me, myself and misrepresentation
27 OCTOBER 2017
There is something out right now that simply cannot penetrate me. It tries, hard - and equally, I almost allow it to, but there is not a hole inside it yet fits in.
I feel surrounded by lacklustre brown art that is not representative of anything I do, want to present or discuss. Let’s look at some possible reasons why:
1) The work itself?
Allow me to dissect the phrase “lacklustre brown art”. This is not at all to say that the efforts being put forward at the moment are not appreciated or of value. Everyone has their own way of and right to expression - and this goes for both art-makers and showcasers. But where is the actual discourse? Why are we still talking about the bindi, plastering Rekha all over our Instagram feeds and presenting 67 of our nani’s village photos in a cluster of a5 gold frames?
There’s a reason why I’m still moaning for something more impactive.
2) Where are the intersections of the actual discourse at hand?
One example is Prem Sahib’s Beast(2016).
Look closely at it and you’ll see that theres actually two objects in the room. The first is the big black cock ring. The second - the invisible penis. Stopped in time and motion by the hanging of the ring, the viewer stands at a perfect lowered position, basically kneeled, waiting patiently while the penis exacerbates bursting into an ejaculation of misogyny all over them.
It’s also the loudest representation in the world of liberating the already often liberated gay (cis) man.
It’s simple smoothness is so tactile I just want to stroke it, maybe pop my head through it. I feel guilty that I secretly want to lick it.
The reason I’m so drawn to the object is because I literally want to feel it’s body. Inevitably, though, this sadly trickles into the realm of gay man as supreme - which is just a longer way of saying man as supreme.
Accompanied with a shadow, Beast (2016) shows how G-POC (Gay People of Colour) are quite literally given the spot light. That’s nice, for gay men. But what about the womyn*? The G-WOC?
Besides myself, when will I meet my brown lesbian artist dream? No time soon, it’s seems.
This ring is definitely not myprecious.
3) When desperate becomes disparate
I seem to be becoming the number one social media troll when it comes to just following someone brown because I see a glimpse of potential art on their Insta and I think “oooh new Friend!” This is something I did in art school too. During my foundation year back in 2012, I spotted my reflection, and I vowed mercilessly to chase it.
Literally, I secretly chased her and tried to friend-seduce her. She wasn’t really interested. After about sixty seconds we parted ways and it left me so disappointed that I had failed to find a source of my own comfort. A soft lil cushion to rest my head on when opinions of whiteness made me feel less brown and more blue.
A friend-seduction success, she later became a dear rose petal of mine and I always wonder what my now would be like if I hadn’t noted “the other brown girl” then.
This is what I feel is happening right now. As much as I applaud the drive to make events centred around the South Asian diaspora exist, I fear that they are happening more for the sake of existence and less about sparking important discourse.
Lesbian Helpline (2016)
Recently shown at Soon: South Asian Evocations and Becomings, Chinatown Soup, New York
I myself have been involved in so many events lately that have put South Asian practices on a very tiny map. And for that I can only thank and appreciate the Friends who have brought those things to life.
However, I also feel obliged to champion artistic South Asian tandems just because there’s no alternative. Much like how my mind behaves on social media and how my body behaved in art school, I fear the current desperation of platforming art by South Asians as quickly or as trendily as possible becomes disparate nothingness. We need to dedicate time and showcasing to some of the very real relentless issues among our communities. This includes: caste discrimination, mental health awareness, the condition of the everyday brown woman, G-WOC experiences - and these are actually the obvious ones!
I don’t want to feel made to be proud of seeing another brown face on another white wall just because I have no alternative.
From a community, I know for myself that I need: awareness, acknowledgement and answers to questions I’ve been asking and silence I’ve been harbouring for so long. When will we push further and delve deeper into root causes of minority experiences and what we can do to challenge them?
I want to go from grounded to ground-breaking. Brown-breaking.
*womyn = a funky feminist term used in an effort to separate "woman" from all things "man" [fyi: I'm not a feminist]