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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to begin by thanking the National Institute of Design for the four years of design education and opportunity. Tanishka Kachru for being a very supportive guide, coordinator and faculty. Mayank Loonker and Jignesh Khakar for guiding and facilitating courses while at NID. I would like to thank Medha Gupta, Ayushi Jain and Tsohil Bhatia for their constant feedback , support and for creating room to think throughout the project. Abdul Khader and Ishaan Dass for being the best kind of friends as well as being a part of the projects Kiran Rajagopalan for not just his constructive criticism, but also for being the voice of Basheer. Kalyani Tupkary, Ira Sharma, Michelle Parmar, Ashima Tshering, Aman Mahuvakar, Easha Ranade, Rucha Joshi,Sneha Sankar, Nikhil Shekhar for all their inputs regarding anything and everything. Bharavi for making sure I was never hungry. Lakshmi K.V, for everything. Rajiv Krishnan, for taking his time and out and sharing everything he knew about Basheer thereby altering the way I look at Basheer forever. Anish Victor for his wise and reflective words and for broadening my mind on what light and sound can do. Sujay Saple and Vinod Ravindran for their inputs and their manic energy. Fazal Thanveer for being a smart graphic designer. This project would have been impossible if not for the Shanthiroad family. I would like to thank Suresh Jayaram,

Sandeep T.K and the everyone at 1, ShanthiRoad for not just providing me space, but also showing me a whole new world of art and theatre. Cop Shiva for the beautiful photographs. All the visitors who took the time out to come see the exhibition and for giving me such valuable feedback. Sherin Becker and Basheer Ahamad for their unwavering trust and love. Lastly, but most importantly I would like to thank the people at Sandbox Collective. Niranjan Salimath for being such a pleasant company with his love for food and entertainment. Laura Klatt for her feedback during the project and active interest in doing new things. Aiyyappa Anup for all his support. Medha for help from the beginning till th end. Charu Mittal for not just being a colleague but a lifelong friend. Last, but most importantly, Shiva Pathak for always keeping me in check, making sure I stay on track and for being the one of the smartest people I know. Nimi Ravindran for the most insightful, honest and informed feedback anyone can ever give. I am eternally grateful to both Shiva Pathak and Nimi Ravindran for believing in me and my project and for everything they have done and are still doing for me. It would be a great pleasure to work with Sandbox Collective again.

THE INSTITUTE The National Institute of Design is internationally acclaimed as one of the foremost multi disciplinary institutions in the field of design education and research. It was established in 1961 and functions as an autonomous body under the department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India, as a scientific and industrial design research organisation. The Institute has historically provided exceptional depth of educational experience including interactive learning, a focus on creative problem solving and opportunities for design and research.

EXHIBITION DESIGN Exhibition Design at NID, is a trans-disciplinary department. With the objective of handling communication through medium of spaces, exhibition design gives a lot of opportunities to the students to explore various mediums. Exhibition Design as a discipline at NID had started by designing for Government expositions like the Nehru Exhibition in 1965. The students in the department have explored varied methods of applying their skills and have touched upon several subjects in the public sphere. The graduates from the discipline have forayed into areas ranging from theatre, films, retail, museums, exhibitions and graphic installation design to handling issues relating to urban scapes and cultural heritage.

CONTENTS Synopsis Project Proposal The Sponsors Studio Structure The Sandbox Brief Objective

10 11 12 14 15 16

PART 1 SECTION A A.1 : Literature review A.2: Inferences A.3. Case study A.4. Inferences

20 24 28 15 36


SECTION A A.1 Primary Research A. 2 Secondary Research SECTION B B.1 Methodology B. 2 Analysis SECTION C C.1 Redefined Brief

40 46 48 49 56

PART 3 SECTION A A.1 Spatial Analysis A.2 Experience A.3 Schematic drawings SECTION B B.1 Lighting and Sound B.2 Exploration SECTION C C.1 Visualisation C.2 Spatial Planning


60 62 64 66 67 68 82

PART 4 SECTION A A.1 Performance Text A.2 Logistics A.3 Sourcing A. 4 Revisiting space A.5 Content Representation A.6 Soundscape A.7 Projection A.8 Overall Plan

86 88 90 94 96 98 100 102



A.1 Identity A.2 Publicity and Promotion SECTION B B.1 The Exhibition B.2 Visitor Feedback B.3 Personal Feedback SECTION C C.1 Reflection

106 114

Bibliography Photo Credits

150 152

118 144 146 148

SYNOPSIS 30213 is an interactive performance installation that is inspired by ‘Mathilukal’ the highly popular Malayalam novel written by Vaikom Muhammad Basheer. The novel is based on Basheer’s time spent in prison and how he fell in love with a female inmate without ever having met her. Her voice behind the high walls that separated the male and female prison is his only link to her. In time, they grew to love each other through their conversations and by exchanging gifts over the wall. Basheer’s portrayal of jail is not that of hardships and struggles; instead he speaks in detail of the comforts he enjoyed owing to the fact that he was a celebrated writer who was a political prisoner. What troubled Basheer was the monotony of prison life, the way he seemed caught in a time warp because time seemed to stretch endlessly ahead of him. His greatest sorrow was the idea of having his freedom taken away. Things change after he falls in love with Narayani, the female inmate. She devises a plan for the duo to meet at the doctor’s office. But, a day before their meeting, Basheer is released from 10

jail. At this point, Basheer realises that he might not want the freedom he has been craving. He asks the warden who bring his release notice. “What does freedom even mean? Outside is an even bigger jail.”

The novel was adapted into a film, directed by Adoor Gopalakrishnan and released in 1989. It won several national awards and Mammootty bagged the National Film Award for best actor for his role as Basheer. Taking off from the ideas in the novel, the series of theatrical exhibits set in 1, Shanthi Road, dwells on our obsession with wealth and the need to succeed, the struggle with identity and technology, and our constant search for the meaning of love, life and death. 30213 is an experiential journey through time, space and imagination. the project is supported by 1, shanthiroad

PROJECT PROPOSAL Working Title Experiential exhibition based on the adaptation of the Malayalam novel “Mathilukal� by Vaikom Mohammed Basheer. Background/Context The Sandbox Collective is a nonprofit organization that supports and promotes theatre and art in alternate spaces. Background Study The landscape of exhibition, theatre and spaces has been changing widely since the past decade. Today, there is a need to create a new vocabulary combining all these elements. The objective of the project is to come with a different visual language on how spaces and theatre could combine. Objective To creat e an experiential exhibition that would be an adaptation of a written text.


Problem Setting The main challenge is to break the existing conventions of space and theatre and to create something different from moving images and film. Methodology Research: Understanding what performance and space are all about. Conceptualsing : Creating novel idea based on a written text Production : Sourcing and building different elements for the project Space Planning : Adapting the concepts to the particular spcace. Deliverables Full scale of exhibition on the given account.

THE SPONSORS Sandbox Collective is a Bangalore-based arts collective that curates, creates and produces performances and arts festivals. It is a creative services organisation founded in 2013 by Shiva Pathak and Nimi Ravindran. Its acts as a catalyst facilitating meaningful collaborations nationally and internationally between artists, cultural agencies and art spaces, creating an explosion of innovative artistic expression. They have performed more than 300 shows in two and a half years. The aim of the organisation is to increase the scope of the performing arts and to make the arts an integral part of our lives and journey.


nimi ravindran is a writer, theatre director and arts manager. She was Assistant Editor at India Today, covering arts and culture for the magazine till March 2012. She was artistic director of Just Theatre, a Bangalore based theatre group till September 2012 and produced and directed various theatre projects for the group. She was part of the core group of Ranga Shankara from 1998-2007, and has worked on various projects with the Bangalore Habba and the Sangam House writers residency. She is also a part of The Company Theatre, Mumbai and the Workspace in Kamshet in rural Maharashtra. shiva pathak is an actor, freelance consultant and arts manager. She holds a master’s degree in social work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and has worked with various non-governmental organisations on research and development projects. She moved on to working with arts organisations in 2006 and has since worked as the festival coordinator for three editions of the Attakkalari India Biennial and also on projects with Ranga Shankara, Toto Funds the Arts and India Foundation for the Arts.


NIMI RAVINDRAN SHIVA PATHAK Founders, Sandbox Collective

CHARU MITTAL Social Media head, Sandbox Collective

MEDHA AGARWAL Project head, Sandbox Collective


Mentors for the project. All final decisions were made by them


Support system for writing and publishing press release, social media posts and documenation of the project.


All production, managing before, during and after the project.



THE SANDBOX BRIEF The brief that was given was to adapt a narrative text into an experiential space. It was to not just make an exhibition, but use performance and theatre that would aid in enhancing the experience. The chosen narrative text was ‘mathilukal’, a novel by vaikom mohammad basheer. The exhibition should enable the visitor to experience a slice of the novel and have a peek at Basheer’s life and writing style.


OBJECTIVE The idea of theatre and performance have taken huge leaps in the past 10 years. Theatre has grown beyond the idea of a staged demonstration. Now it is about interactivity and experiences. What is interesting is the way the theatre uses space. It is about creating movement on stage, directing the gaze and attention of the audience and the flow of narrative. Fundamentally, they are grounded on the same principle of spatial design. The objective of this project is twofold. It is to create an experiential space which is an adaptation of a novel. The second is to look at how theatre and performance comes together with exhibition design. Sandbox Collective is a theatre and arts collective. . They function as art and theatre administrators, as executive producers and bring shows from abroad and all over the country to Bangalore. They also aid in adapting shows for performance at alternate spaces like houses, kitchens, bars etc. The objective of working with an organisation that is not design led is to combine two fields and see the resulting output.



PART 1 18

SECTION A A.1 : Literature review A.2: Inferences A.3. Case study A.4. Inferences 19


I think great artists always change what we expect from art. And then there is the famous "étonnez-moi". In the conversation with Cocteau and Diaghilev and the Ballets russes which was a great moment where art met theatre, and there was this famous explanation, and they said "étonnez-moi!" ["Astonish me!"].

HANS-ULCRICH OBRIST Hans-Ulrich Obrist is an art curator, critic and historian of art. He is Artistic Director at the Serpentine Galleries, London. Obrist is the author of The Interview Project, an extensive ongoing project of interviews. He is also co-editor of the Cahiers d’art revue. Obrist has interviewed over hundreds of people in various fields other than art. ‘ The Interview Project’ is not his main project, rather it is his terrain to cultivate ideas. He talks how very important it is to not only to look at art, but also poets, architects, etc. Etel Adnan, the Lebanese poet, artist, theater writer and activist, often says that inspiration can come from all kinds of other fields, which are like different rooms in the house that we inhabit. So it is important not just to isolate art but to investigate other disciplines also. This investigation is something that conversations can do, and they can happen in all kinds of contexts: art school, universities, biennials and, since the early nineties, they have also happened in the context of art fairs, which bring together not only different kinds of knowledge but also different kinds of people who would not have otherwise met.

Reference : 20

Does everything that exists have to be grounded in sufficient reasons? Or are there things that somehow happen out of nowhere?

