The three days were some sort of a surrealistic dream that I hope many of us would remember. Each participant, from the first day itself broke a part of who they were and shared it in this space. A safe space where we all openly dissected sensitive, vulnerable, private parts of our lives and eggs-periences.
Artists in various fields, from musicians and singers to painters, photographers, film-makers, psychologist-folklorist, poets and thinkers and a cookie man displayed and shared their work of art. The freedom to express, is something so powerful within all of us that most often it is suppressed because of the lack of a free and safe space. In these three days we opened up to strangers who we discovered were actually kindred spirits in their own search for expression.
The commune was filled with music, silence, colours or even a monochromatic journey through the mind of an artist’s eggshell. Work was displayed all over this quaint house, full of memories…work was even put up in the bathroom- where this utilitarian space was transformed into somebody’s private artistic space. A poem stuck to the mirror or read out in the darkness on the spiral staircase were examples of how any space could be used as an artistic space.
The house is now empty, as I sit and write this but it is filled with the free spirits of minds who have dared to open up and expose their inner world. This is special because we discovered that beyond the confinements and rules of society, there exists a space within us that longs to find that self that is strong, yet vulnerable, sensitive, ugly- beautiful, loud and silent, crazy but withdrawn…
We hope this will inspire more people to come together and question this society we live in and always find that joy and freedom in expression.
Conducting a social experiment using an artistic method:
Here we are again, after a long, long, seemingly long time where we’ve all disappeared into our respective labyrinths, mole holes, looking glass and so on and forth. We’ve emerged though with a “social experiment” brewing in our minds. The Unhinged Commune was started with the sole reason to create an “open artistic space”. We have not managed to fulfill this wish completely, as yet…but the idea to keep such a space alive is constantly edging on our conscience.
This new experiment that we would like to test out therefore, is to address this idea of an “open space”. Do we need such a space to exist physically or do such spaces exist in our minds as well? Freedom in expression…what does this mean to us? Are our minds ‘open spaces’ where expression is stored and sometimes even locked inside?
Through this process, we hope to unlock and unravel our imagination, thoughts, feelings and emotions through a simple word. We do not need to force ourselves to express but that which comes naturally to us is what we seek for. Can we take up the responsibility of keeping our “open spaces” alive and free?
This experiment will be conducted in a span of three days. Participants will be required to be present in all three days but audiences are welcome to join and observe at any time. No one is obligated to stay for the entire experiment but we do encourage you to take a step into discovering yourself through this process.
Given below are the conditions we have set out for the experiment:
The word is EGGSHELL
The participants are requested to bring ANY piece of work: painting, drawing, video, photograph, poem, story, dance, music-recorded or live instruments (carry your own- we do have a guitar available and a duitara), letter, stamps, embroidery, origami, puppetry, coins or just ANY other art form that you think can express your association with the word. The word can be interpreted in as many ways as possible. But think of it carefully and consider how you as an individual connect to this word. How would you want to express yourself, your feelings, your thoughts, your imagination through this particular word? What does this word mean to you? You could bring your own work or anything that inspires you.
In the three days we will be introducing you to some basic theatre exercises and breathing technique that will help us connect within the group. This, we hope will help open up the group and create a comfortable space where we may openly discuss our expressions. Wear comfortable clothes for easy movement. We will not subject you to strenuous exercises but some basics in relaxation of the body and mind.
Through these days we hope to open up discussions, presentations, performances that are inspired from this particular word. As mentioned, it is a free space where we will be guiding you with exercises we think will help you openly analyse or just dig deep into your expressions. It is a space where you not only connect to everyone in the group, but also OWN your expression and SHARE it with the others.
Dates: 16th, 17th, 18th
Venue: Mission Compound, behind Mawkhar Presbyterian Church, 5 minutes walk from Motphran, Iewduh OR close to The Mission Compound, Community Hall through Student’s field.
Time: 4pm to 6pm
(Do reach half and hour before so we can lead you to the house, let us know prior where you intend to come from)
We are punctual with time and we hope you stick to the mentioned time.
Contact: Keshav- 9856644643
The workshop is for FREE as we hope this will encourage us to participate and allow such creative spaces to emerge, grow and eventually make a difference to our understanding of Art and Expression.
Lapdiang Syiem: A graduate of the National School of Drama, New Delhi with a 2 year specialisation in Physical Theatre from The Commedia School, Copenhagen, Denmark. An actress who has performed widely in India and abroad. She loves the Circus.
