Art and Bullshit!
- Veena Basavarajaiah, Bangalore

March 22, 2011

Attakkalari Biennial 2011, a ten day International festival held in Bangalore between the 28th January and the 6th of February featured some of the best contemporary work from across the globe. With highlights such as dance films, young choreographers’ platform, dance writing workshops, choreography laboratories, seminars and International collaborations, the festival catered to the needs of contemporary artists and art lovers on multiple levels. The performance at Ranga Shankara on the third day of the festival was a mixed bill of 6 choreographic works that enabled the exchange of three artists from the UK and three Indian choreographers as part of the UK- India- Connecting through Cultural Programme.

‘Uruvam', solo by Hemabharathy Palani developed under the auspice of the Robert Bosch Art Grant 2009 tried to focus on the theme of anguish and the giving up of one's body and sexual identity in order to access a greater range of rights and actions. She uses fabric as a symbolic representation of sexual identities as she sheds them one after another aiming to convince the spectators of a 'self' without a body and identity. Hema speaks with a unique movement language that has strong and grounded technique in Kuchipudi and she executes every move with strength and poise. The music is characterized by the clap of the Hijras or eunuchs while random meaningless projections by Matsuo Kunihiko (Japanese digital artist) adds layers to this multimedia piece.

The next piece begins with someone from the audience throwing a piece of bread on stage. Perplexed! you look for the culprit who dared to perform this forbidden act. It’s a young black man and he does it again and again. He staggers on to the stage, places a white plastic brick with a fake bird perched on it and talks to us in a British accent interjected with bird calls. In Freddie Opoku - Addaie's solo 'A flightless solo,' his chiseled body alights on his hands and he pecks on the food thrown on stage. He reads to us from a tiny book about the intellectuality of bullshit. His movements are limited to finding bird food and partner work with an inanimate object. "Producing, producing…" he chants while he distributes plastic bags to a few members of the audience who receive the crap given to them without questions or defense. Finally he proclaims that producing art is bullshit while the audience responds with laughter at his honesty. As a spectator, he dares to walk on stage to dissolve the transparent wall that exists between us. It did not matter if he was Black or British, he boldly voiced the contemporary state of art today. He did not question or pose a threat He just suspended the sword of sharp reality over our head.

'Rush' by Ajeesh K Balakrishnan's choreographic work, revolved around those bound by routine drudgery in a world devoid of imagination. The profundity of the concept was lost in the execution and the dance looked more like a section from a Bollywood film with its cinematic music, bad costumes and overacting. 'Padheyam' choreographed by Santhosh VS of Attakkalari Repertory was another example of amateur choreography where the dancers kept losing balance and control while lifting each other. A pathway of light was designed to weave on the ideas of journey and encounters in life. The choreography hardly had any inventiveness with no importance assigned to the gestures of Bharatnatyam that kept appearing randomly in the piece.

'Across the souvenir' by Alesandra Seutin was like a guided tour through the choreographer’s memories. A unique movement vocabulary that translated the rawness of her African origin, the visuals that transported the audience to the places she had visited and a surreal execution that gave an insight into her imagination. The concluding performance 'Single act' was inspired by the personal experiences of British Lao choreographer Khamlane Halsackda .The fragmented narration was coupled with a movement vocabulary inspired by real-life situations. He recalls and shares his memories of childhood, relationships and what love means to him and perhaps to each one of us.

Six diverse choreographic works stacked next to each other had a saturating effect on the audience. Many works had to be watched in isolation and a few pieces lacked depth and due research. While many performances delved into issues of identity, sexuality, performance and individuality of the contemporary some of the amateur choreographers who were new to exploration in choreographic work simply failed to represent the best of young Indian choreographers on this occasion.

Veena Basavarajaiah is a Bangalore based solo dancer and choreographer who is trained in Bharatanatyam, Kalaripayattu, Ballet and Contemporary dance. She has worked with Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company, Angika Dance Company, Attakkalari, Kalari Academy, Gati Forum, Nritarutya, Natyantharanga & Yana Lewis Dance Co. She has performed on various platforms across India, UK and Europe. She is the recipient of Special Mention Young Achievers Award in 2007 and also a paneled artist of the Indian council for Cultural relations.