Through a comic book series, curator Mukta Ahluwalia’s art show, titled Priya’s Mirror, is a reflection of the devilish society and urges acid attack and rape survivors to overcome their fears. By Chahak Mittal
Even though the beginning of digital art can be traced to the 1950s, many critics still believe that it is a relatively new and an unfamiliar genre.
Curator and art connoisseur Mukta Ahluwalia believes that with the constant change and development of technology, it can be used in art.
The art exhibition, titled Priya’s Mirror, brings together a range of artworks and augmented reality installations by four different artists that aims to invoke in people a sense of responsibility towards the society.
The artworks, divided into four chapters, feature India’s first female superhero, Priya Shakti, the rape survivor, and how she helps a group of acid attack survivors to find their strengths and overcome their fears — finding similarity with the way she had conquered her fears after a brutal rape.
Ahluwalia talks about how she conceptualised the show. “For me, it is more about art that creates a social impact. There are a number of galleries and art spaces today which are commercialised and made for profitable purposes. They hardly showcase any artwork that is driven by societal change. You don’t come across such art today,” says the curator who relocated to India recently.
She explains that, for her, perceiving art through a social lens is always important hence, many of her previous art shows have also been based on a reflection of society. For instance, her previous art show talked about growing pollution in rivers and how urbanisation is impacting current lives.
Among the four chapters, the first is a comic book about Priya, second is a remix film showcasing Goddess Parvati as the saviour of the world, while the third is the augmented reality (AR) where the viewers can interact with the comic book. The fourth and the most “striking” chapter is a documentary showcasing interviews with four victims of acid attack.
No matter how different they seem to be from each other, all the four chapters narrate one large story of survival, confrontation, pride and of conquering fears.
Artist Ram Devineni says that the exhibition brings back the horrors of the brutal gangrape that took place in a bus in December 2012 in the capital through a comic book series. “The exhibition is a powerful way to understand gender-based violence and challenge patriarchal views,” says Devineni.
Along with the artist, the other three artists, namely, Paromita Vohra, Shubhra Prakash and Dan Goldman, together tell about the storyline. It focusses on Priya, an ardent devotee of Goddess Parvati who has experienced a brutal rape, and the social stigma and isolation that accompanies it.
The chapter showcasing Goddess Parvati signifies a concept much bigger than women empowerment. Titled Parvati saves the world, the film takes several old mythological films from the 1970s and 80s, re-cutting them into a storyline that focusses on gender-based violence.
“The story shows how Parvati, along with Priya, save the world by showing the people their own demonish reflections in a mirror. It shows that we don’t need any other male deity when she is there,” says Ahluwalia.
She highlights the villain or demon-king, named ‘Ahankar’ signifying a tyrannical hold and ego that Priya’s ‘mirror’ aims to show to the people in the society.
Here, the mirror acts as a metaphor for two broad things, “First, it is a reflection of an acid attack survivor whose face has been disfigured and attacked shown by a rape victim. The mirror is trying to help them overcome the shocks and the physical, mental and social trauma that they are going through.”
She adds that the second factor aims to hold a mirror against the “society that has forgotten to regard its women with respect. It ridicules shame and indignity towards women. It is for the society to observe its own actions.”
Ahluwalia believes, “Comics are generally used to depict a comedy. This is the first of its kind and isn’t funny at all. Rather it is something that needs public attention.”
When asked about how the AR aspect works in this comic book?
She explains that there are many ways in which technology can be applied to art. “The audience just need to install a free application in their phones, named Blippar. After opening the app, they need to use their phone camera to scan the book images. The app will activate the digital programme in various ways for them to interact with the comic book image. The viewer can then select what and how s/he wants to interact with the mural.”
The visuals, where Priya is disguised like a goddess, show her holding a mirror and saying, ‘Use this mirror of love to show others their own courage.’ She sits on the tiger’s back like the Goddess and says, ‘I refused to be trapped in my fear.’ In another mirror, a group of people stand with candles in their hand in support of Priya and her struggle.
There is yet another striking visual where a young girl, in a quiet and peaceful land, sits on the back of a tiger and flies away.
Another visual, titled Heroes, shows animated figures of four acid attack survivors, the interviews of which are also filmed in a documentary, who now stand strong, determined and unshaken in their approach. As Ahluwalia explains, “It signifies how they have overcome their fears against miserable situations.”
In yet another comic book visual, a woman cried after being rejected for a job due to her disfigured face, even though she had secured the first position in her class.
(The show is on display till February 9.)