Of Bodies, Armour and Cages: Shakuntala Kulkarni
The project by Shakuntala Kulkarni “Of bodies, armour and cages” is a space where historical objects like the armour and the elaborately designed costumes/dresses of different communities are brought together in the contemporary context by re- articulating the usage and the medium, collapsing and metamorphosing the two, thus blurring the cultural and visual boundaries.
Kulkarni has been fascinated by the very structure, and the grandeur of the armour: masculine, stiff, strong, lasting and peerless in nature. Armors in the days gone by, were worn by warriors to protect themselves during encounters or wars. Made of metal and leather, these armors were designed to look grand. The cane armour /costumes in this project speak of the grandeur too. But the elaborately structured dresses look relatively feminine, linear, fragile, and organic in nature, protecting the body, breaking the gaze by the joineries of the pieces of cane and the weave. The project “of bodies, armour and cages” thus attempts to address the relationship of the body to the notion of protection and the notion of being trapped. The indoor and outdoor performance photographs address this concern further. The cane armour, while being a metaphor for protecting the physical body also stands as resistance to the invasion of cultural and historical spaces. The project thus attempts to address the systematic erasing of histories and culture in Mumbai today. The photographs show the protagonist wearing the armour, posing in different locations in Mumbai that are threatened. They become a documentation of the rapidly vanishing history of the city.