OPEN APP
Home / Mint-lounge / Features /  Body language

Yuki Ellias is petite, fluid and almost unhindered by the constrictions of her body as she pulls the imaginary oar through the opposing force of the flowing water towards her, and then switches sides. Much is conveyed through those gestures: the weight of the oar, the smallness of the boat, the almost physical space of the diagonal in which the oar operates, the force of the current, the agility of the boatman and the urgency of the journey. Yet, the only two gestures involved are a push and a pull—Ellias is seated on a small wooden chair in a congested office cabin at noisy Kemps Corner in Mumbai.

The body is becoming an increasingly compelling art form, in art, in theatre and in performance spaces, placing itself unselfconsciously front and centre. Ellias, an actor last seen in the small budget film Love You to Death, toured extensively with British theatre director Tim Supple on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She now unearths fluidity from theatre, film actors and writers in Mumbai through her workshops.

Marc-André Roy, artistic talent scout (for actors), for the Cirque du Soleil, the Montreal-based performance troupe, is in India to hold invitation-only auditions for the first time. India has never been more primed for the extreme physicality of expression that will go towards the creation of Cirque du Soleil’s first Indian talent database, André Roy says. The Cirque du Soleil employs performers of 50 different nationalities who speak 25 languages and have 21 permanent shows across the world. What they seek in performers is people who speak the language of the body.

View Full Image
Physicality: Completion of Oneself Through The Other by Hema Upandhyay.

Nikhil Chopra, Inder Salim, Neha Choksi and Sahej Rahel are some of the younger artists putting their bodies on the line. There is a definite contemporary leaning towards performance art, and yet the artist’s penchant for the body is not entirely new, points out Girish Shahane, critic and director (art) of The ŠKODA Prize for Indian Contemporary Art. “There are a number of ways in which the body is used in art. One is gestural painting, which was more of a 1950s’ phenomenon. Then there is an artist like Alwar Balasubramaniam who works with fibreglass casts of his own body. Vivan Sundaram and Valsan Kolleri also have worked with bodies. There is performance art of the kind Yves Klein (in the 1960s) did, in which the artist had naked models slathered in blue paint dragged or lain across a canvas. In the recent past there was Subodh Gupta’s penis prints. There is a definite movement towards performance art today," Shahane says.

Vadodara-based artist Hema Upadhyay, who recently showed at Art Basel Miami Beach 2012, often takes images of herself, placing herself as protagonist within her work. In this way she pits individual identity against that imposed on a person by an urban landscape. “My use of photographs of the self asserts the position of/for the Real. The body is not a body, facing the camera for a beautiful picture, but reveals the real self. It speaks of the real body which experiences natural changes like a pimple, a frown, fatness, and lethargy as part of the process." Upadhyay says. The body is part of a current movement in conceptual, performance, experiential art. But to Upadhyay it remains vital. “The body has a capacity to react physically because of its physical and mental attributes. It shows signs of love, anger, exhaustion through eyes, skin, etc. and all this is captured to recreate experience and a lack of it. Visual culture today trains the viewer’s eye such that the metaphors replace the body to speak of the same experience," she says.

Artist Pushpamala N., whose exhibit Avega-The Passion showed at the Chemould Prescott Road art gallery in Mumbai recently, will be at the ongoing Kochi-Muziris Biennale in Kerala. The artist, who places herself in the images she frames, works with three women archetypes drawn from the epic Ramayan with references to theatre backdrops, film stills and popular culture.

In each, Pushpamala, playing Sita, Surpanakha and Kaikeyi, stirs dialogue on contemporary issues of abduction and rape while questioning projected stereotypes.

Movement becomes the basis of all performance that Ellias studied, and later taught, at the École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris. “We always explore what happens before we speak, so even as actors, before we even pick up the line, it becomes essential to look at what is happening in the body for it to propel the action and the words," she says.

Her workshops explore the space behind each word. “People internalize gestures. When they start to get totally involved in the movement, I allow them to say a word. But it is the movement that starts to create visuals, sensations and memory. When the word comes from that space, it is genuine, because the body does not lie," Ellias says.

Subscribe to Mint Newsletters
* Enter a valid email
* Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.

Never miss a story! Stay connected and informed with Mint. Download our App Now!!

Close
×
Edit Profile
My ReadsRedeem a Gift CardLogout