SUSANTA MANDAL

India

Scrutiny

The magnifying glass has been an interesting device to me since childhood. Later, in many of my works, this special glass becomes the main protagonist of all the devices. I often use these lenses with a very low-tech mechanism; this old-fashioned technology helps me to bridge a relationship between issues and playfulness through a visible mechanical description.

In 2006, I developed ‘A Routine Scrutiny’. Almost every day for a year, I shot pictures around Delhi. Everyone is monitored to guard against unidentified threats. CCTV cameras constantly watch the unknown. Kolkata, where I came from, didn’t have the same close surveillance. I captured and assembled portraits of people, mainly working class, fragmented cityscapes, and textures, under various movements of lenses.

Scrutiny (2011) was produced during a residency in Nagaland; it was a journey with a similar kind of intervention, with movement of light and lenses alongside mechanical contraptions. Here, my approach was different since I was an outsider. I mapped the city with particular care, without taking images of people. My interest was to find their presence and trace in every element of the city.

The second work, Naukar Ki Kameez (The Servant’s Shirt), inspired by Mani Kaul’s film, is another engagement with overlapping images, where photographs turn the real, moving world into frozen experiences. I played with still images through my kinetic structures. The moving lenses create a slippery zone, so that the image acquires multiple dimensions and has fragility.

It is an anecdote from personal experience, when our previous assistant retired and we looked for another. A bunch of people came and went in a year’s time and the process of looking for an assistant is still on. New faces actually don’t fit well with old one, though the uniform fits perfectly well.