SLAVOJ ZIZEK Slavoj Zizek is a Slovenian psychoanalytic philosopher, cultural critic, and Hegelian Marxist. His work is located at the intersection of a range of subjects, including continental philosophy, political theory, cultural studies, psychoanalysis, film criticism, and theology. Considered as of the greatest living philosopher, Slavoj Zizek examines the new and highly-contested concept of Event. What is really happening when something happens? An Event can be an occurrence that shatters ordinary life, a radical political rupture, a transformation of reality, a religious belief, the rise of a new art form, or an intense experience such as falling in love. Taking us on a trip which stops at different definitions of Event, Zizek addresses fundamental questions such as: are all things connected? How much are we agents of our own fates? Which conditions must be met for us to perceive something as really existing? In a world that’s constantly changing, is anything new really happening? Drawing on references from Plato to arthouse cinema, the Big Bang to Buddhism, Event is a journey into philosophy at its most exciting and elementary.

Reference : 21

ERIKA FISCHER LICTHE Erika Fischer-Lichte is Professor of Theatre Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin and Director of the Institute of Advanced Studies on the Interweaving of Theatre Cultures. One focus of the research activity of Fischer-Lichte is the theoretical basis for an aesthetic of the performative. This study provides a historical and theoretical clarification of the term performance in Arts and Sciences. In her work, she says that the performative art is tied to the concrete moment of their performance and that it must be experienced. She assigns a new position of a spectator, and from mere observers, they become actors. It is from their interaction that the artwork receives its concrete, unique incarnation with the occurring artists. In an article from 2013 FischerLichte engages the concept of creation of identity “by stylized repetition”

Reference : 22

DAVID DERNIE David Dernie is an architect, exhibition designer and head of the Manchester School of Architecture, Manchester, England. He is the author of “Victor Horta” (1995), “The Villa d’Este at Tivoli” (1996) and “New Stone Architecture”. In his book ‘Exhibition Design’ Dernie pulls out examples of what sets a parameter of the limits of exhibition design.The way in which the contemporary exhibition is designed is fast changing - previously aloof cultural institutions are making use of technologies and techniques more commonly associated with film and retail. Exhibition Design features a wide variety of examples from around the world, from major trade and commerce fairs, to well-known fine art institutions, to smallscale artist-designed displays. An introduction gives a historical perspective on the development of exhibitions and museums. The first part of the book covers the conceptual themes of narrative space, performative space and simulated experience, while the second part covers the practical concerns of display, lighting, colour, sound and graphics.

Reference : professor-david-dernie 23

A.2 INFERENCES The purpose of the background study was to understand in depth about exhibition design. What it showed was the different ways of looking at exhibition design and what falls into this category. I was not looking at design in isolation, but also understanding performance and theatre. This section is about the inferences I drew from my literature review and I have attempted to define the area where theatre, performance and design merge.


A performance comes into being by the bodily co-presence of actors and spectators, by their encounter and interaction. What happens in performances, is transitory and ephemeral. None the less, whatever appears in its course is experienced in an intense way. A performance does not transmit pregiven meanings. Rather, it is the performance which brings forth the meanings that come into being during its course. Performances are characterized by their eventness. The specific mode of experience they allow for is a particular form of luminal experience. A performance takes place in and through the bodily co presence of actors and spectators. Two groups of people who act as ‘doers’ and ‘onlookers’ have to assemble at a certain time and at a certain place in order to share a situation, a span of lifetime.It brings forth itself by the interactions between actors and spectators. Hence it follows that its course is not completely to be planned nor to be predicted. It is to be regarded as an autopoietic process


which is characterized by a high degree of contingency. Whatever appears in the course of a performance, cannot be completely foreseen at its beginning. Many elements emerge in the course of a performance as a consequence of certain interactions. It is true, the actors set the decisive preconditions for the course of the performance – preconditions that are fixed by the process of staging. None the less, they are not capable to totally control the course of the performance. In the end, all the participants together, bring forth the performance. Whatever appears in a performance, on the one hand, proceeds from the intentions, ideas and plans of several subjects. It is due to the production, to the mi-seen-scene that defines which elements are to appear at what time and in which spot of the space, how they are to move through the space and when and where they are to disappear from it. (Fischer-Lichte, Erika. The Transformative Power of Performance: A New Aesthetics. London: Routledge, 2008. Print.)

Marina Abramovics Performance


A live performance event is coconstructed by the bodily presence of both actors and spectators. Performance art is a relatively “new” artist process which hadn’t gained popularity, let alone fully existed until the 60s. This particular form of expression involves time, space, the artist’s physical body, and some sort of relationship or distinct communication between the artist and the audience. It’s a very disciplined and conceptual form of art where the artist is likely to attempt pushing the limits of human nature

or cultural norms by challenging the audience unconventionally. Since it threatens traditions of the artist’s purpose, performance art faces the continuous battle of proving itself as a viable form of art. Where the industry is concerned, in some ways it may as well not exist since a performance piece is usually a single event which cannot be repeated or captured to be purchased. (“THE ART PROCESS: Performance Art - Art & Science Journal.” N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2016.)


A performance art takes place in nontraditional theatre spaces like galleries, found spaces, and street corners. It toys with our sense of beginning and end. You may find yourself wondering when did this performance begin, when will it end and how much are you willing to endure. A performance art always makes the artist’s body part of the work. Often the body of the performer, and sometimes the bodies of the audience members, is on the line or put in danger during the performance. By its nature, performance may be disrupted,

remixed, altered, or transformed by anybody at any time. This is a part of the artwork. Performance art makes the invisible visible. Whether that be the experience of marginalized groups of people, the work that we ignore but that makes our world work, sexual expression, or taboo practices. It is interested in exploring the boundary between art and life, and embraces messiness. (Allsopp, Ric, Richard Gough, and Rachel Fensham. Performance Research. London: Routledge, 2007. Print.)

Marina Abramovics work, AAA AAA

Performance art has many origins, and is always reinventing itself. It presses into the boundaries between life and art, often making the artists’ bodies a part of the work. From the mid 1960’s. As artists grew tired of artistic norms, they began exploring new forms of artistic expression, folding together second-wave feminism, conceptual


art, counter-conceptual art, 60s counterculture, racial politics, the anti-war movement, guerrilla and radical theatre, the psychedelic music scene, and more. (THE ART PROCESS: Performance Art - Art & Science Journal.” N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2016.)


Even if particular genres of performance may take place in spaces that are specifically construed for them, spatiality of performance is always ephemeral and transitory. For it is not to be identified with the physical-geometrical space in which it takes place. It comes into being in and through the performative space. It is the performative space which opens up particular possibilities for the relationship between actors and spectators, for movement and perception, which, it moreover organizes and structures. In which ways such possibilities are used, realized, evaded or counteracted, will have an effect on the performative space. Each movement of persons, animals, objects, light, each sound ringing out in the space will change it and, thus, bring forth spatiality anew and otherwise. The performative space is not stable, but permanently fluctuating and changing. That is why in a performance, spatiality does not exist but happens. (Fischer-Lichte, Erika. The Semiotics of Theater. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1992. Print.)



A performance, in the performing arts, generally comprises an event in which a performer or group of performers present one or more works to an audience. Today, the idea of performance have expanded beyond traditional theatre. Installation and Performance Art are both based on the merger of Space and Time and on a relationship between the artist and the audience which is interdependent. Performativity is one of the most significant developments in contemporary exhibition design. It reaches beyond the semiotics of exhibition display and recognizes that body plays a fundamental role in communication and learning. Performative space is an approach to exhibition design that sees the potential of display to explore new ways of interactivity. Performative exhibition space is visitor focused and is carefully attuned to user experience. Emphasis is placed on movement and action rather than static observation. In performative exhibition, visitors are invited to do things. A performative design can be characterised by a focus on the relationship between the active user and the fabric of the installation. Like experience design such projects tend to generate interactive experiences asserting new vocabularies of media facades, immersive displays, digital

environments and information walls. Performative devices are not restricted to technology. Devices that aid in these kind of exhibitions vary from the simple provision of appropriate seating or non stepped access to sophisticated immersive environments that respond to movements and sounds. Performative space grows out of an understanding of the spatiality of display in terms of human experience. The transition mapped in the course of this survey, from narrative space through experience design to performative space, is a change in emphasis from storytelling to interactive theatre. Just as contemporary theatre explores new ways of engaging with the audience, so performative space is about inviting people to interact with the exhibited artifacts or the fabric of the space in novel ways. The approach may not fall within the traditional boundaries of exhibition design as established by modern professional criteria, but the variety of experience, movement and activity that it invites will be fundamental to creative and inclusive exhibition experiences of the future. (David Dernie: Exhibition Design. Roma: Artemide, 2005. Print. )



In an immersive theatre production, the audience in some way plays a role, whether that is the role of witness or the role of an actual character. They may be allowed to roam and explore the performance space as the performance happens around them, allowing them to decide what they see and what they skip. They might be herded from room to room so they see the key scenes. They might even be invited to become a more active part of the performance. The lines between performer and audience and between performance and life are blurred. The audience is placed within the environment of the story and therefore play witness front and center to the events without the distancing factor of a proscenium. However, this lack of separation can cause anxiety. If an audience member is not expecting to become part of the performance or is uncomfortable with that idea, it can be very offputting so there must be some form of consent between the performer and the audience. Whether that’s the conscious decision to take a performer’s outstretched hand or knowing that one has the safety net

of being able to back away from the performance, there must still exist some form of separation and boundaries between performance and audience for the benefit of everyone involved. The origins of immersive theatre go all the way back to the beginnings of modern theatre in the 19th century. Call-and-response, when a leader puts out a call and an audience calls back a pre-ordained response, has long been a concept in music, adding a participatory element. In the centuries that followed, things like murder mystery theatres and haunted houses also put their intended audience into an environment and allowed them choice in how they viewed the story. Even traditional proscenium theatre started to adapt some immersive or interactive elements. In 1985, the Tony Awardwinning Best Musical, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, required that the audience vote on who killed the titular character, spurring one of seven possible endings. (“The Space » What Is Immersive Theatre?” N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2016.)

A.3 CASE STUDY The case studies I looked at are different categories of performance art, theatre and experience design. I wanted to implement certain traits that struck me from each case.


Marina Abramovic is a Serbian performance artist based in New York. Her work explores the relationship between performer and audience, the limits of the body, and the possibilities of the mind. Active for over three decades, Abramovik has been described as the “grandmother of performance art.” She pioneered a new notion of identity by bringing in the participation of observers, focusing on “confronting pain, blood, and physical limits of the body. ”

RHYTHM 0, 1974 To test the limits of the relationship between performer and audience, Abramovic developed one of her most challenging performances. She assigned a passive role to herself, with the public being the force which would act on her. Abramovic placed on a table 72 objects that people were allowed to use in any way that they chose. Some of these were objects that could give pleasure, while others could be wielded to inflict pain, or to harm her. Among them were a rose, a feather, honey, a whip, olive oil, scissors, a scalpel, a gun and a single bullet. For six hours the artist allowed the audience members to manipulate her body and actions. This tested how vulnerable and aggressive the human subject could be when hidden from social consequences By the end of the performance, her body was 30

stripped, attacked, and devalued. Additionally, markings of aggression were apparent on the artist’s body; there were cuts on her neck made by audience members, and her clothes were cut off of her body. In her works, Abramovik affirms her identity through the perspective of others, however, more importantly by changing the roles of each player, the identity and nature of humanity at large is unraveled and showcased. By doing so, the individual experience morphs into a collective one and creates a powerful message. Abramovic’s art also represents the objectification of the female body, as she remains motionless and allows the spectators to do as they please with her body, pushing the limits of what one would consider acceptable. Initially, members of the audience

reacted with caution and modesty, but as time passed (and the artist remained passive) people began to act more aggressively. As Abramovk described it later: “What I learned was that ... if you leave it up to the audience, they can kill you. ... I felt really violated: they cut up my clothes, stuck rose thorns in my stomach, one person aimed the gun at my head, and another took it away. It created an aggressive atmosphere. After exactly 6 hours, as planned, I stood up and started walking toward the audience. Everyone ran away, to escape an actual confrontation.” (“Marina Abramovic Art Pieces You Should Know | WideWalls.” N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2016.)

