2016 UMRAO SINGH SHER-GIL GRANT FOR PHOTOGRAPHY

Grant recipient: Prajakta Potnis, Mumbai

Title of the project: When The Wind Blows

Artist Statement

Prior to the era of the multiplexes, watching plays at a prestigious theatre was a regular practice amongst most middle class Maharashtrians. This ritual eventually exposed me to the intricacies in theatre, where narratives framed against the backdrop of a domestic setting recounted the fragility within human relationships. I was particularly fascinated by Stagecraft — a collapsible cardboard box that could contain an entire universe.

For a while now I have been working on a series of photographs where the frozen still image is essentially a residue of an extensive process of meticulous constructions. An apparatus that consists of found to sculpted objects, along with props that are carefully constructed and installed within the cavities of everyday domestic appliances, miniature lights strategically placed to finally capture the still frame that translates as a documentary evidence of an event or a happening.

The momentary nature of this installation creates the possibilities of working with various perishable and unpredictable materials. Through these photographic works my endeavour was to capture the transient staged moment of becoming.

Insulated interiors of a washing machine, sterile viscera’s of a refrigerator have intrigued me. The temperature-controlled environment within a refrigerator with its ethereal light resonates an abandoned set of a sci-fi film.

For the series, Still Life (2009-2010), I selected genetically modified vegetables from a local market, adorned them with various textures and staged them in a refrigerator to evoke a sense of terror. In the 2012 series, Capsule, I constructed miniature escalators and staged them in one of the sections of a refrigerator. Just as malls mushroomed at every junction in most cities, these strange sterile capsule landmasses with no connection to the outside were quite like the “non places” as discussed by Marc Auge.

Within these photographic works I aspire to hold on to that cinematic moment, the frozen still image with its magnitude attempts to resemble a cinemascope.

In the ongoing series, When The Wind Blows, 2016, installations are staged in the freezer of an outdated refrigerator that deposits thick layers of ice in its compartment — a phenomena less visible in the modern frost-free refrigerators.

The frost from the freezer simulates snow clad deserted landscape or a terrain of an unknown planet. Timothy Morton’s, Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World, initiated the site. With the melting of glaciers to the seed vault in Norway, the freezer seemed like an appropriate space to reiterate the dialogue around anthroprocene through the realm of the domestic — the private. I intend to explore the possibilities of shooting within the environment of the freezer, building complex settings that translate into psychological topographies. Since the space is extremely unpliable, the freezer door restricting any kind of movement, I intend to build freezers that have an out of body compressor with a flexible door. This will enable me to move more freely while I look for different vantage points to shoot the mise-en-scene. Since site and scale are crucial aspects to my process, I build most of my equipment from a makeshift dolly to making my own lighting circuit; everything is tailored as per the requirement of the moment.

STATEMENT BY THE JURY