Monali Meher

Three Departures

Using the physical spaces of the prison (outside and inside) and the stagnant, mysterious, nostalgic energy motivated me to reflect with different actions and create temporary installations in the certain architectural areas with strong characteristics of that space.

My focus was the abandoned objects like bus, mattresses, trolleys, iron beds and the spaces like the stairs, court- yards and entrances for performance and installations. My performances were for 3 days, 3 different departures (Frozen) on different locations of the prison as mentioned above.

First Departure

Duration 3 hours

I am wearing Indian sari and standing on top of the bus in the hot sun outside the prison, in the courtyard. The bus is not moved for long time and not going to move. By using this metaphor of otherwise moving vehicle to escape, in this case is still and I, by standing on it still as if dreaming or waiting to be moved.

I only make a circle around me by turning 45% every 15 mins. and having different views like sea, prison building, hill, and trees. I have an umbrella time to time opened to protect myself from the sun. By having Indian attire I try to find familiarity in certain spaces to deal with my nostalgias. The stillness, concentration, focus and state of mind are important factors of this action.

Second Departure

Duration 3 hours

I install the iron bunk bed outside in the courtyard with trees and stonewall in the background with arch shape inbuilt in it. I arrange many small plants on the top of the bed and I lie on the lower part of the bed without the mattress and having a salt heap under my head as pillow and heap of coal underneath my feet. It was a cleansing ritual by using salt and coal for negative and positive energy of the body and the space and at the same time near to death experience which I experienced intensely even thought I was lying down. The weather became all of a sudden rough, strong wind started blowing and my body felt stiff in that position for 3 hrs long. There were moments I felt that I was sleeping or dreaming even though I was not or maybe I was.

Third Departure

Duration 3 hours

By seeing people’s enthusiasm, curiosity and ‘willing to participate’ attitude, I decided to change or transform the last act of stillness in my “Third departure”. I choose a place inside the prison, a big hall and a staircase, which had a feel of disappearing into the wall. This time the stillness appeared in the mediated image of me sitting in a park, not much happening except the birds singing and people, traffic passing in the background. This video was projected in the same space on one of the walls. I started talking about my first two departures and Suna (Turkish performance artist) translating into Turkish. This followed by cooking simple meal of cooked rice with vegetables using Indian spices. All the people participated into cooking act. We ate the food afterwards. During the cooking process, there were activities happening around like Flute playing, sounds of cutting vegetables, talking, singing and smell of cooking food which created a very ritualistic, homely, warm atmosphere of togetherness in the prison. So this was a departure on another level of communication and sharing with another culture in a very simple, day to day life activity way.