The walls change colour as I cross one room for another. Each reveals different degrees of wear. The rooms have been inhabited; the television box faces the mattress, the calendar and the bag hang from the same hook, and the table fan is on. The room recurs at the end of the labyrinth, except the hands on the wall-clock have changed; fifteen minutes in passage.
Actant Divyesh Undaviya has crafted a structure comprising eleven rooms in Siddhartha Hall, each pocket connected to another through door-less portals. The first room simulates the material details from the Actant’s own household from his formative years. A small bottle of Parachute oil, a plastic comb gently stacked on the wall mirror, a wash chamber at the posterior end, a tin shaft; all of which reflect a lived reality seen, experienced and recreated. Other rooms simulate familiar sights from his neighbourhood, and a familiar shade of industrial blue ubiquitous in middle-class households. There is a marked absence of the regular occupant in the space. There’s no human body in sight, but only the residual marks of their habitation. Is this image living? Can stasis be sentient?
Each pocket is illuminated by different kinds of light; it blinds the eye, eases it, creates surreal settings and sometimes highlights the silhouettes of the temporary occupants. A moment of sensorial rupture occurs when one walks into a room with hyper-bright fluorescent lights lined up on either wall. Light is more than a condition of visibility in the labyrinth and each room bears the mark of an unspecified incident; one can only speculate from the clues on display. Maybe there’s no narrative to the vignettes.
This space morphs; the same objects re-appear in manicured versions that betray no sign of habitation. As one progresses through the space, the rooms betray an unrealized aspiration; mood-boards of luxurious buildings and their constituent details, a pillar of coins that shoots through the ceiling, and a room teeming with cardboard cartons. A chamber is filled to capacity with water, surrounded by plants, and the floor is covered with sand, bearing the footprints of curious flaneurs. One loses their sense of time while traversing the space. One is also alert to their role as a trespasser; it is, after all, somebody else’s dream.
Sometimes, there’s more fascination with creating realism rather than capturing it. The landscape here is both a re-creation of an extant memory and a creation through aspirational configurations. What is the meaning of a domestic space when the occupant is present not in body, but traces? And how does it register my presence- an outsider to this history? It is an exercise in place-making; the habitation of a space imbues it with lived memory, and the human adapts to the architectonics of the space as much as the space itself adapts to its occupation by bodies.
“Memories are motionless, and the more securely they are fixed in space, the sounder they are”, says philosopher Gaston Bachelard[i]. The localization of our memories on a definite space-time axis informs our intimacy with the space. But this is all specific to Divyesh and his personal (and/or aesthetically conjured) string of image-memories. But are we privy to the memories? Or are the memories, in their formal articulation, turn their gaze on us to see if they can also engage the dilettante? The labyrinth here informs a particular imagination of its real referent, traced through material details and subjective impressions. Often, the imagination precedes the memory. In the absence of doors or locks, it is perhaps an open daydream.
Fifteen minutes in passage.
[i] In The Poetics of Space: The Classical Look at How we Experience Intimate Spaces, Beacon Press, 1994.
All Images Courtesy: Annette Jacob