New Delhi: Crossing the Lakshmana Rekha: Shakti, Sensuality, Sexuality is a debut solo show by Katharina Kakar that will be shown at the Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, from November 24 to November 30, 2015, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Curated by eminent art historian Dr Alka Pande and represented by Latitude 28, the show includes drawings and mixed media installations and addresses and redefines issues around sensuality and sexuality and the constraints women face in the 21st century. It looks at the different aspects of femininity from the female perspective to unseat the dominant male gaze.
Says Kakar: “I see myself as a cultural “bridge-builder” who understands myself and others within constantly shifting realities. Using materials I find in my immediate environment, such as spices, dried fish, ash and discarded things, and plastic items that I find on my walks, I experiment with new visual bodies, mainly installations, to address the changing global landscape of identities, including gender issues, for example reclaiming public space as a woman. Metal also plays an important part in my work, and I often integrate copper, iron or bronze in my installations.”
The different paths that have shaped her life and art are: being born in an artist family and exposed to art from early childhood; choosing to study comparative religion and anthropology; writing books on gender issues and teaching students; engaging deprived children in India with art through Tara Trust, an NGO; living in different cultures and marrying an Indian writer. She turned to full time art in 2012 and has since participated in Janela (a collateral event of Kochi Muziris Biennale, Kerala, Dec. 2014 to April 2015) and United Art Fair, Pragati Maidan, (New Delhi, Sept. 2013).
Crossing the Lakshmana Rekha, also the title of the exhibition, has become a powerful cultural idiom of crossing moral boundaries, referring to Lakshmana drawing a line which Sita is not allowed to cross. When she did, Ravana abducted her – a story of the Ramayana known by every Indian. “My installation consists of a large empty circle, filled with rose pedals, and several hundred wax body parts (of my own body) placed beyond the line drawn by Lakshmana. The installation not only refers to women’s vulnerability in public space, but also to the issue of public and private space and the growing visibility of women in that space. It was no coincidence that the crossing of the Lakshmana Rekha was quoted so often by politicians after the Nirbhaya rape case. Not only are women made partly responsible for violence happening to them, but they are also pushed back into private, “controllable” space and role expectations. For women to reclaim public space that is denied to them, becomes significant in redefining gender roles within modern Indian society.”