent movement advocated by Mahatma Gandhi, whose image featured in two of his performances in addition to a reference to the female form and art practice (he used a statue of a female bust in his performance to reference this) and how it can bring about change but how it is often misused.


Olalcoa, Tayna, Adam, and Samuel


Olalcoa


Forming a spontaneous artist group, the mother-daughter team of Olalcoa and Tayna from Russia, worked with Adam of the USA and Samuel from Germany. They staged a performance near the Shikhar waterfalls, dressed in white with deliberate, slow movements, statuesque tropes and a message of love and freedom in the face of oppression. Israeli artist Miray Shinan combined her performance with Bangalore-based Parmesh Jolad, where the two wore masks of pigs and they emptied bottles of milk onto the pavement at the Doon Library. The powerful performance hinted at the wasteful nature of fascist behaviour. Both Miray and Parmesh also performed separately, exploring their own concerns with gender, mortality as well as human intervention in the environment. Jolad, dressed in a white bodysuit, got other performers to paint eggs that were finally smashed with his head.


Miray Shinan and Paramesh Jolad


Miray Shinan


Paramesh Jolad


Sarah Jabbari spoke of the transition from the Khuda of Zoroastrian and Sufi belief to Allah in the Indian subcontinent  by the influence of the Wahhabi culture through her performance using both written and spoken words. Rituparna Banerjee used her arresting voice to convey the complexity of her identity through all her performances at the Doon Library, the waterfalls and at Kala Kendra, where she got people to write words on her body while she sang Bengali folk songs. 

Mukesh Singh’s performances focussed on the environment and the disregard of humans for it. His strong performances with saffron clothing and masks made quite an impression where he spoke of the transition from socio-politics to putting the spotlight on the distressing condition of the environment.


Sarah Jabbari


Rituparna Banerjee


Mukesh Singh


Sangeeta Raj also expressed her concerns on the environment by having people litter and cover her with leaves and trash. Salahuddin Ahmad brought an air of personal angst to his reading of environmental distress, using candles, poetry, and an element of pain and risk (by letting the candle wax melt onto his skin, or allowing himself to be inert and submerged in the water). Raashish also expressed his angst with a large balloon that he blew till it exploded as well as self-inflicted slaps.


Raashish


Salahuddin Ahmad


Sangeeta Raj


Priyanthi Anusha explored feminist expression in a male-dominated society. Dressed in an elaborate lace gown, a sari and even donning a plastic bag, she put her body into positions that were both challenging as well as discomforting, while using feminine aspects of beauty like hair, the mirror, make up and paint to make her visceral presence felt and establish her point regarding gender discrimination. Mithu ’O, on the other hand, also brought an air of femininity in her performance using hair, along with corn and sindoor as a metaphor for gender domination.


Mithu O


Priyanthi Anusha


Godwin Constantine investigated military oppression and displacement because of riots in his performance. and investigated them in the context of riots in his performance. His use of props and theatre were carved out of his experience as a part of typical roles that are ascribed to men—soldier, doctor, and even lawyer. Yu Jun Ye of Taiwan used several props to express her emotions and ideas, where love, hate, anger and peace all got tangled up in complex threads connected to all the performers who took part. In another instance, it was the simplicity of colours that conveyed the difficult emotions that she struggled with.


Godwin Constantine


Yu Jun Ye


Ursula Maria Probst did a charming dance with a wolf mask, and another performance where she was blindfolded and was feeling objects and situations through intuition. Her body movements and performances conveyed a more-than-human experience, relying on intuition and animalism.

Many of the artists spoke of their personal emotions against the larger socio-political climate that is accountable and in place, using thread, rope, a gunny sack and furniture.  In the case of Anand Jaiswal, who performed with a chair and rope, elections were a very tangible reality.


Ursula Maria Probst and Raashish


Ursula Maria Probst and Anand Jaiswal


Anand Jaiswal


Satadru Sovan is a performance artist who has a presence in South Asia. He works as a painter and video artist and is currently settled in New Delhi. Much of his work focuses on restricted sexuality and latent fantasizing, though recently he has also been looking at an anthropomorphic approach to understanding the endangered species. He is also one of the founder members of HexxyDexxyBox. In his performance at the Residency, Between Cloud and Rain, he employed fruit, paint and stationery materials to speak of desire but also of its confinement and ultimately its destruction.



The beauty of performance art is that it is experienced in real time and while one can enjoy photographs and recordings it is the live art that has the maximum power to convey the message. The festival was attended by those interested viewers who wanted to know more and even common passers-by who became curious by the outdoor performances. The importance of making ‘non-collectable’ art remains an important critique of the corporate market, which tends to dominate art, in many ways eroding its ability to be radical.  We look forward to more performance festivals like this one and add value to its ability to push the envelope in art.


Nitesh Kushwaha


Chanchal Banga


Chanchal Bagga an Indian artist now living in Israel, addressed several issues, from the lack of peace and well being to the lack of food for the common human. Dressed in turabian, dhoti and adorned with jewellery and using his powerful voice he captured his audience with his larger than life presence.


Artist Rasel Rana (Sajan) from Bangladesh performed around breaking gender stereotypes wearing all pink, high heels and lipstick in one of his performances and in another he critically examined the trash dropped by tourists in the waterfalls and streams, by floating around it as well as caressing it.


The festival was held at Prithvi Fine Art and Cultural Centre, A1/232, Safdarjung Enclave, New Delhi, India 

and at Dehradun, at the Dehradun Library and Kala Kendra (Dr Dwijen Sen Memorial) 

on 15-19 May 2024


International artists: 

Adam Koan, US, Chanchal Banga, Israel, Godwin Constantine, Sri Lanka, Miray Shinan, Israel, Nicholas Aca, Philippines, Olalcoa and Tayna,  Russia, Priyanthi Anusha, Sri Lanka, Sarah Jabbari, Iran, Samuel, Germany, Yu Jun Ye, Taiwan, Ursula Maria Probst, Vienna, Rasel Rana (Sajan), Bangladesh.


Indian artists: 

Anand Jaiswal, Avik Debdas, Georgina Maddox, Mithu ’O, Mukesh Singh, Nitesh Kushwaha, Parmesh Jolad, Raashish, Rituparna Banerjee, Sangeeta Raj, Salahuddin Ahmad, Satadru Sovan.


(The images of the artworks are courtesy of the artists' collective HexxyDuxxyBox.)



 

Georgina Maddox is an independent critic-curator with almost two decades of experience in the field of Indian art and culture. She was assistant editor at India Today’s Mail Today and senior arts writer for the Indian Express and the Times of India. She is currently working in the media as an independent critic for various publications and has published articles in Open Magazine, India Today, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and also in Elle Magazine, The Hindu and Business Line, Sunday Magazine BLINK, TAKE on Art, Time Out, and online with US based E-magazine, Studio International, STIR world and MASH Mag.

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