Juban Lamar and Keshav Pariat
It is an informal session so, we do not have any complicated technical equipment available. Do bring your laptops if your presentation requires one. In case of speakers and a music player we will work that arrangement out. But your piece of art does not even have to be complete…it could be a work in progress that you just want to share and get feedback from other artists.
We hope to make many exciting discoveries about ourselves, our art and expression. Let’s be curious to find out where this journey can take us.
We look forward to having you with us
“The scorching sun daunt us not from our work
The power of your sorrow-filled body
Can crush mountain and metropolis.”
– Irom Sharmila Chanu
We have been silent for awhile as we allow the dust to settle. A lot of it was raised in the process of cleaning, renewing and transformation and therefore, we let time pass, so the dust settles and the memories return to their corners after that slight disturbance.
Ka Noh ka Likai, that famous waterfall in Sohra was given its name because of a Khasi legend. Ka Likai was a woman who threw herself down the fall after she’d found out that she had unknowingly eaten her own baby, who had been cooked by the stepfather of the child.
The pictures show a work in progress. This is the rehearsal of the dramatisation of Ka Likai taking place in the commune. Our dear friend and musician joined us today to add soul to this tragic play. It is a physical performance of the retelling of the folk tale.
What is the voice of Likai? How would she want her story to be told today? Would we care to listen to her story and perhaps appease her soul by speaking out her struggle against the insanity and the horror she was subjected to, as a woman, as a human being? How do these folktales resonate with us now? Do we need to tell them time and again? Do we still need storytellers?
These are questions we ask and perhaps we will never find the answers but through this process we have discovered the importance of reinterpretation and making sense of history through our folk narratives. I believe that folk tales are fantastic realities once lived.
A short break before we open the Unhinged Commune…
I left after the fourth day to travel to two different cities. Even though I have spent a major chunk of my recent years travelling, this is one time when I wish I could stay back to get to work immediately.
But I believe travelling must never be a hindrance if one is able to gather inspiration to be brought back to the place where you have dug in new roots to envision a dream come alive.
We do not know what the outcome will be but we believe that once a start is made, a journey begins and that journey will bring in challenges but what more can a human being ask for but the satisfaction to work and think with the freedom to create.
We broke down the wall and named ourselves today…
I arrived at the Commune early the third day. Bah Po and Bah Bok were already there clearing up the overgrowth in the garden. We discovered strawberries growing just outside the porch. Wild little red strawberries that were hardly visible but somehow claiming their space on the little patch of earth where the concrete ground has broken.
We worked in the garden until lunchtime when the Old Monk joined us. There was no more water in the house so we carried all the curtains from Mission Compound to Riatsamthiah (Sleepy gorge). The Khasis have a tradition of taking their laundry to the river to wash. Saturday, is called Ka sngisaitjaiñ (the washing day). It has been years since I took to washing clothes as a ritual. That day, it felt like I was performing my duty as a Khasi. It didn’t really matter that it wasn’t a Saturday.
We returned to the Commune later in the evening. My mother who will be renamed as the Dragon followed us for an inspection. This third day marked a very special moment for the space. A memorable event that we hope would go down in whatever history we create. This was the day we broke down the wall.
I’d like to imagine, that we crashed down the wall, hammered it and the bricks came tumbling down. I’d like to think that the wall resisted our efforts and that we were fighting against forces that believe that a divided room is the domestic way to rule.
The wall was made of Plywood, it was fixed with small nails that were hardly visible. It took one person to tear it down. But the effect it had on us was nothing short of a spectacular event once more proving that walls are meant to be brought down. That day the East and West (or North and South) became one. My first ever studio space was thus created.
To inaugurate this occasion we put up The Prince of Denmark’s famous speech with its Danish translation. To be or not to be, that is the question…
By evening, we gathered together around our square table in the den with Tara de dui attempting to strum the duitara. This evening marked a breaking of the ice session that led to wild brainstorming of ideas, concepts and experiments that we hope to conduct in the next six months. We named our blog, the commune and ourselves. Throughout the night, we discussed ideas that could be developed, ideas that might sound crazy and undo-able but we discussed them anyway. It was with an uninhibited freedom that each of us convinced the other of how, what and why the space could truly be a creative hub.
Our first session in our den ended with a series of photographs taken during the half and hour power cut in the locality. These photographs emerged from an unexpected light that Tara de dui shone from her phone through the dark green Shiraz wine bottles, containing clear drinking water. The light reflected on my face and the Old Monk took on the role of a photographer. That night we produced our first set of an improvised photos series, spontaneously developed as three minds grappled with the need to do something creative.