THE ARTIST IS PRESENT, 2010 From March 14 to May 31, 2010, the Museum of Modern Art held a major retrospective and performance recreation of Abramovic’s work, the biggest exhibition of performance art in MoMA’s history.During the run of the exhibition, Abramovic performed The Artist Is Present, a 736-hour and 30-minute static, silent piece, in which she sat immobile in the museum’s atrium while spectators were invited to take turns sitting opposite her. Abramovic sat in a rectangle drawn with tape in the floor of the second floor atrium of the MoMA; theater lights shone on her sitting in a chair


and a chair opposite her. Visitors waiting in line were invited to sit individually across from the artist while she maintained eye contact with them.Most visitors sat with the artist for five minutes or less. Some have highlighted the movements she made in between sitters as a focus of analysis, as the only variations in the artist between sitters were when she would cry if a sitter cried and her moment of physical contact with Ulay, one of the earliest visitors to the exhibition. Abramovic sat across from 1,545 sitters, including James Franco, Lou Reed and Bjork; sitters were asked not to touch or speak to

the artist. By the end of the exhibit, hundreds of visitors were lining up outside the museum overnight to secure a spot in line the next morning. Abramovic concluded the performance by slipping from the chair where she was seated and rising to a cheering crowd more than ten people deep. (“Marina Abramovic Art Pieces You Should Know | WideWalls.” N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2016.)

HANSEL AND GRETEL .h.g. is a reading of the classical fairy tale. The performance takes the shape of a an installation that merges theatre and visual arts. The spectator walks through nine different physical-sensory rooms guided by earphones. Each room is a world on its own, a passage into


dreamlike universes. The mind slips into the imaginary, and the external spectator becomes a part of the experience. The installation evolves along the points of rupture and intersection of the story, in search of the links between the world of childhood and the world

of adulthood. Suspended between ferocity and childlike lightness, .h.g. strives to be an experience both aesthetic and sensorial.

EXHIBIT B Peter Brook described this haunting installation as ‘an extraordinary achievement’. Exhibit B critiques the ‘human zoos’ and ethnographic displays that showed Africans as objects of scientific curiosity through the 19th and early 20th centuries.


Translated here into twelve tableaux, each features motionless performers placed in settings drawn from real life. Collectively they confront colonial atrocities committed in Africa, European notions of racial supremacy and the plight of immigrants today.

As spectators walk past the exhibits one-by-one, to the sound of lamentations sung live by a Namibian choir, a human gaze is unexpectedly returned.

66 MINUTES IN DAMASCUS This piece of theatre, inspired by the descriptions of Syrian detention centres from foreign journalists and local activists arbitrarily incarcerated by the autocratic regime, 66 Minutes in Damascus puts the audience in the place of a group of tourists who visit the Syrian capital, only to be arrested by the Syrian secret service. Lebanese film-maker and theatre director Lucien Bourjeily, the artist who brought improvised theatre


to the streets of Beirut during the political turmoil of 2008, brought the Syrian revolution disturbingly close to London in his newest work 66 Minutes in Damascus. Trapped in a web of intrigue and fear, the audience became similarly entangled in the strands of immersive, site-specific interactive theatre which Bourjeily has woven together throughout his career. Lucien led a creative team of

Lebanese, French, Moroccan, Dutch, British, Turkish and Iraqi artists to create this exciting new commission in the heart of East-London. Though located in the dark heart of one of the Middle East’s most bloody regimes, 66 Minutes in Damascus also reflected the reality of life under autocratic governments across the world.

SLEEP NO MORE Sleep No More is the New York City production of a site-specific, interactive work of theatre created by British theatre company Punchdrunk It adapts the story of Macbeth, deprived of all spoken dialogue and set primarily in a dimly-lit, 1930s-era establishment called the “McKittrick

Hotel”, the website of which claims it has been recently “restored” but is actually a block of warehouses in Manhattan, transformed into a hotel-like performance space. Sleep No More’s presentational form is considered promenade theatre, in which the audience walks at

their own pace through a variety of theatrically designed rooms, as well as environmental, in which the physical location, rather than being a traditional playhouse, is an imitation of the actual setting.

THEN SHE FELL This is a fully immersive, multisensory experience in which only 15 audience members per performance explore a dreamscape where every alcove, corner, and corridor has been transformed into a lushly designed world. Inspired by the life and


writings of Lewis Carrol, it offers an Alice-like experience for audience members as they explore the rooms, often by themselves, in order to discover hidden scenes; encounter performers one-on-one; unearth clues that illuminate a shrouded history;

use skeleton keys to gain access to guarded secrets; and imbibe elixirs custom designed by one of NYC’s foremost mixologists.

A.4 INFERENCES The case studies helped define the different elements that go into a performance as well gave me an idea of the different things I wanted to play with in my exhibition. They are :

a) Use of technology Like David Dernie, explained in his book, technology or devices can be as small as the way the seats are arranged. In the immersive case studies I looked at, one can see the use of technology to aid in creating very realistic visuals and sounds. What is important to note is how it has been used to stimulate the senses.

b)Human interaction The term ‘Human Interaction’ is not just limited to conversations or physical intimacy. The presence of someone in the room, the sensation of feeling watched and an awareness of another being go far in making a person feel comfortable or uncomfortable.

c)The use of objects in each room What is interesting to note is the scale and quantity of the objects or ‘props’. Crowding the space with objects everywhere may not be efficient in creating an experience. Instead, the rooms/ stage is filled with much smaller objects, placed in a determined way. These objects also have meanings, though they are not directly expressed. d) creating a familiar setting Being in an unfamiliar setting distracts people, they would spend too much of time trying to familiarize themselves with the space. The unfamiliarity should be used to create a sense of wonder or a feeling of curiosity. Otherwise, it can cause a feeling of unrest and might push the visitor to leave instead of staying. Spaces should be well constructed and balanced and a sense of surprise can be brought about by using the elements that go into the space.



PART 2 38

THIS PART CONTAINS SECTION A A.1 Primary Research A. 2 Secondary Research SECTION B B.1 Methodology B. 2 Analysis SECTION C C.1 Redefined Brief 39

A.1 PRIMARY RESEARCH Primary research for this project involved understanding Basheer as a person and a writer, as well as his novel ‘ Mathilukal’. While the understanding of the novel was intended to be a personal interpretation, it was important to know more about other tangential elements. A lot of insights about Basheer and his novels came from a meeting with Rajiv Krishan, Director, Perch, Chennai.

Rajiv Krishan, Director of Perch was the main source of information about Basheer.

Perch is a performance collective based in Chennai, formed by enthusiasts who want to push the ‘creative’ envelope using theatre, film, music, art and other forms of creative expression. In 2008, Basheer’s centenary year, the troupe staged Sangathi Arinjya! (Have You heard!), based on seven short stories by the writer. It is an adventurous mixture of seven stories by Basheer, all different, but with a vein of love, humour and pathos running through them. A


connecting in this heady concoction is the character of Basheer himself, who plays narrator, participant and witness in turn. These stories are blended together in a non-linear yet seamless narrative that reveals the extraordinary range of Basheer’s writing and experiences. The play, staged for the first time in Chennai, was closed down briefly in 2010 and later revived as ‘Under the Mangosteen Tree’. It has been staged all over the country since then. Perch’s journey with Basheer began

over a decade ago, when the crew travelled to Beypore, in Kerala, to know more about the writer and get insights into his life through those who knew him. After they developed ‘ Under The Mangosteen Tree’ which was a part of the festival celebrating Basheer’s centenary, Perch also published a book ‘In search of Basheer’ with all the information they gathered during their travels.

A group scene from the play


Mathew, who plays Basheer, on a bike ramp

Vaikom Muhammad Basheer was a humanist, freedom fighter, novelist and short story writer. He is regarded as one of the most widely loved and admired writers on account of his superlative wit and originality. He revolutionised Malayalam literature by challenging the literary conventions of writing in Sanskritized Malayalam and was a trend-setter for many outstanding writers who followed. Basheer started writing short


stories in 1937. His writings are characterized by a variety of theme, tone and are peopled with characters drawn from his own Moplah Muslim milieu and diverse backgrounds, whom he depicts in a manner that creates a strange combination of laughter and tears within the reader. The Indian Government recognised his contributions to Malayalam literature by awarding him the prestigious Padmashri in 1982

Vaikom Muhammad Basheer used to sit under a mangosteen tree in his house in Beypore and narrate stories to the many people who’d come to visit him. Some people even refer to him as the ‘Beypore Sultan’ because he used to say, ‘I’m the sultan of my two-acre plot of land.’


“ I have only one more desire left in my life. If God grants me the privilege of another birth, I would like to be born again as a son to this same ‘Tata’ .” -Anees Basheer, son of Vaikom Muhammad Basheer “ When I was shown Basheer’s photograph, my first reaction was ‘Is this man still alive?’ My first impression was that he was very old.” -Fabi Basheer, wife of Vaikom Muhammad Basheer

A lot of Basheer’s own experiences were distilled into his stories, making the writer a part of many of his works. In the 1930s, Basheer had to leave Kerala because of an arrest warrant issued in his name by the British, owing to his writing. He then travelled the length and breadth of the country, doing a variety of jobs, including working on a ship, fortune-telling, teaching English in Kamathipura, the red light district of Mumbai, and living as a Hindu hermit. After doing menial jobs in cities such as Ajmer, Peshawar, Kashmir and Calcutta, Basheer returned to Ernakulam in the mid1930s. While trying his hands at various jobs, like washing vessels in hotels, he met a manufacturer of sports goods from Sialkot who offered him an agency in Kerala. And Basheer returned home to find his father’s business bankrupt and the family impoverished. He started working as an agent for the Sialkot sports company at Ernakulam. But he lost the agency when a bicycle accident incapacitated him temporarily. On recovering, he resumed his endless hunt for


jobs. He walked into the office of a newspaper Jayakesari whose editor was also its sole employee. He did not have a position to offer, but offered to pay money if Basheer wrote a story for the paper. Thus Basheer found himself writing stories for Jayakesari and it was in this paper that his first story “Ente Thankam” (My Darling) was published in the year 1937. A path-breaker in Malayalam romantic fiction, it had as its heroine a darkcomplexioned hunchback. His early stories were published between 1937 and 1941 in Navajeevan, a weekly published in Trivandrum in those days. At Kottayam (1941–42), he was arrested and put in a police station lock-up, and later shifted to another lock up in Kollam Kasba police station. The stories he heard from policemen and prisoners there appeared in later works, and he wrote a few stories while at the lockup itself. He spent a long time in lock-up awaiting trial, and after trial was sentenced to two years and six months imprisonment. He was sent to Thiruvananthapuram central jail. While at jail, he forbade M. P. Paul

from publishing “Balyakalasakhi”. He wrote “Premalekhanam”(1943) while serving his term and published it on his release. Baalyakaalasakhi was published in 1944 after further revisions, with an introduction by Paul. He then made a career as a writer, initially publishing the works himself and carrying them to homes to sell them. He ran two bookstalls in Ernakulam, Circle Bookhouse and later, Basheer’s Bookstall. Once India achieved control of its destiny after obtaining Independence from British rule, he showed no further interest in active politics, though concerns over morality and political integrity are present all over his works. Well into his forties, he surprised many of his acquaintances by marrying a woman much younger than him, Fabi Basheer and settling down to a life of quiet domesticity with his wife and two children, Anees and Shahina, in Beypore, on the southern edge of Kozhikode.

