3 March – 27 March
Pallavi Paul, Shabdkosh, 2013. Courtesy the artist and Project 88, Mumbai.
Over the three weeks from the 7th to the 27th of March, Carroll/Fletcher Onscreen is showing Pallavi Paul’s trilogy of films – Nayi Kheti/New Harvest (2013), Shabdkosh/A Dictionary (2013) and Long Hair, Short Ideas (2014). Central to the trilogy is the revolutionary poet Vidrohi (the rebel), who began writing in the 1970s as India was witnessing a time of great political turbulence and violence from both the state and far-left groups. However, as Paul notes in her preface to the first film in the trilogy, Nayi Kheti, “the films are not about the persona of Vidrohi, rather I attempt to use his poems as a kind of laboratory to test the tensile strength of resistance as a material of life.” In Nayi Kheti, the poems act as a witness to a relentless stream of images and sounds as the protagonists engage in a dizzying exchange of ‘metaphysical, scientific and aesthetic ideas’. In contrast, Shabdkosh/A Dictionary, the second film in the trilogy, occurs in the silences between poems; a contemplation of the need to be heard against the imperatives of forgetting. The final film, Long Hair, Short Ideas, is constructed around Vidrohi’s wife, her relationship to the radical movement of the 1970s in India, and her intimate experiences of domesticity, sexuality and labour. Throughout the trilogy, as Paul explores the contours of fantasy, resistance, politics and history she extricates the political from a language of nostalgia or mourning to get to the heart of resistance.
“In the piece Nayi Kheti (New Harvest) I have tried to create three impossible, unfeasible conversations. In the anarchic text After Lorca, poet Jack Spicer writes to Federico Garcia Lorca nearly twenty years after Lorca’s death. Unlike in the book, in the video, amidst the relentless velocity of images and sounds, Lorca has to write back. Simultaneously, Poul Henningson, credited with the invention of the pH lamp, speaks about the desire of the scientist to reverse the rhythm of the day and the night, and reflects on how that dream lacks creativity, because ordained laws of creation too must be challenged. Caught within this question of light and darkness is the image of cinema itself. It has now been scratched out, cut open and remade to the extent that what now exists is only a trail of what we recognised as the filmic. Located as a witness to all these metaphysical, scientific and aesthetic exchanges are the poems of Vidrohi, a vagabond political poet. Nayi Kheti, is not about the persona of Vidrohi, rather I attempt to use his poems as a kind of laboratory to test the tensile strength of resistance as a material of life.” Pallavi Paul.
“Shabdkosh (A Dictionary) occurs in the silences between poems. A contemplation of the need to be heard against the imperatives of forgetting. Many forms of ‘last records’ are conjured to create ‘deceased time’. A time that is not simply un-alive but has a force much beyond the world of the living. Salvador Allende’s haunting last speech hangs in the air mingling with Vidrohi’s obsession with being recorded, while images of hunters and the hunted slowing trickle in. All these together form the skin of the question that Spicer asks of Lorca- ‘What did you want to do with a poem once it was over?’ Should ‘silence’ and ‘records’ always be placed antithetically, or can a new imagination of practice emerge from the world of the forgotten and the
misplaced?” Pallavi Paul.
Pallavi Paul, Shabdkosh, 2013. Courtesy the artist and Project 88, Mumbai.
Long Hair, Short Ideas
The film Long Hair, Short Ideas (2014) attempts to create a conversation between the pressures of excavating a political moment and the elasticity of the documentary form. Starting from the desire to look at the women’s movement, the artist found herself immersed in the viscosity of struggles. The inability to find perspectival stability started to become the very site from which possibilities sprouted. The film is constructed around Vidrohi’s (the revolutionary poet) wife. Her relationship to the radical movement is traced via the turbulent political history of India in the 1970s (Emergency and the gagging of free press and civil liberties) and her intimate experiences around domesticity, sexuality and labour. In revisiting her abandonment by her husband and the choices that she had to make as a result, Paul not only recasts the traditionally absent figure of the ‘revolutionary’s wife’ but also pushes us to rethink the orders of ‘silence’ and ‘absence’ within new precincts.
Pallavi Paul, Long Hair, Short Ideas, 2014. Courtesy the artist and Project 88, Mumbai.
Ramashankar Yadav (3 December 1957 – 8 December 2015), also known as Vidrohi (‘The Rebel’), was an Indian poet and social activist. Vidrohi was expelled from his PhD studies at Jawaharal Nehru University (JNU) for his involvement in student politics. Until his death during a student protest in 2015, he continued to live on or around the JNU campus – the trees of JNU, the corners of its hostels, the benches of its dhabas and the office of its student union his home. Vidrohi’s life was devoid of almost any material possessions. His clothes, in most cases bought by others, being the only exception. He did not seek money, fame or power. Vidrohi did not write down his poems; he recited them from memory – whatever work of his we see in written form is the result of the efforts of his admirers.
Pallavi Paul works primarily with video and installation. Using the disruption between ‘reality image’ and ‘documentary’ as a starting point, she attempts to create a laboratory of possibilities which test the contours of fantasy, resistance, politics and history. Paul’s works have been shown at BALTIC 39 as part of the 2016 AV Festival, Newcastle; the Edinburgh Festival; the Mumbai Film Festival; Tate Modern; and in the exhibition Hundred Years of Experimentation (1913 – 2013) a retrospective of Indian Cinema and Video, Experimenta Film Festival, Bangalore. She is included in the forthcoming, Contour Biennale 8 in Mechelen. Paul currently lives and works in New Delhi. She is represented by Project 88 in Mumbai.
Shabdkosh/A Dictionary (2013) – 19′ 16″, HD, colour, sound, 16:9
Long Hair, Short Ideas (2014) – 24′ 42″, HD, colour, sound, 16:9
The Common Task (2016)
“[Her videos] are not making simple connections between reality and documentary… [For Paul] documentary means resistance, possibility, a second horizon on which things can happen.” Profile of Pallavi Paul in July 2016 issue of Art Asia Pacific by Kerstin Winking.
“Pallavi Paul: “In the old days there were several ways of murdering a book,” he said. One of them was to publish it, but ensure that no one got a copy. It had to be known that there was a paper object somewhere, but not anyone who could claim to have seen it. Soon a real thing would become a rumour, a misplaced claim. Cynthia lives inside one such rumour. Even though she is the tragic heroine of a murdered book, the death of the book is hardly a tragedy. This is because books do not die like people, but, like people, different books do die differently. An infinite horizon of relay and hysteresis, such books mutate to become not un-alive but to have a force beyond the world of the living. Like salamanders, they regrow lost parts—some willingly surrendered. We watch Cynthia watching—the theatre of a dead book reconstituting itself.” Paul’s latest project, The Dreams of Cynthia – a three channel film installation, opens on 10 March 2017 at the Contour 8 biennial in Mechelen, Belgium. The work is a co-commission of Contour 8 and the 2018 AV Festival, Newcastle, UK. The accompanying text, written with Anish Ahluwalia (the author of the poem the work is based on), can be found here.