Home and a question mark

He has always believed that a specific geographical location may not contain the identity we possess, despite the fact that we ‘belong’ there. No wonder, New-Delhi based multimedia artist Gigi Scaria has always considered himself a perpetual outsider.

“Our identity as individuals has a collective sense of belonging. Yes, that realisation may not hit early on, but all the travelling and displacement for reasons beyond our control eventually assert that we are not stand-alone entities.”

Adding that differences of cultural, economic, religious and hierarchical positions have a huge role to play, but all these factors restructure to create an alternate self with mobility of its own, he says, “This self might reorient itself after a certain lived experience.”

Gigi, whose practice manifests in painting, sculpture, photography and film, is known for highlighting the economic, urban and industrial growth of Indian cities. The artist, whose work has been part of major biennales across the world including Venice, Singapore and Kochi believes that he has always been a curious observer of cultural and religious exchanges in this country.

And for him, history, anthropology and philosophical/ theoretical discourses of contemporary times never fail to fascinate. “An urban settlement in my mind is a laboratory to observe all these different areas of interest. Environmental concerns hit me ever since I experienced the river Yamuna in Delhi. And I believe in the ability and power of a visual, which can transform our thoughts by its sheer presence. My attempt is to take the viewer through a multi-layered conceptual understanding when they look at my artwork. I would say migration is the root of our civilizational existence. If we have to talk about ourselves we must tell the story of our journey.”

With his painting titled ‘Carpet’, being shown at Vadehra Art Gallery in Delhi as part of the show ‘A Mind of One’s Own’ (on till July 19), which shows an apartment building in the form of a carpet, the artist adds, “This is a fusion of two thoughts, my interest in architectural spaces and the illogical habitats built by the urban logic. A carpet welcomes you to the madness of this urban logic, where your existence is permanently in the state of dizzy.”

For someone who started working in video art in early 2000’s, when it was still at a nascent stage in India, Gigi, who has been an artist-in-residence at the Ian Potter Museum of Art at the University of Melbourne (2012) says that the moment he started with video, he did not paint or sculpt for five years.

“I experienced a certain freedom. My thought processes also started changing drastically. I was handling the camera, editing, sound and all the preparations for shooting on my own. Certainly, that was an empowering experience, which also led towards some unexpected outcomes.”

Adding that there were many challenges in terms of a video art practitioner including understanding the medium as well as presenting that to an audience who is not exposed to a different discourse being a struggle, he says, “I feel that video has the ability to transform our day-to-day documentation to a time capsule. Multiple dimensions and complex ideas can be expressed through this medium very effectively.”

While talking about his work ‘Expanded’ that had photographs of refugee camps from around the world, the conversation comes to the images of migrant workers walking home post the lockdown announcement. Insisting that it was a forced evacuation owing to urban apathy, the artist, admitting that he enjoys human interaction more than his “creative loneliness”, adds, “Remember, the migrant labour was not nostalgic, it was not that they felt safer back in their home towns or villages. Just that they were reminded by their own masters and the state, that they have no role to play when the state machine is temporarily shut down — ‘We are not responsible for your existence’. Yes, the state can be indifferent to its own citizens in crisis. This may give us enough thoughts to evaluate the idea of identity and belonging. Migrant labour has become a ‘universal’ citizen in the most tragic way.”

Having recently completed a new work to be exhibited in South Korea this month, the artist is also working on several film projects.