“ I had a Maratha friend who took me to a toddy shop. We began to drink two glasses, a ‘Hindu glass’ and a ‘Muslim glass’. ” “ I faced violent hallucinations when I stopped drinking, which is when I went to two or three hospitals for treatment. ” “ What did they label your condition? ” “Oh, I was just plain mad .”

Basheer used to drink a lot. After a heavy bout drinking, he could not write for about four to five years. He tried dropping the habit many times which resulted in severe hallucinations. He had the toddy shop near his house shifted and sought medical help many times. The treatment lasted 10 or 15 years during which time he wrote Fathima’s Goat. The second spell of paranoia occurred after his marriage when he had settled down at Beypore. He recovered both times, and continued his writings. It was while he was at school that Basheer felt under the spell of Gandhi. When Gandhi came to Vaikom to participate in the Vaikom Satyagraham (1924) Basheer went to see him. He managed to climb on to the car in which Gandhi travelled and touch his hand, a fond memory Basheer later mentioned in many of his writings. He used to visit Gandhi’s Satyagraha Ashram at Vaikom every day.


He resolved to join the fight for an independent India, leaving school to do so while he was in the fifth form. Part of his purpose in joining the congress was to help ensure that there was some Muslim representation in the pan-Indian movement. Basheer was known for his perfectly secular attitude, and he treated all religions with respect. Since there was no active independence movement in Travancore or Kochi – being princely states – he went to Malabar to take part in the Salt Satyagraha in 1930. His group was arrested before they could participate in the satyagraha. Basheer was sentenced to three months imprisonment and sent to Kannur prison. He became inspired by stories of heroism by revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru, who were executed while he was in Kannur jail. He and about 600 political prisoners then at Kannur were released after the Gandhi-Irwin pact of March 1931.

Freed from prison, he organised an anti-British movement and edited a revolutionary journal, Ujjivanam (‘Uprising’). In the early years, many critics did not appreciate his work and was unreasonably harsh which hurt him a lot. Many years later, some of the critics came and apologised to him. But he was never impolite to any of the critics. That was how Basheer was, never hurting anyone, full of humour. He treated everyone, rich or poor, big or small, the same way. If one visited his house, the first question he would ask was ‘Have you eaten?’. His wife would often complain that she felt as though she was running an inn. However, she was happy to cope with the constant flow of visitors. In spite of obvious suffering in life, Basheer was always optimistic. For him, life was blessing. Even today, after many years since his death, Basheer remains in the heart of many.

A.2 SECONDARY RESEARCH Secondary Research in this project involved understanding the novel and the story behind it and reading second hand accounts of the story by people who knew Basheer well.

Mathilukal was written during one of Basheer’s prison terms. Unlike most other novels about jail life, Mathilukal does not talk about the hardships or difficulties Basheer faced in the prison. There are no morbid accounts or stories of the cruel way the prisoners were treated. Instead, Basheer talks about the ‘deluxe’ life he enjoyed in prison. At that time, the prison was filled with political leaders who were arrested for being a part of the independence struggle. Moreover, Basheer enjoyed special privileges owing to the fact that he was a well known author. He talks about how he had access to beedies and matchsticks, as well pen and paper to write on. His friendly and humorous personality made him very popular with the wardens, who eventually succumbed to his humour. But what drives Basheer insane is the terrible monotony of the prison life. He is tired of the repetition that has now settled upon him. He fears losing his identity in the prison, where he is reduced to nothing more than a number. When Basheer first enters prison, he smells a woman. He can’t describe 46

what the smell is. It is not the smell of soap or powder, neither is it the smell of sweat. But it is the ‘divine smell’ of a woman. He learns from the warden that the female prison and the male prison is separated by just a wall. And then, he hears the faint laughter of a woman However as he moves into his cell, he can no longer hear or smell her. It upsets him and he constantly yearns for a hint as to where the woman is. Days pass by and he moves on with his life in jail. He meets an old friend of his and bonds well with the other political prisoners. Then one day, the order for the release of the prisoners come. However, other than Basheer everyone else is released. Over here, is the sudden turning point in Basheer’s frame of mind. While at the start of the novel Basheer is humorous and positive, later on he loses hope on knowing that his freedom is not guaranteed. He loses interest in the garden he was building in jail. He feels himself falling into a deep pit of despair. He wants the freedom he had once. And then one day, he hears it. The voice of a woman singing. He starts a conversation with the woman

across the wall. He comes to know that the woman over the wall is a female inmate who was sentenced for murdering her husband.roughly calculates that hey came toBasheer’s zest for life comes back and this marks the beginning of a new friendship which grows into love. Narayani, the woman and Basheer exchange gifts over the wall. Narayani devises a plan where they could meet at the doctors office. To identify themselves, Basheer says he will come to the doctors office with a rose in his hand. Narayani says she has a mole on her left cheek. But the day before they are supposed to meet, release of the Basheer’s order comes. The warden comes up to him and tells him ‘ You may go now Mr. Basheer, you are now a free man.’ To which Basheer responds ‘ What does freedom even mean ? Outside is an even bigger jail.’ The last description is that of Basheer standing out the prison, holding a red rose in his hand.

“ My vision is entirely in the books I have written. What do these young people, even the so called major writers, know about the universe? All they bother about is this Earth. There are millions of Earth just like ours. And millions of suns, milkyways and solar systems. One should have a total concept about these, and of death as well. The span of life is very short and who knows when one is going to die ? One had to study this deeply and meditate on God and his creation to enhance your vision of life. “ Pudukkudy Balachandran, Sub Treasury officer, Kozhikode, recalls how for years after he left the prison, Basheer tried to trace Narayani. His search yielded no results and he always carried a bit of that sorrow inside him. Eventually he married Fabi. Rajiv describes the prison where Basheer was imprisoned. The cells were large, with arched entrances. The bars of the cell had been brought from iron foundries in Britain and had not been changed since the jail was built. The bolts of each cell were around two feet in length and when opened, would slide into a groove hollowed into the wall. The cells were spotlessly clean, neatly folded piles of clothes lay next to dog-eared old magazines and old books, some had clothes lines. The inmates wore casual clothes, mundu and veshti. The prison garden was abloom with marigolds, kanakambaram and rose bushes. White and pale blue butterflies 47

flitted and pirouetted over the blooms. For just a brief moment you would forget that you were standing inside the walls of a prison. The women’s prison was smaller in size with fever inmates, so was their garden. A thick high wall separates the two prisons, the wall which is mentioned in the novel. It is poignant how such a harsh, unyielding solidity could give rise to love. Man should experience from touch and smell, which is what Basheer would often say. It is clear from Mathilukal, how he portrayed that in his life. The story, told in first person narrative, though it is a personal experience, has some level of embellishment.Basheer’s ideology is the that of love. While he conceived of life as absurd, he had immense faith in human values and also in divine power. Mathilukal probably is not a personal favourite from the many books he has written. In fact, it was one book

that didn’t appeal to me so much the first time I read it. The second time I read it, years later, I felt I understood what Basheer meant when he used phrases like love and freedom. The liking for the book grew with the realisation that, there are things in life, that cannot be explained. As humans, we define so many simple things in life and create constructs. We convert simple innate things into a web of complicated jargon. Mathilukal reminded me that, there is still, these simple unexplainable things left in the world. All we have to do is, keep our senses open. It taught me that, love, can be found in the most mundane things and that freedom lies in your mind and not in your body.

B.1 METHODOLOGY There were two different approaches to breaking down the content of the book. The first was to objectively identify elements with the purpose of translating them to tangible outputs. The other was a personal interpretation of the novel. Using approach 1, I broadly identified and categorised different events from the story into multiple themes. To delve further into what those themes were, I picked incidents from the story which I interpreted personally.


B.2 ANALYSIS This section is about the analysis of the different themes of the book. The major step in the process was identifying what I wanted to communicate about the book


The diagram above depicts Basheer’s occupation in prison. The innermost circle shows his activities in his inital few months in the prison. In the next circle, you can notice a shift in his activities and an even more of a difference after meeting Narayani. As the second circle indicates, Basheer spent a lot of time contemplating events in his life and lost a lot of interest in other activities. However it all came back after meeting Narayani.


IDENTITY Basheer talks about how every possession he own has a number on it. Starting from his plates, glasses, clothes and mattress. He feels lost in the prison, where everyone is wearing similar clothes and everyone just has a number to identify themselves. He is drowning in a pool of people. The image that

struck me was that of millions of people, blindly following instructions, all of them looking similar. Why I felt identity was an important theme in the book was because of the relevance it has in today’s life. It reminded me of the theory of the ‘panopticon’ the concept of the French prison which was never

executed. Popular philosophy states that the technology we have today is our panopticon, where our information is known to millions of servers, yet we do not know who it is that knows what about us.

REPETITION Repetition is associated with monotony. Repetition does not happen in the absence of the context of time. It is only when time moves and you see no change, that you feel as though something is repeating.


Basheer is doing the same things every day. What he sees as a time table or a schedule starts restricting him. There is no outlet for his creative processes nor the opportunity do anything new. It is

the repetition that brings about the horrible monotony that Basheer desperately tries to escape from.


POSSESSIONS While describing the events that led him to the prison, Basheer talks about how he had to leave behind everything before entering jail. This included his beedi’s, matchsticks, pen and paper. However, there are ways to obtain anything you require in jail as well. He talks about how each prisoner sneaked in objects for their entertainment and pleasure. One person had a packet of Enos fruit salt, without which he could not start his morning rituals. Another hid a deck

of cards and one had a copy of Capital by Karl Marx. This made me wonder that if I had to leave everything behind I had and could take only one thing with me, then what would that thing be ? It is similar to the question that people often ask, ‘ If your house was on fire and you could take only one object and run, what would that object be ?’ People are emotionally invested in a lot of their belongings. Ideas of what

we need and what we want are lines that never converge. The whole idea of possessions is to look at the small things that talk about your needs rather than your wants. Possessions is not about carrying your most valuable item neither is it carrying a letter from your loved one from yore. It is about the line where what you want and what you need briefly meet.

? He talks about the boredom that settles upon him due to constant inactivity and yet, there is nothing more he can do to while away time. It plays with his mind and seems to stretch endlessly. In a place like prison, if you imagine yourself in Basheer’s shoes, then time is the thing that drags you down. It is what plays with your mind and drives

you close to insanity. You have no means to keep track of the time that is slipping past, distending in unnatural ways. For me, time is a trick, a deception that leaves you agitated and flustered.

