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Radical Housing and Socially-Engaged Art

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On pieces of thin membranous paper that are reminiscent of medical gauze, sutured together with red thread, you see an anatomically correct, pregnant female body, rendered transparent to show you skeleton encased in flesh, a fetus encased in a womb. This is an image of a pregnant woman in repose, except for the shock of a reptilian profile where her face should be. A delicate branch punctures one foot of this reclining figure, putting in mind a sudden catch or stabbing sensation, pins and needles, perhaps, or pricks and pinches.

The first thing in your path, as you stepped in, was a plinth on which you saw yellow cards that carry captions such as:
the little bumps
and nudges
pricks and pinches
mother and child
Do plants fear for their future generations?
How does an expecting hen decide what to eat?
You pocket one.

On your left is a glass bowl attached to the wall, a voyeuristic womb that carries a visceral wire and yarn embryo inside it. The opposite wall plays a round patch of video: the rise and fall of inhalation-exhalation of her stomach. The regularity of this breath is interrupted by the kicks of her child registering as movement on taut skin, like a drum turned inside out, while the malayalam word for male, female, human flash on screen.

All through the work, you exercise a sort of voyeur vision into this inti mate experience of pregnancy-flesh is literally stripped away in drawings to show you the assemblage of body parts that lie underneath. The sterilized nature of the transparent bowl, the gauze and thread invoke medical procedure, even as the representation of the body, in this work, reduces it to a series of parts-anatomically rendered, a comfortable and natural pregnancy made queer or alien by the inclusion of a frog-head. This clinical sanctity, the delicate discomfort communicated to viewers through the footage of flurries of kicks registering from the inside, the questions that make you wonder about cultural norms and expectations around pregnancy that are passed off as ‘natural,’ all do the work of commu­nicating a formation of the maternal that is not at ease with biological determinism.

One’s feelings as a mother are assumed to be pure, giving, fruitfulness and abundance in love, self-sacrificial through instinct, ripe and limitless. Jolting viewers out of this discursive complacency, this work catalogues sensations of discomfort, ambiguity, an invasion of bodily integrity while also retaining a tenderness that imbues the work.

All the materials and colors used are soft, the figure may be frog-headed, but she leisurely props her leg up: a grand odalisque at ease with ambiguity.

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