For the last few months of 2007, I was working on a new project, a video installation, which was something I had never attempted before. In addition, the project was for the Alliance Francaise, the language and cultural centre of the French Embassy in India and the theme/concept for the piece was also to be left to me. It really was a dream opportunity.
To say that I was not at all nervous would be blatant lying. Which is not to imply that I was having a case of 'stage-fright' but well, it was important to me that this project go well. After going through a range of subjects, from a visual exploration into 'shadows', to a piece on women and their bodies, I finally ended up with idea of light and the memory of a photograph.
In addition to the range of his artworks in varied mediums such as painting, collage and sculpture, Pablo Picasso also worked with photography. He teamed up with an Albanian photographer called Gjon Mili, and created a series of drawings with light. From some depths of my unconscious, I remembered seeing one of these photos. So I went and looked for it, which means that after drawing a blank in my library, I googled it.
I realised that I wanted to work with light, and try to create an experience where light seemed to be captured and collected. This experience would work at the level of the film itself, that would be used in the installation and in the installation space itself.
As I had done while I was working on "Sartori" in Paris, I roamed around for awhile, looking at things around me, at light with a greater attention than before. I guess my friends can testify as to how I was always spacing out in the middle of a conversation. Perhaps they welcomed this, because otherwise I was a bundle of nerves.
For the first time, I took photos of the diya dance, the final day of Garba at NID, where all the light are switched off as the students, holding a small lamp in their hands, do the traditional steps of the garba in a circle. Just watching them from my camera's eye helped me clarify in my own mind, how I envisioned this installation.
In that sense, the timing of this installation, though delayed from July-August to October-November, really worked out in my favour, since both Garba and Diwali- the Indian Festival of Lights occurred at around this time.
It was also important to me to create a story for the film that I was going to use in the installation, even if its meaning could not be grasped in full by a viewer. This was because I see light as something essential but ephemeral, we can never understand it or see it completely. In that sense I see a correlation between light and life, especially since all life on Earth began with the influence of (sun)light. So I created a film that explored this relationship, using various mediums of light from a candle flame, to a torch light, to fire-works (sparklers) as well as light from a mobile phone to tell my story. Shooting took place mostly at night, and we worked with both stills as well as video.
After that, while compositing took place, we also began to collect the materials for the installation space, sourcing glass bottles and containers from everyone ranging from my neighbour, to the local junk seller to shopkeepers (from whom we had to buy the pieces of course.) We also conducted experiments with the projector, exploring the use of silver paper and stickers, as well as understanding whether we had to use any liquids in the containers to maximise the effect of 'capturing'. We also tried to figure out how we would place the projector and the bottles in the space.
In retrospect, I guess it's good that it sounds like we did a lot of work, because we did. Installations in their multi-disciplinary nature itself are difficult to conceive and carry out. But it is this quality in them that makes them rich pieces of art. I especially like the fact that their interpretation is greatly dependent on the viewer, each of whom is free to see the piece in their own way. So here you go, below is the video of installation "Capturing Light". Do let me know what you think.