TIME There is no mention of day , time or date throughout the book. There is a small indication that Basheer has been in prison for more than a year. What struck me was how Basheer would describe his daily routine, yet they seem like menial tasks that would have probably lasted only a couple of hours. What could he have been doing with the rest of his time



Reviews of the book often states that the idea of love and Basheer’s relationship with Narayani was partly a fantasy. Nonetheless, the research indicates that there was such a woman and it exasperated Basheer when he could never find her. Basheer falls in love with Narayani through her voice and even her smell. He is not bothered by her physical appearance, though Narayani is very insecure about her looks. She tells him during one conversation that ‘

She is not very beautiful and there are women far more beautiful than her in the prison.’ Basheer reassures her saying that he is not very handsome either. And yet, without ever seeing each other, in the absence of any physical attraction, they profess their undying love for each other. Basheer portrays the idea of love in a very simple form : Words. It is through conversation that they realize their feelings for each other. Through words and through sentences. People

often try to define what love is, how it should and to who it should be for. But drawing from the book, I state love is exactly like words that exist. It derives meaning in conjunction with other words. It has no pre assigned meaning, no words or sentences ever mean the same thing to everyone. It is always changing, dynamic yet without a rigid form. It is ephemeral, transient and ubiquitous in nature, just like the words we use.

even bigger jail.’ Though he has gotten what he craved for, his release sentence, he realizes that to be physically free is not what he wanted after all. People often see physical bars and walls and think of it as restrictions that limit what we want to achieve. But what they do not realize is that the bars exist in our mind, that we are our biggest restriction. Pondering over the question Basheer end the novel with , ‘What is freedom’ I came up with my own interpretation of what freedom could be. Freedom is just about choice. It is when our right to make our own choices and decisions are taken away

that we feel we are being restricted. In jail, Basheer had no space to make his own choices, his life was governed by choices other people were making for him. He had no power to decide what to do with his own life. Ending the novel by saying ‘ Outside is an even bigger jail’ I interpreted as, how he would have to live with the knowledge that he might not ever see Narayani again, purely because someone else made a decision regarding his life without his consent.

FREEDOM Looking at the big picture, freedom is one of the most important things in the book. Basheer talks about two different kinds of freedom, physical and mental freedom. During his imprisonment, what Basheer is talking about is how is physical freedom is taken away. He is behind bars, his movements and activities are restricted. He is obliged to act on some else’s command. However, as we move towards the end of the book, there is a significant change in his perception of the freedom he wants. He is hesitant to leave the jail he loathed so much. He questions the warden boldly on what freedom is and states that ‘ Outside is an


DEATH Throughout the whole book, Basheer never talks about death. The only reference he makes to death is how the prisoners sentenced to capital punishment would ask for a cup of tea a few hours before he was to be


hung. Since he had access to tea and sugar, Basheer would oblige, staying awake till the wee hours of dawn by when the hanging would have been carried outI drew the same inference from possessions for death as well.

It made me think as to what I would want to do if I knew when I would die. Not just in the context of a prison but at a larger level.


C.1 REDEFINED BRIEF The brief that I started out with was to create an experiential exhibition based on a chosen narrative text. The primary expertise of the sponsors lay in theatre and art practices. What was essential was to use that to my advantage while designing the exhibition. The analysis of the book as well as the author gave a very definite direction for the design language. The redefined brief was to craft a performance installation which would be a multi sensorial experience of the book. The purpose of the exhibition is to not create a spectrum of visuals but to create an experience that would communicate the essence of the book and the thoughts of the writer to the visitor. My research on performance, art and spatiality, it indicated that understanding the audience is what helps you reach out to them




THIS PART CONTAINS SECTION A A.1 Spatial Analysis A.2 Experience A.3 Schematic drawings SECTION B B.1 Lighting and Sound B.2 Exploration SECTION C C.1 Visualisation `C.2 Spatial Planning 59

A.1 SPATIAL ANALYSIS The main aim of the spatial analysis process was to understand the limitations and the possibilities of the space. While the larger idea was to create an exhibition that could be adapted into any space, Shanthiroad as a space gave lots of opportunities which could possibly be incorporated as an additional element to enhance the experience. 1Shanthiroad, Bengaluru, is an art space founded by Suresh Jayaram that nurtures creativity and cutting edge art practice, situated in the center of the city. It is administered by a not- for- profit trust VAC –Visual Art Collective. Since its inception in 2003, 1Shanthiroad has grown to house artists from diverse countries in its residency programmes.

Suresh Jayaram is an artist, art historian, arts administrator and curator from Bangalore. He is the Founder, Director of Visual Art Collective/1. Shanhtiroad Studio ,an international artist’s residency and alternative art space in Bangalore, India. He is currently involved in art practice, urban mapping, archiving, curation and arts education. His keen interest in environmental and urban developmental issues influences his work. He taught Art History at Karnataka Chitrakala Parishat, the College of Fine Arts in Bangalore and later went on to become the Dean from 2005-2007. He obtained his BFA in painting from the College of Fine Arts,Karnataka Chitrakala Parishat 1990 and MFA from M.S.University, Baroda in 1992 in Art Criticism


The Studio/Gallery at 1Shanthiroad provides space for slide lectures, small conferences, installations, performances, screenings and informal gatherings. 1, shanti road is informal open space for anyone from the visual arts community to display their work. Shanthi Road has four independent studio spaces for artists to reside and work. There is one formal gallery and two open courtyards.

Formal gallery

Formal gallery

The space functions as a hub of constant activity and interaction. Shanthi Road is a beautiful space where there are always people milling about day in and day out. The courtyards often aid in being a an impromptu discussion along with chai. Exhibitions happen in the formal gallery on a regular basis. Apart from that Shanthiroad is always buzzing


Open Courtyard

with activities. The whole purpose of this studio is to provide a space for the arts. Not only did I love the whole ideology behind Shanthiroad, I loved it as a space. On a normal day, there would be something or the other to pick up and read. From a spatial point of view, due to its dual nature, it is very flexible and can adapt to any sort of exhibit one wants to design.

It has multiple levels that are interconnected to each other. It has both indoor and outdoor spaces, a formal gallery and various other nooks.

A.2 EXPERIENCE There were various reasons for me to chose Shanthiroad. It is spread over different leves and has multiple points of entry and exits. I loved it as a space and felt that a lot of interesting things could be done here. While it gives you the option to present your work in a very formal gallery, Shanthiroad also gives the possibility of using the courtyards in a very informal way. This section is a little about how I discovered Shanthiroad as a space.

Badam tree courtyard

Shanthiroad is also a residency space, hence there are residents most of the year, who are live in one the studios and work there. The limitation of the space was the number of things that could be added or subtracted. Removing things


that were in the space would mean finding another spot for it. The idea was to retain the structure and elements of the space and to add objects that would enhance the space The living room and the kitchen are open spaces where anyone can walk

in, sit in the living room, pick up a book and read. You are also more than welcome to eat something from the kitchen. Shanthiroad’s doors are always open to all.

Staircase from couryard to first floor

Landing on the first floor

The open courtyard

A red spiral staircase leads you to the entrance at Shanthiroad. The door to the right leads you into the formal gallery. The gallery is then connected to the semi open courtyard. The two staircases on either end of the courtyard leads into the private studios. The courtyard is also connected to


Suresh’s living room and it leads to the Badam tree courtyard which is completely open. The other door of Suresh’s living room leads to the Badam Tree courtyard, which ends in the entrance of Shanthiroad. The open courtyard houses a table where people often gather for informal discussions over tea.

Staircase to uppermost studio

The badam tree courtyard has a swing and lots of area to sit. It is used mainly as a space to hang around after a show or an exhibition. People gather here to talk to the artist or continue discussions.


Exterior of Shanthiroad


Exploded view of different leves at Shanthiroad


B.1 LIGHT AND SOUND Till now, my approach to sound and light have been purely on the basis of an aesthetic or ambient value. It was important to understand the possibilities with sound and light in the field of theatre and to familiarize myself to how it is used in performance to enhance the experience. This section is about my understanding of light and sound based on conversations with people who have been doing this and some basic research.

The design approach to lighting and a theatrists’ approach to lighting is very different. It can be considered as two layers which could be superimposed on each other. From the former approach, light is mostly about creating an ambiance. It is about setting the mood for the exhibition. It also a very clinical approach to looking at light. From the point of theatre, it is about how lighting can act as an acting aid. Lighting functions as more than an element that sets the mood for a place. Lighting is used by performers and in theatre to guide people and movement. For instance, having a small source of light in room and asking the people in the room to read would mean they would crowd around the light. Simple experiences like sharing, personal space and intimacy can be communicated through a single light. Similarly, lights and darkness at alternates part of the exhibition would ensure that people gravitate towards where there is light. It sets the hierarchy of what is most important and least important. Lights can help in directing the gaze of the audience. It gives you control of what the person 66

can see or cannot see. If you consider the whole space as one stage, lighting can be considered as one of the props in the stage. Sound is also another key element in the book. It is Narayani’s voice that draws Basheer towards the wall and towards her. In the same way as light, sound can also be used to create movement. Hidden speakers that play something in a faint volume would incite curiosity in a visitor to look for the source of the voice. It can make people move from room to room. Sound can also give the illusion of time. For instance, sounds of crickets, which one would associate to late evening. Playing with volume and tempo of a sound can give the illusion of changing time as well. What is interesting to observe is how time eventually changes. The only concrete way of knowing time has passed without the aid of any instrument is by observing any event that changes as you keep observing.

B.2 EXPLORATIONS Lights and shadows can always be created in many different ways. But the technique you use can aid in adding a layer to what you are trying to communicate. RaumZeit Piraten (Tobias Daemgen, Jan Ehlen, Moritz Ellerich) are a space and time bending artists collective. Since 2007 they are using and remixing ancient and up-to-date auditive and visual technologies for heterogeneous, organically improvised light and sound architectures. Their activities are aimed at playful, experimental connections of sound, image, object, space and time to an alternately-self-expanding-multimediaperformance-surround-spaceship-laboratory-travel to somewhere between science and fiction. In a one day workshop, with Tobias Daemgen, we explored ways to create light parasites using table lamp, magnifying glass and found objects. I thought it would be interesting to maybe carry this forward in my project.

Above are the images of the structures we built during our one day workshop. We used a table lamp, magnifying glasses with varying focal lengths, iron rods,c clamps to support the iron rods and various found objects like leaves, shells and so on.


C.1 VISUALISATION The analysis of the book gave the direction as to the different themes of the book. At a macro level, I wanted to design seven different experiences based on different themes. I started by exploring the seven different exhibits.

Visual Reference

POSSESSIONS The very idea behind possessions was to put the visitor in a position where they would have to leave behind every item they came with. To create this, I visualised a room filled with cupboards on all four sides. Some of the cupboards would be empty, some would be open. The open ones would be for the visitor to rummage through and explore on their free


will. It contains elements picked out from the novel, for example, ‘ enos fruit salt’, playing cards and beedis. I also thought it would be interesting to add elements that I imagined people would have used. For instance, when I say a plain red sari, the mind automatically makes visual connections as to the kind of person who would wear a red sari.

The drawers would all have numbers and a corresponding name. The actor/volunteer in this room would instruct the visitor to leave behind all their belongings.

