SUSANTA MANDAL

India

 

‘Naukar ki kameez’

Last couple of years, I have been engaged with a few sculptural works inspired by the so-called magic lantern which was a fashionable projection device in the Victorian period. With simple mechanics, lens, oil lamp and hand-painted slides, it used to give a great pleasure to the people in 19th century. I tried to bring that technology in our time in a different manner. I created a structure with a few lenses along with a candle. Viewers see slide images projected in 3 X 4 inches size only. You have to struggle to focus on your own, and feel uneasiness and pleasure to deal with everything physically. It was an attempt to bridge the history and bring aesthetics through old technology to the contemporary world.

‘Naukar ki kameez’ was a similar sort of engagement with overlapping images. It was made from my very personal experience when our previous peon retired and we were looking for an assistant for our art lab. A bunch of people came and went in a year’s time and the process of looking for a peon is still on. New faces actually don’t fit well with old one, though the shirts fit perfectly well.

The title of the work was taken from a film of Mani Kaul, which was based on the literary work of Vinod Kumar Shukla.

 

A Scrutiny (2011)

In 2006, I have been shooting for about a year to develop a body of work, titled ‘A Routine Scrutiny’. Almost every day I used to start with my camera from my residence to another corner of the city. I have been living in Delhi for more than one and a half decade now. It is a city where intense checking goes on everywhere to make a shield against continuous unidentified threats; CCTV cameras constantly watch the unknown. I came from a city (Kolkata) where I was not used to such kind of close surveillance.

Secondly, my language, my accent, my skin, my features—all proved that I am from another part of the country; so the questions were—from where have I come, why and what do I do here? In this work, portraits of people (mainly working class), fragmented cityscape, and textures of wall, skin, everything—have been captured and assembled under various movements of lenses.

A Scrutiny (2011) was the same kind of journey with similar kind of intervention with light, movement of lenses, along with mechanical contraptions. But here to the city, and most importantly, to the people of Nagaland I am a complete outsider; so I mapped the city with images without using any image of human beings.