Navjot Altaf’s Touch (a video installation), was created while she was remembering her husband who suddenly passed away in January 2005. In the three years that it took her to complete the project, Altaf went through a holistic and spiritual healing process for herself. “It was a time when I went through diaries, his and mine, about different performances we had seen, places we had travelled to and even books we had read,” says Altaf. The emotions that these memories provoked are captured in three parts of this four-part video installation piece. “I have tried to explore how touch can lead to an intimate feeling—physical and mental— and even how it can be repulsive and undesired,” says the 58-year-old artist.
Altaf will be showing the video and five other motor-based interactive installations at Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai, from 15 April.
The fourth part of the video is a reference to a play Altaf saw recently called My mother, the gharwali, her malaak and his wife performed by a Sangli-based NGO Sangram’s VAMP—the Veshya AIDS Muqabla Parishad—a collective of women in prostitution. “Again it was a performance that inspired me to make a piece of art based on it,” says Altaf.
Altaf started painting in 1973, but her interest in the arts was cultivated when she went to school in Meerut. “The school was based on a Shanti Niketan pattern and my idea of being an artist got consolidated there,” she says. After moving to Mumbai at the age of 17, Altaf joined the JJ School of Art. She started with paintings and drawings, but it was in 1989 that she got into interactive installation art. She prefers this medium as it allows her to work with a team of people to create work that is both collaborative and cooperative. “In collaborative work, the team helps bring an idea to life. While in cooperative work you start with an idea and then take that idea forward while inviting other people’s ideas as well,” she says.
For Altaf, this idea of cooperative and collaborative is the basis of her art. Her work, as she says, is mostly an idea and a need to communicate with people.
Touch, video installations with interactive sculptures, at Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai from 15-30 April. The eight minute video, edition of 3+1 artist proof, costs Rs10 lakh.