Feedback and Questions : Would the visitors on their own open drawers ? Should some of the drawers be left open ? The purpose of the room is also to create a sort of discomfort when you have to leave behind all your belongings. How can you create this sort of discomfort.? How many people can enter this room at one go. If not everyone, where would the rest be asked to wait.


Do they leave their valuables behind ? If they do, how do I ensure its safety ? Do they get a token number ? Based on the feedback, certain changes were made. The visitor would be asked to leave behind all his belongings, except his valuables. The volunteer would not direct them to an open cupboard, rather, they would be asked to leave their belongings behind in any of the bags. Based

on previous analysis and research it is about creating movement and creating interaction. Asking people to find an empty locker, creates the movement or the action that I want the people to involve in. This way, people are looking through other lockers without an external prompt.

Vocabulary and language of the objects



Expanding the initial idea of having people around in the room enacting a particular scene, I attempted a video of the same from the point of view of a CCTV camera. The video shows the laps of time, but no change in the actions of the person.

REPETITION VIDEO INSTALLATION The initial idea was to have 8 people who would be standing in a circle around the room, performing various day to day activities. The only way the visitor would be able to leave the room would be after crossing each of


the actors who would pay no heed to the visitor. This idea was simplified into just having four people in the four corners. When the visitor enters, the first person would direct him or her to the second person, the second

person to the third, the third to the fourth and the fourth again to the first. This would continue in time, till the visitor decides he has seen enough and wants to leave.

Visuals from a video of repetiton

Feedback and questions : The difference is between performing and prompting an action. Having people in a circle or the corners restrict how people can move within the space. Moreover, I felt as though


there is no scope for interaction, it becomes exactly like a staged theatre. I wanted to bring about a visual element. Explorations; Repetition happens with change in

time. I explored the idea of having a video of a person just performing the action. Another direction was to create a CCTV like footage.

Visuals from a video of repetiton


Another idea was to create an animation of static that never seems to end or a glitch that keeps running

Screenshot of a small animation I tried to make a glitch and T.V static.


Visual Reference The image on top is the visual I wanted to create with light. Image below shows light dispersion ir a hazy room when a ray of light falls through a convex lens.

TIME LIGHT/VIDEO INSTALLATION The first idea with time was to create projections of a person moving in space. The intended area was the courtyard which gives the option of having a big wall on which it could be projected. But having a projection of a shadow, my mentors felt made no sense. If using projection, it could be used in a different way as well as finding different ways of creating shadows. Thinking along the idea of time, I associated time to light. I


was looking at light leaks and motion blurs as a way of indicating light. I looked at different ways of creating light leaks through basic science experiments. I wanted to create the effect of light leaks using scienctific principles. Dispersion and refracting of light I felt was interesting. When exploring light, working with light in textures was something I was constantly told to explore. It is not just about projecting light, but using

it in a way that the projection of light has an added layer on it. What I thought interesting would be to use lenses and a point source of light. The lenses could be hung in a room filled with fog or smog. The fog or the smog would act as the medium through which light would fall from one lens to another, thus making the dispersed path of light visible.

Since the mentors felt that the experiment did not convey the notion of time, we thought another interesting possibility would be to alter the pace of an everyday activity. Falling water is a very significant scene from the movie, Mathilukal because it shows how much time has actually passed in real life.

Slowing down the falling of water

Feedback Does light leaks convey change or motion ? What does the dispersion of light actually convey in the context of a room ?


Visual Reference

LOVE VISITOR INPUT ORIENTED INSTALLATION In this novel, love is ephemeral, it does not have a physical form. It exists through the conversations Basheer and Narayani have. Love manifests itself through words. I felt that approach to love would be to remind


the person of what love felt like. My initial idea for love was to create the nostalgia that one associates with love, through words. This could be done using love letters between people. I wanted to use typography

in different forms and on different mediums. The concept for love was to create a room that would be filled with famous love letters.

Feedback and Questions The idea of having different mediums for typography might not work well together. Sticking to one would be more aesthetically pleasing. It raises the possibility of projecting letters on the walls or on transparent sheets. I felt that working with transparent sheets gives me the possibility of creating layers with light. After seing


the outcomes, I felt the medium is as important as the content of the letter. The whole process had become an installations in itself rather than nostalgia. When you think of love letters, the first thing that comes to your mind is handwritten letters. Handwriting brings about the personal element and touch that ‘ love ’ was based on.

Another important question it raised was, by using already existing letters, we are giving the concept of love a definite form, which goes against all the analysis of the same theme made earlier.

DEATH SENSORY EXPERIENCE Since the idea of death was so removed from the idea of the novel, what I explored was understanding what the perception of death was. For this I thought what would be interesting would be to reach out to people as see how they perceive death. I did this by sending a mail


to a whole group of people who I thought would be able to give an input with a great amount of sensibility. I posed a question as to what would be their final wish if they were to die the very next day. I wanted to take all these inputs and find a way to represent all this as a death.

Another approach my mentors felt would be interesting would be to look at the death penalty law. This was also the same time as the death penalty report came out.

Feeback Is the purpose of this exhibit to make people think about their death or remind them what death is ? Death has a strong asssociated smell. Why not use that ?


C.2 SPATIAL PLANNING This section talks about visitor flow during the exhibition, how people would move from one room to another and usage of environmental graphics.

GALLERY PLAN (not to scale)

SPACE PLANNING The Exhibits for Possessions, Identity, and Repetition would be in the gallery of Shanthiroad, while Love and Death would be in the rooms on the first floor and Time would be in the courtyard. Other than the structured exhibits, we wanted to include other elements from the book. After dividing the space, there was an interesting possibility of using the narrow space which could possibly be


used as a corridor. The corridor could be dimly lit and have dark shadows and as one walks along and the visitor would hear faint voices. The voices would be snippets from the conversation that the prisoners have while passing away time in jail. What I also wanted was to bring about the element of sound in this space. The idea was to play a recording of hushed voices of a man and a woman talking to each other. The recording would be of varying volumes so that it

creates an illusion of it coming from different points from the corridor. The open courtyard at Shanthiroad was another beautiful space where people would gather. We thought it would be interesting to convert that into a space where people could gather with hot chai,beedis and play a game of cards. I also wanted to use the sound of prison in a corridor like setting to create a sense of enclosure.

The main gallery is divided into three rooms. Room one is the room for Possession, room two for Repetition and the last room is for Identity. The red marks, indicated on the diagram in the previous page, mark the entry exit points in each room. There is a narrow corridor that is made towards the end of the room, along its width. I felt that this corridor could be used to create an addition elements in the whole exhibition. In the courtyard, the central table is kept the way it is. Six chairs would be added around the it. From the courtyard, the visitor has the freedom to go up to any of the rooms and the exit is through Suresh’s living room to the badam tree courtyard. 83

We brainstormed on the different ways in which the visitors could be guided through the exhibition. One way was giving the visitor a map which would guide them and show them where every exhibit was. I felt this would take away the whole experience of exploring and give it a feeling of being in a museum. Instead I thought having cue cards would be an interesting approach. The cue cards would be written in the same manner as the ‘Goosebumps’ book. There was also a particular reason for choosing the cue card technique. The idea of freedom is what brings the whole exhibition together. The cue cards were to give the illusion

of having the choice to decide what you want to see or what you want to do. But at the end, everyone ends up at the same place, because someone else had been controlling how you see the whole exhibition after all. For instance, the cue cards would direct six different people at random to go sit at the table in the courtyard. The minute the visitors are given their cue cards, it has already been decided who gets to do what. But the visitor is under the illusion that they get to do what they wanted to do irrespective of what the card says. Ten people would be allowed per slot and the whole things was timed for about 30 minutes.

PART 4 84

THIS PART CONTAINS SECTION A A.1 Performance Text A.2 Logistics A.3 Sourcing A. 4 Revisiting space A.5 Content Representation A.6 Soundscape A.7 Projection A.8 Overall Plan


A.1 PERFORMANCE TEXT A performance text is a essentially a script of the whole play. It describes the setting of each room (set) what the visitor does, what they are expected to do and what the actor does to support the visitors actions. It also gives an idea of how long a persons spends in each room or how long one particular scene from the show takes to finish. It gives the gist of the exhibition in the form of a script.

To validate the design concept, a performance text was written. A performance text is equivalent to a storyboards. It describes every detail of each room, starting from the elements, light, mood, people, what the visitor is expected to do and what happens.


This gives a lot of clarity and helps fill the spaces in between. The performance text gave rise to a lot of valid feedback and questions. Some of the ideas were discarded, some were changed completely and new ones were made. What was interesting was how the simple act

of narrating events happening in a room gave direction on how it was supposed to be done.


A.2 EXECUTION Once the design process was done, the approach to executing the project was done in a very organised matter. This was done through the use of Excel sheets, making check lists and having daily goats.

After the performance text was revised and edited, the pre production process started. The first step was to make an Excel sheet. The Excel sheet acted as a sort of checklist for me to prioritize and finish as many


things as possible before the opening. The document also gave clarity as to the number of things that needed to be done before hand. This included renting furniture, making an inventory of furniture at Shanthiroad, buying props,

borrowing props from people etc. It was also important to delegate certain tasks to people around and for the whole team to know what exactly had to be done.


A.3 SOURCING Another key step towards preparing the exhibition was to find and source props for the exhibition. There were multiple options like renting, buying secondhand or borrowing elements. Certain objects had to be fabricated if it could not be found.

The objects that I was looking at were very specific. Anything that dated back to the time Basheer was in the prison, which was pre-independence. The idea was to fill the room with objects that people could touch, feel and interact with in any way possible. The visits gave me a chance to explore Chickpet, the oldest shopping area in Bangalore, SP Road, B.V.K Iyengar road and city market. During my one visit to Ahmedabad, I used it as an opportunity to go to the Sunday Market and look for objects. What was relevant here not to


just place objects that seemed aesthetically appealing to make the place seem fuller, but have objects that would act as an anchor point. It was not about filling the room with curiosity objects, but about filling the room with mundane, everyday objects. What was important for me was for the people to question the purpose and the place of the object. Which was why it was necessary to find things that hold value only in a particular context and place it in a completely new surrounding.



The next step was to visit Adams, a furniture renting store in Shivaji Nagar. The purpose of this was to look at the logistics of hiring certain things over buying objects. In case things we were looking for were not available, it was necessary to have a window of time when we could ask people around to borrow their things as props.


Adams not only had furniture but a section for utensils which could be hired as well. Over there, I found the units with which the room of Possessions was going to be made. We also found the sort of tables and chairs we were looking for, an old TV and an old telephone.



The exhibition was revised to fit into the ground floor. This diagram shows the placements of the new exhibits

The next step was to make a visit to Shanthiroad. The purpose of this visit was to get an idea of where each object would go and to have a rough idea of how the exhibition plan would go. Along with two other members, we did a quick rehearsal of the show.


However, due to unforeseen circumstances, they informed me that the two rooms on the first floor would not be available during the exhibition dates. This meant that all the exhibits had to happen between the two courtyards, Suresh’s living

room and the formal gallery. At this point, I went back and restructured the exhibition contents to fit it within the three spaces.







Diagram with indication of where each exhibit would be in the ground floor


A.5 CONTENT REPRESENTATION This section is about how the textual content of the exhibition was going to be represented.

