Stuck in Places was performed as part of KIPAF17
I chained myself to the divider of the road, for an uncertain time, to endure the noise, smell, dirt and life on the streets of Kolkota.
The noise was constant and particles of dust went into my eyes. On the other side a little girl, around 3, pulled her trousers down and pooped into the sewer. A brother and sister played next to the cars as if it was a playground. Shops, cars, trams, life, washed clothes out hanging, dusts, dogs and people moving in a constant flow.
“So second performance in Kolkata as part of Performers independent Kolkata #KIPAF17 #Pi came into action. An attempt and wish to endure the heavy traffic of the city – trying to be in it, experience it, breath it in. I called the performance “stuck in places” as I chained myself to the divider in the middle of the road and gave the key to (now an official) friend and old him to come back in 3, 6, 12 hours – it was up to him. So I would be stuck there until he would return. Yet, the idea of being stuck also relates to a human condition, that we cannot escape our contexts or at least we can only break from it, to enter a new. Though also all the people who live on the street, sleep on the street – play, shit, wash, talk and spent their lives here. How is it to be in such a chaotic place, with dust and noise of cars and horns passing by as a stressed river. I felt if I needed to feel this in my own body, as a way I to get to know Kolkata better…
The performance, however, took a very different route. What I intended to be a slow endurance of sinking into the place (or be disrupted by the space), changed due to the police intervening. It started off with one policeman, who found it difficult to understand my intentions and that I, of my own wish, confined myself to this place. He claimed I was not free, despite the it was a free choice I had taken. The peculiarity it telling me I’m not free, when I felt I was… though suddenly there was not one policeman, but six, seven, I’m not sure, plus the entire street of people gathering around me, blocking the street. It was a catharsis of people telling me I was wrong and failed to listen to my reasons (not that I fought hard, as I just continued in engaging with the street). Some people gathered on the other side of the street, one man smiling at me, someone behind me shouting at me – a real mix of curiousity, feelings of insult, policemen with good caring intentions and other with anger and frustration. Some supporting the police without knowing what was going on, others looking and some supporting me (without really knowing what I was doing).
They finally broke the chain, when they understood I did not have the key and brought me to the police station for a statement. Here it also got clearer what caused such a big stir. Well, clear is not the right word as, of what I can gather, there we three main factors, which was mingled up:
1. they were afraid that I was constrained by force
2. they thought it was a photoshoot, due to the cameras of people. So I should have had permission to do this.
3. they were afraid that photos of a foreign person, constrained in Kolkata, would give the city a bad reputation if it went viral.
All three elements, were in some respect legitimate (except the latter, as I would argue touches upon censorship), though they failed to listen to our explanation and there was a feeling that they had already concluded or assumed our position. Further, due to the third point, they had also informed the Police headquarters, which didn’t make the situation easier, since they had placed themselves in a political and bureaucratic situation, which they had to untangled. This meant we stuck in the police station for a couple of hours, while they tried to solve the situation. Also Rokko Juhász and Nanxi Liu created their own “performance”, as they were dragged into the police station too, due to their documentation (this gave reason for the second and third point). We claimed that performance and photos were never intended to be together. So firstly they tried to making my action fit their understanding and make a point that it was wrong, which we denied. Secondly, we came to a compromise of me writing a statement that I did what I did of my free choice and I would not do it again.
So to sum up the police visit it appeared that we simply had two different views of the situation. They felt it was outright wrong, where I would argue that strange is not necessary wrong. Also one policeman said that this situation was “beyond his imagination”. Therefore it felts as if the police expressed a more subjective view and also moral view, of which the only reasoning was their feeling. This somehow also reflects the gathering on the street, where people reacted through emotion, through expression, rather than through dialogue. A situation that is yet baffling me and left the KIPAF group in a long reflection and conversation about what happened. And thus it leaves questions and/or amazements of how people reacts to situation, how they quickly takes sides, make sudden claims when exposed to strangeness and how we tend to solve conflicts… a lot of experiences and questions that need to be digested, felt and endured…
Photos by Amritendu Mukherjee