Artist anonymous, art for all

She says that the mask allows her to see new things, and the anonymity promised by the head offers a site for conversation, where one is invited to inhabit and imagine — “a dream that was once dreamed and forever remained in the dark of the night.”

Smiling that she doesn’t miss the fame that comes from showing her ‘real face’, she adds, “I am no rush. The work I do has to be natural, I claim no hustle and neither do I miss any of those. What I do is more important than me.”

Arriving on the art scene in 2009 when she walked around the India Art Fair in Delhi with an animated pea shaped mask, performance artist Princess Pea has forever intrigued one and all.

Ever since July 2019, after being awarded a grant from Khoj International Artists Association, she has shifted base from Gurugram to Goa for a project titled ‘Extra Time’ that uses football as a vehicle and accessible entry point to engage with wider issues of equality, inclusivity, mental health, hygiene, and has the potential to stimulate social change. “The impact of being in a team and engaging with creative action promises profound effects on all those participating.”

Admitting that though being surrounded by nature all this while during the lockdown was a breather, she adds, “Thinking of the situation some of us are in, I realised what privileged means, as our work and life didn’t stop, but swiftly adapted to the change. In no way, this can be a bliss for people, as I heard many people saying that they were enjoying themselves for the first time. For me, the chance to reinvent ourselves was always there as an option.”

Talking about ‘Kalika by Princess Pea’, her project (toys sculptures) to support craftspeople and whose affordability also ensures that many people can get art into their homes, she says, “It represents the spirit in the wake of the times we live in. Kali is the impermanence of all things; the blue goddess, the boundless void, the black unknown universe — in her stands is absolute Shakti — women. The new toy sculptures are almost ready to be launched, as I speak I just saw the samples of the new edition which is a reaction to attacks on institutions, last year.”

Stating that the process of making these is quite a detailed exercise of drawing the basic idea and working along for some months to develop a limited edition of works, she adds, “It has been a very satisfying method, as it is slow and there is no pressure to produce. The team is a family with two girls who are seeing this very closely and I have been engaged with the community for six years now.”

Considering that the gaze with a mask hanging over the face has already become routine, she does foresee changes in the practice of her art form in a post-Covid world. “Well, our ways of operating in every scenario will change, and this holds true for art too. There is no point living in nostalgia and waiting for the past to come back.”

Talk to her about the fact that despite Performance Art’s growing popularity in the country, art students in different institutions still do not get to study it formally, and she adds, “I understand the void, and frankly, this is the time to build new narratives which can bridge this gap. The curriculum needs to be updated every three to five years. And this becomes all the more essential in a fast-changing environment considering the fact that old narrative may become irrelevant.”