After replanning the space, the context for the exhibition had to be set in place. I felt that there was some need for text at certain places. I pulled out the text from the book which I had used in my analysis. We felt that the text gave some context to the story. It also enhanced the idea of the exhibition being a slice of the novel quite well. The performance being a few pages of the book which one could read. Another important question was whether or not to keep the Malayalam text. The number of people among the visitors who would be well versed


inMalayalam would be very minimal. The supporting text might act as a hindrance together with Malayalam. However, I very strongly wanted the Malayalam content to be there along with the English Subtitle. The text was also not a key part of the exhibition and hence I wanted it to be as unnoticeable as it could be. The text was set in both regular and transparent sticker paper to see what works. Since the white paper was too jarring, we decided to go with the transparent sticker paper which was much more subtle. Different point sizes were tried to figure out

one that seemed big enough to read keeping in mind that it was going to be on the floor. Since even the three small spaces at Shanthiroad was spread out and cluttered with many objects, there was a question of using arrows to guide the visitor from exhibit to exhibit. But the whole idea of the exhibition was how the experience differs from one person to another. Personally I felt it would be interesting if people did not see all the exhibits the same way and in the same order.

The photographs depict different typefaces, sizes and layouts for the text as well as how it looked at different spots within Shanthiroad.


A.6 SOUND SCAPE Sound was one the main elements in the book. I wanted to use sound in multiple ways. As ambient score as well as a form of narrating text.

The element of sound is a key element in the novel. In the revised plan, I felt it was important to indicate changing time with the use of sound. This was one part of the process where I referred to the movie. It gave me an idea of the sounds that Basheer would have heard during his prison time. The identified sounds included, clang of the iron door, aluminum utensils, crickets chirping and the sound of squirrels. Drawing inferences from the movie, a sound clip of a cricket chirping, water falling, and squirrel was made. The sound clips would played on loop


with an adequate interval between the each. It is to remind people very subtly, that as you spend time in the room, time is moving in both the exhibition as well as real life. As for Basheer’s voice, there was a need for a recording at two places. One was in the small storage room indicated in the plan. It is the room of identity, the identity of the woman. The objects in the room are intimate beauty products a woman uses. The text talks about her insecurity when it comes to love. The whole room is filled with the scent of jasmines and roses. The voice fills that room. It

asks the visitor to come close towards the light and take in the scent of a woman. The other voice recording is that of a man calling urgently to a woman. He says her name with passion mixed with urgency. The idea of the voice was for it to seem as though it is coming from the wall behind. The voice of Basheer was recorded in Malayalam and English. The software Audacity was used to clean up the sound, remove noise and echo and do minor adjustments.

“ Step in. Do not hesitate. Come towards the light. Can you smell it ? Can you smell that scent of a woman ? No, I am not talking about the scent of soap or powder or that of sweat. I am talking about that divine smell of a woman. �


A.7 VIDEO INSTALLATION There were two exhibits that needed a video. The projection of the falling waterdrop was shot on camera and then edited in AfterEffects. The glitch animation was a small animation made on AferEffects



Expanding along the idea of Change and Wait, was the final concept for time. For this, I shot a water drop falling in a glass of still water in a painfully long video. The idea of the water drop is to make the person, wait, give the illusion that nothing is happening and then, it falls. The anticipation of something about to happen is what time was all about.


The video was to be projected on a screen divider that also separates the room. For the glitch animation, we decided to use the old TV connect it to a DVD player. The static would seem more natural on the T.V than projector.


A.8 OVERALL PLAN In this plan, the postions of the various exhibits are marked and the orange dotted line shows the different path a visitor can take.




PART 5 104

THIS PART CONTAINS SECTION A A.1 Identity A.2 Publicity and Promotion SECTION B B.1 The Exhibition B.2 Visitor Feedback B.3 Personal Feedback SECTION C C.1 Reflection 105


A name that would not reveal too much about the content of the exhibition was what we were aiming at. The idea was to have a name that would incite a spark of curiosity in the visitors. Nimi mentioned a play called ‘ Butter and Mashed Bananas’ which was about prisoners who faced death sentence. But throughout the play, they did not mention it at all. When the director was asked why it was called so, he explained that butter and mashed bananas were used to grease the noose for the prisoners. We felt, an approach like that would be ideal for naming our exhibition. When Basheer is handed out his possessions with his number, he adds 106

all the digits. The sum is 9, which pleases him as he had read in some numerology book that the outcomes would be favorable. Working back from that, I derived some possible options of what his number could have been. We felt that the exhibition name could just be a number, no text, almost like a barcode number. 30213 was chosen merely because from the possible combinations, phonetically and aesthetically, it was most pleasing. While working on the poster for the event as well, my sponsors were very clear about the look they wanted. After many years of working in the theatre business, they have found that black and white, posters do not invite people. It automatically gives

the idea of it being a very serious play. I wanted to work with a treated photograph as a poster. The matchstick and blade stuck me the most. I felt it would be very interesting as a visual, moreover it would be interesting to see how in the end, people would connect it to the book. As an image, it as also not directly linked to Basheer or the novel. After the above conversation, I bought 20 packets of matchboxes and tried different things to create a poster.



The next step was to create posters and banners for the exhibition. The first visual gave the impression of something haunting, almost psycho thriller in a way. The second visual was too repetitive to strike the eye. The third and fourth image worked well with the theme of the exhibition and my guides felt they could work as a poster. The posters were also to be put up in different parts of the town. Publicity was done through press listings and social media. The original idea was for it to be ticketed show with BookMyShow, but due to various reasons it was not feasible. Keeping that option in mind, I had done a version of the poster as a BookMyShow ticket.


BookMyShow Banner and ticket

Invite, mailer and poster. 110



30213 Used at various other locations and also used as a take away from the exhibition.




Sandbox Collective are also art administrators. Another important step in the process was to write a press release for listings. A press release is about 300 words that give the whole synopsis of the project, about the artist and the sponsors. Writing the press release gave me a lot of clarity about what I had done so far. I felt it helped consolidate all the thoughts I had. It was also important to communicate the crux of the exhibition without being caught up in jargon. The press also required me to send photographs. Now since the listings happened before the show, I took a couple of photographs which I felt would go with the theme of the exhibition.

The photographs on the page are the selected ones that were sent to te press 114


THE PRESS RELEASE 30213 is an interactive performance installation that is inspired by ‘Mathilukal’ the highly popular Malayalam novel written by Vaikom Muhammad Basheer. The novel is based on Basheer’s time spent in prison and how he fell in love with a female inmate without ever having met her. Her voice behind the high walls that separated the male and female prison is his only link to her. In time, they grew to love each other through their conversations and by exchanging gifts over the wall. Basheer’s portrayal of jail is not that of hardships and struggles; instead he speaks in detail of the comforts he enjoyed owing to the fact that he was a celebrated writer who was a political prisoner. What troubled Basheer was the monotony of prison life, the way he seemed caught in a time warp because time seemed to stretch endlessly ahead of him. His greatest sorrow was the idea of having his freedom taken away. Things change after he falls in love with Narayani, the female inmate. She devises a plan for the duo to meet at the doctor’s office. But, a day before their meeting, Basheer is released from jail. At this point, Basheer realises that he might not want the freedom he has been craving. He asks the warden who bring his release notice. “What does freedom even mean? Outside is an even bigger jail.” The novel was adapted into a film, directed by Adoor Gopalakrishnan and released in 1989. It won several national awards and Mammootty bagged the National Film Award for best actor for his role as Basheer. Taking off from the ideas in the novel, the series of exhibits set in 1, Shanthi Road, dwells on our constant search for the meaning of love, life and death. 30213 is an experiential journey through time, space and imagination. Jazeela Basheer’s performance installation was developed under the guidance of Sandbox Collective and supported by 1, Shanthi Road. Language: English Duration: 30 minutes Age: 15+ By: Jazeela Basheer Jazeela Basheer studies at The National Institute of Design, Ahmadabad, specializing in Exhibition and Spatial design. In her various classroom projects at NID, she has always looked at different ways of translating a narrative text into a space. The main aim being to make reading into a collective experience. Basheer is a personal favourite and one of the Malayalam writers she grew up reading during her childhood in Kerala. What was appealing about ‘Mathilukal’ was the simple and poignant way in which it makes one think and question our notions of freedom and choice. Before working with Sandbox Collective, she was a part of ‘The Floating Market’ by Crow, Immersive theatre company based in Bangalore, founded by Nayantara Kotian and Prashant Prakash. Sandbox Collective is a Bangalore-based arts collective that curates, creates and produces performances and arts festivals. We have performed more than 300 shows in our two and half years of existence. Our aim is to increase the scope of the performing arts and to make the arts an integral part of our lives and journey. Sandbox Collective was founded by Nimi Ravindran and Shiva Pathak. 1, Shanthi Road is an artspace and arts residency located in Shanthi Nagar, Bangalore. It is led by Artist and Art Historian Suresh Jayaram. 1, Shanti Road is the foundation on which the performance installation rests as Suresh Jayaram’s living and art space come together for Jazeela Basheer to re-imagine the world of Basheer.




The exhibition opened on Friday, the 15th. It was open to friends and family, as well as a few artists on personal invitation. The show started at 7pm and went on till 8:30. The visitors spent an average of twenty minutes to half in


hour going through the exhibition. On the second and third day, the shows were at 11, 12:30, 3, 5 and 7. Most visitors hung around after the exhibition to talk about it as well as give feedback.

1 - Waiting area 2 - Interactive Exhibit, Touch 3 - Interactive Exhibit, Touch 4 - Static Exhibit 5 - Interactive Exhibit, Touch 6 - Static Exhibit 7 - Interactive Exhibit, Touch and Taste







Ambient sounds of crickets, water, utensils and squirrels, in fixed intervals







Areas where there is excerpts from the novel in both English and Malayalam.


POSSESSIONS Suresh’s living room was converted into the room of Possessions. The room was semi emptied with only basic furniture left behind. I wanted to transform the room into a bare, prison setting and to remove any object that earlier visitors at Shanthiroad would have connected to. The room of Possessions had things Basheer talks about in the


novel, laid out for people to touch, feel and taste. When the visitor enters the living room, he is asked to leave his belongings behind in any of the drawers. People obliged without much hesitation. They are then free to decide what they want to interact first in the room.In the background, the sound of squirrels, running water and crickets keep running.

VISITOR’S ROLE In this interactive exhibit, the visitors are first asked to keep all their belongings in one of the empty drawers. They take about 3-5 minutes to put things behind. As indicated in the photograph, one can see how people have left their belongings behind. Some have left it in a hurry without bothering to shut the drawer, while others have neatly organized their belongings before leaving it behind. After they finish the exhibit and come back to collect their belongings, they find something which is a take away from the exhibition.


SOUND The sound of squirrels, clinking of utensils, water and then crickets constantly play in the background.

VISITOR’S ROLE A few of the postcards are already filled with love letters that well known people wrote to their respective sweethearts. People spent the most time on this exhibit in this room. While not everyone wrote their own love letter, everyone, however read almost all the letters.


SOUND The sound of squirrels, clinking of utensils, water and then crickets constantly play in the background.

STATIC EXHIBIT On the glass table counter are a set of matchboxes and a blade. Some of the matchsticks have been split into two.


STATIC EXHIBIT The set-up depicts the arrangement of utensils in Basheer’s prison cell. The primary intention of this exhibit is for people to merely look. .