I, by the way am called Hamlet.
I cannot express what a joy it is to get back to work…
And as I dwell on this moment, I realise this madness within me is my driving force, this crazy energy that makes me believe that it is possible. Thoughts squeeze out of my brain almost orgasmically. I listen to them, I feel them, I inhale this energy into my system, a chance synaptogenesis occurs, heightening my senses, blinding them, my heart skips every second beat…I am inspired.
It is the second day of continuing the restoration work in our creative commune. I arrived there at 10am, having spent an almost sleepless night. Once bitten by the creative bug, I am taken on a ride, helpless to its poison. Bah Po and I reach there and the house welcomed us in its termite-eaten style. The wood smells of memories dried up in the sun. It has cast its spell on us.
We removed all the curtains from the windows, stripping them naked. Each room inhaled the fresh air and I could almost hear a satisfied sigh.
As I pick on the dry skin around my nails, scratch my nose and ruffle my freshly washed hair, memories of cleaning the house come back to me. It does not have a name yet. It is perched midway on a hillock between its sibling houses.
The quaint, old, wooden house that I have been fortunate to acquire for sometime to be used as a hub of creativity, an artistic commune, as a fellow collaborator calls it, is my new adventure after a two year stint in Copenhagen, Denmark. I have been away from home, spending one and a half summers and two winters in Scandinavia. I returned to reconnect to the place I was born in. Two years ago, I would have stated that I came back to find my roots but my perspectives have changed and the concept of “my roots” is also challenged. But perhaps we leave that subject for a later blog.
This space is located in an old locality called Mission Compound. Ironically, the name stands out as relevant to the purpose, we have in mind for this house. ‘We’, comprises a group of artists from different fields and ages; A professor, a farmer, a journalist, a carpenter, a cook, a psychologist- folklorist, an actress, a daily wage Jack of all trades, a sociologist and many others who are in the process of slowly getting involved. We choose to take on this venture because each of us understand that innate human need to seek for creative expression. In a world of internal and external conflicts, I believe a creative space is a much needed escape route, not to escape reality but to try and make sense and search for meaning in our otherwise inane routines.
Bah Po, my father and I arrived at 9:30am at the ‘hub’, with our cleaning gear. My father took a good look around the house and left us to tackle the transformation process. It was only later that I found out he was not convinced that we could actually transform the space.
We got to work immediately and Bah Bok joined us a couple of hours later. He was the efficient floor scrubber, Bah Po, was an expert at stacking up things and tidying up. I was skipping from room to room, multitasking and dreaming of artistic possibilities. I’d like to think we were a fine team.
Tara de dui, an ardent theatre goer, with a passion for Bengali theatre showed up at 3pm to add in her ideas and comments about the house. My mother arrived a couple more hours later, tired from her journey to Nongpoh but too excited to be left out of the fun of being a part of the creative energy. She is after all the brain child of this project. We both have agreed that she is leading an alternative lifestyle through me. Bah Phil arrived just in time for tea, celebrating our first day. The Old Monk, the android, bearing a close resemblance in temperament to Marvin from the Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy arrived to survey the scene, specific in his surveillance with the expert eye of a reporter. He did mention about ghostly vibrations that the house seemed to emanate. My father arrived and his doubts were allayed. I had proven myself worthy of taking on this project.
I cannot forget to mention our Patron, Aunty Jenny who made this possible by offering us this space. It is a beautiful home and we are lucky to have a chance to use it to create memories and experiences for everyone in the city, irrespective of who they are, where they’re from and what they do. It is not an exclusive venture. This is an experiment to prove that everyone is an artist in their own style.
As Tara de dui, the old Monk and I sat together after a fruitful day of work we brainstormed on ideas about what the place should be called, projects we could take on and generally content that we have a space to be creative.
This project has come at a point when I am trying to make sense of my own life as an actress. My journey has not always been easy and I am in the process of not only healing my regrets but also testing this newfound confidence that I have inculcated in my two years of travel.
My mind is a battlefield. I’ve fought, won and lost many battles…and perhaps no one really knows or cares for that matter. Some battles have been unnecessary with unnecessary bloodshed but I needed the fight anyway. Perhaps in someone else’s world, I am not as complex as I think I am.
Ending on a lighter and more creative note, the many coats we discovered in the house spark an inspiration to either perform a Russian, Checkhovian drama or a Nordic myth. The den we have as a kitchen has inspired us to reproduce a Van Gogh with live actors. The painting referred to is called the Potato Eaters.