Drive by Video in Yelahanka
Drive by Video was a public video art screening event organized by Smriti Mehra, Leslie Johnson and Siddhanth Shetty at a recently constructed unused commercial building on New Town Main Road of Yelahanka New Town. This independently organized event was held on the 30th of October at the Prestige Plaza building and brought together the work of 15 artists from the Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology of which the organizers are also faculty members. The videos were mostly silent and occupied seven open rooms facing the street, attracting a range of passersby and the motoring public along with the assembled art school audience. The show followed a format of independent self-organization in which the artists used access to this venue to share their own work, while also presenting the work of their contemporaries and colleagues. It followed an open call model that the artist-organizers attempted for the first time and plan on developing for subsequent events. Despite this open format and the broad range of content, recurring themes were observable in the videos lending the show a certain cohesiveness.
One such theme was that of the everyday. In Matt Lee’s video”Presence of Absence,” we witnessed a large circular black void moving between the buildings of an ordinary apartment complex where he was residing for a time. Beginning as an empty figure, over the course of the video the black mass begins to develop character, presence and meaning. In Chinar Shah’s photo slideshow “Found People,” we were presented with photographs taken of specific faces from a collection of people found on local street billboards. These encountered billboards occupy a central position in the landscape of the city and range in content from political hoardings to community messages. By isolating these faces, Chinar whose practice is primarily photography, brings them into the realm of portraiture – a medium of longstanding history. Yet in these portraits there is no bond between the photographer and the sitter, but simply an encounter of material, public space and the choice of the DTP operators. Tahireh Lal’s “Self-Portrait” continued on the idea of portraiture. In this video we witnessed a privately taken portrait of the self as mediated through layers of multiple mirrors and screens. Tahireh records herself in the bathroom mirror while also reflecting herself off of the other available mirrors in the room, leading to a moment in which the distinctions between the real and the image could not be accurately distinguished.
Another common reading was enabled through the lens of performance and duration. In Smriti Mehra’s video “All That is Solid Melts into Air,” we were presented with line drawings made with water on public pavements during her residence in Canada. These slowly evaporating drawings depicted consumer objects of collective desire. By vanishing before they were even complete the drawings spoke of a certain futility, perhaps similar to that of the endlessness of the circle of desire. In Leslie Johnson’s video “How to Pack a Suitcase,” we watched two actors pack a suitcase in a presentation format on a set that brings to mind popular television talent shows. The two actors engaged in a careful and silent packing of the suitcase and while we are allowed to witness the actors, a narrative and a certain amount of intimacy, the format of the video disallows further reading making the performance of the packing the only content and purpose. A slideshow of photographs titled “Disappearing Mountains” by Aileen Blaney presented photographs she had taken during a recent visit home to Ireland. Aileen photographed the mountains visible from the popular Galway Bay across four weeks, occupying a precise position on the beach at exactly three minutes past four in the afternoon. The photographs played out a personal experience encountered at a space of a public landmark while the mountains appeared and disappeared and the sea narrated to us of the changes in time.
Abhishek Hazra’s “Fleeting Flickers of Forecasting” held a fluid position, interspersed between the other videos across the show. It appeared for merely a second bringing with it the blue of the projector’s “no signal” sign upon which was placed the simple text “long winter ahead,” a line pointing towards the current political scenario that India faces and the length of time before us until the next government elections.
With events such as these, Yelahanka – that had until now occupied only a peripheral position with regard to the city of Bangalore – has now emerged as a central location for Bangalore’s art community. The highlight of this shift is that it has been made entirely possible by self-organized activities by locally practicing artists and collectives in the absence of funding and through an ideology of occupying spaces that are unused and available. The community appeal of this particular project is reflected in the fact that Prestige Constructions, the company that owns this building and many others in the city, has now offered the collective the use of their other spaces along with a reasonable amount of funding for further events. It is events such as these that allow for art to bridge the gap and include a broader audience otherwise ignored leading to radical potential. At the same time, this model of self-organization in which artists arrange for their own presentations allows also for spontaneous actions to emerge and come together, resulting in spaces and moments where art is not only presented but where art can also happen.