VISITOR’S ROLE All the elements placed on the table are edible. It is set in a way that invites people to come and eat it. The deck of cards was removed from this spot after the initial show. The glass jars are also representative of the time period Basheer wrote his book.


Visitor interacting with the exhibit



THE COURTYARD We wanted to preserve the functionality of the space as it was. The beauty of the courtyard lay in how people would informally gather and hold conversations. Over here, I wanted it to be a collective sharing experience. The table that was usually there was removed and replaced with a low table. The chai, beedis and playing cards were kept on the table. When the visitor enters they see a man already sitting at the table. He invites them to come and play a game of cards with him. He offers them


chai and talks about mundane things. He talks about things to the point where the visitor leaves just because of pure boredom. Post the opening run of Friday, we felt as though the role of the man did not work in the way we wanted it to. Also, it felt redundant when we observed people inclining towards participating without an invitation. So, the element was moved to the end of the courtyard and the table of ‘ Love’ was replaced in the center.


1 - Interactive Exhibit, Touch 2 - Interactive Exhibit, Touch and Taste 3 - Static Exhibit 4 - Static Exhibit 5 - Static Exhibit (NOT PART OF EXHIBITION)



Water falling in a plastic bucket, live sound





Areas where there is excerpts from the novel in both English and Malayalam.





VISITOR’S ROLE The words of lovewas a personal favourite. It had the maximum number of people interacting with it. The words that were on the table were jumbled up from prestructured sentences. What was interesting was how each person made


drastically different sentences compared to the person before. The sentences were also kept the way it was till the next show, so that the next person sees the sentences the previous visitors had made.

VISITOR’S ROLE The actors in the scene invite the visitors to sit with them and play a game of cards.


On the second day, it was moved towards the open side of of the courtyard.

STATIC EXHIBIT The text talks about how Basheer planned to escape by tying his dhoti, towel and bedsheet together to make a rope and using it to climb over the wall. While it is not intended for people to touch, it invites people to come and look at what is on the other side. 133

THE GALLERY The gallery had the last five exhibits. When they enter the gallery a projection of the water falling is the first thing they see. As they move further, they can hear the voices that seems to be coming in two directions, The passage to the door is blocked by a curtain, and a TV is visible in the corner. There is a wooden


bench with a red rose and twigs facing a wall on which a shadow of twig can be seen. The text from the book talks about how Basheer used to throw twigs when he wanted to call Narayani. The bench invites people to take a seat. From behind the shadow, you can hear a voice urgently calling out. The store room inside was

converted into Narayani’s personal chamber, which stood for Identity. And just when you are about to leave, the room of Death reminds you what actually waits for someone at the end of every journey.



1 - Static Exhibit, Projection 2 - Interactive Exhibit, Sound 3 - Interactive Exhibit, Sound and Smell 4 - Static Exhibit, Video 5 - Static Exhibit, Smell








Voice of a man


Areas where there is excerpts from the novel in both English and Malayalam.



Visitor interacting with the exhibit

VISITOR’S ROLE A sign indicates that the visitor can sit on the bench. There is a fresh rose and some twigs next to the corner of the bench. The text tells you how Narayani and Basheer used to exchange gifts by throwing them


over the wall. The window frame has a shadow of twig and you hear hushed voices coming from the other side of the frame. Not only did visitors try to look at what was behind the frame, but they also threw pieces of twigs over the

wall. SOUND The voices were in varied volumes to give the illusion of movement and as though someone is calling out the name Narayani with great urgency.

STATIC EXHIBIT n the space divider, one can see the projection of a water drop. The sign asks the visitor to wait till the water drops before he can move forward. However, the water drops at a slow pace, in a painfully slow manner. The video is to make the visitor uncomfortable and anxious, with the idea of waiting for something that is about to happen, but its happening is beyond their control.


CHAMBER OF NARAYANI The storage room in the gallery was converted into a private room, hidden at first glance. What draws the visitor to this rooms is the faint sound of voices and the subtle smell of what seems like roses and jasmine. The room is dimly lit. There is a table spread with objects that you see in a woman’s dressing room. Glass


bangles with beauty products lie on the table, as though someone just came back home and left their belongings behind. The text on the walls read ‘ Do you promise to love only me ? There are far more beautiful women here.’The voices asks you to come closer and inhale the smell of a woman that fills the

room. The rooms takes you inside a part of Narayani’s world. Or rather, my interpretation of who Narayani is. Narayani is a fantasy, a figment of imagination. Her existence even in book is devoid of any physical form and exists only as a voice and a sound.



STATIC EXHIBIT The glitch on the screen plays a small ticker which thanks the visitor for being a part of the exhibition. The way to exit is just beyond the curtain. In the last space which was converted into a room, there is quote by Basheer about death which is on the wall. In that


two minutes till the exit, a strong smell of camphor envelops the person.

The last text the visitor reads before they leave


B.2 VISITOR FEEDBACK A large number of visitors were from the visual arts or theatre background, falling into the age group of late twenties to early forties. There was also a noticeable percentage of first year Journalism students from St. Joseph’s collge. The number of people not connected to the visual arts or theatre were very few in number.

The most important thing when it comes to design, art, theatre or be in any field, is sensitivity. We must learn to be sensitive to everything around us, even if it a piece of paper. It was pleasant to see that sort of a sensitivity in your exhibition, but always know you can push yourself for better. I liked the projection of the water drop falling. said C. F John, Artist

Your exhibition reminded me of h.g (Hansel and Gretel) that happened in Bangalore earlier this year. Of course it was bigger and more professional. But keep working, you will get there someday! said Anitha, occupation unknown

I loved Narayani’s chamber. I actually felt as though I was being privy to her innermost thoughts. The smell in that room really completed the whole aura about the room. Strangely, though I could not understand a word, the Malayalam voice spoke to me more than the English version. I could feel more emotions in the Malayalam voice. The courtyard could have used more sound. said smitha cariappa, artist

Shanthiroad is a very familiar space for me. I have been here often and seen it used in a wide variety of ways. But there was some transformation in the space, the way some nooks and corners were used were very interesting and it sort of made me feel as though I was in a new space. said harshika, theatre practitioner

Most of the visitors from the theatre background were aware of the story after watching ‘ Under the Mangosteen Tree.’ For them, the story revolved only around Basheer and Narayani, and how they talked to each other over the wall. They connected with a lot of elements within the exhibition and linked it easily when compared to the rest of


the visitors. Quite a few of the visitors asked me for a copy of the English translation so they could read it. Interestingly, only one person pressed the need for a pamphlet before the performance that would have the entire story of the book. What I found even more interesting was that the person was a Manager in a bank and was completely unrelated

with visual arts. Most people did not feel the need for a pamphlet, either because they were familiar with the text or because they were content with their own interpretation of what the text could be.

Overall, the feedback from visitors was very positive. What resonated most wiht them was the sound. Many of them mentioned they would have liked more sound experience. A film student said the idea of 360 degree sound would have worked well. Some of visitors had conflicting views as well. Since the objects were open to be touched and moved around, very often when a later visitor came, the objects would have been


displaced from their initial position. One particular visitor mentioned that it would be have been nicer if the exhibit was well composed while another gave an opinion that what they enjoyed was knowing the fact that the way the objects were placed was because of the fact that someone before them had placed it this way. She enjoyed the fact that the visitor before had kept the objects in that particular manner.

What I found positive was how the visitors questioned some of the installations. Particularly with the words used, they wanted to know how it fit in with the idea of the exhibition. In their own way, people had already started connecting the book to Basheer and they left with the word that they would go back and read it.


After doing 11 continuous shows, many more possibilities arose that I could have worked with. I felt that the space could have been explored further to transform it even more. While designing the exhibition, I was focusing mainly on the larger element. Instead, an interesting approach would have been to look at the smaller elements within the


space. For instance, there are multiple staircases at Shanthiroad which could have been used as a part of the exhibition. As my mentors pointed out, there is a line between having a good experience and turning that experience into something magical. What if, when the visitor looked

through the hole in the wall, they saw a woman running into the other building ? Doing an exhibition like this gives me the possibility of working on it further and with different iterations. For the future, I would like to take this project further and see how it can adapt to different spaces.



I started out this Graduation Project with a lot of skepticism. I looked at design and theatre as two different and independent streams. I was aware of immersive environments and design, but I came across the field of immersive theatre only after I started delving into the field of theatre. From there, I started pondering over the similarities between both the worlds. Once the project started, I realised that theatre practitioners have almost the same process when it comes to a play as an exhibition designer. Space and visitor/audience are the key elements in both the fields. They both focus on ‘directing’ the visitor in terms of what they see, what they feel, how they move and how much they get to see. Both the fields are strongly grounded on a narrative, which they express using different mediums. Both exhibition and theatre derives meaning only in a certain context at certain point of time. Their existence cannot be expressed through writing or drawings. They derive meaning only when the element of space comes into the picture. For me, the biggest advantage that I see in both theatre and exhibition design is how with every iteration, there is addition of a new element. Every time the


audience watches the play again or the visitor goes for the exhibition again, a new experience is created for them. They may not necessarily feel the same way as the first time and most of the time, they derive different meanings. It also gives the designers/ directors a chance to change things if they think it is not working. As a field, both of them have a long shelf life, some plays travel to many places and run for years, just like exhibitions. Theatre practitioners have a strong understanding of movement in a space and body in relation to the space. They look at other elements like light and sound to create a sense of movement and not just as supporting elements. In my five months, I learnt to cross the line between making an exhibition and making the exhibition and experience. Four years in NID has sharpened our skills given us an edge over others. As a designer, we can play multiple roles in creating a performance piece and have a sense of pleasing aesthetics which comes naturally. Where I found design playing a crucial role is in the exhibition designer’s understanding of narratives. What would add value to

a piece of performance or a play is adding a subtle layer of information. As exhibition designers, we are well trained to assimilate and abstract information and create various forms of interesting narratives.

Working in a theatre collective was also a very different experience. Just like in most productions, working with Sandbox Collective was all about being quick on your feet and in thoughts. There was more focus on enacting a certain part or trying it immediately. Design decisions were almost always up to me and when it came visuals, I had the freedom to do what I wanted. Being in this field for a long time, my mentors were well aware of what is new, what works and what is interesting to explore in the field of theatre. As a project, it has broadened my horizons about what is happening in the world and a whole new area of art and design that I was unaware of. It has given me a very concrete path which I would love to pursue in future.


BIBLIOGRAPHY Organs without Bodies by Slavoj Zizek Performance Research, Volume 2 Exhibition Design by David Dernie Performance Arts in Switzerland Transformative-Power-of-Performance


IMAGE CREDITS Page : Photographs of Queen Size, Robert Desmond, Nidrawathwam, C Sharp C blunt : Sandbox collective

Photograph of Marina Abramovik : Artist_is_present_-_MoMA_(4423713664).jpg

Page 20 Photograph of Hans-Ulrich Obrist : https://

Page 32 Photograph of h.g : Trickster

Page 21 Photograph of Slavoj Zizek : Page 22 Photograph of Erika Fischer Lichte : Page 23 Photograph of David Dernie : maxresdefault.jpg

Page 33 Photograph Exhibit B : AFP PHOTO / FRANCK PENNANT (Photo credit should read FRANCK PENNANT/AFP/ Getty Images) Sofie Knijff Page 34 Photographs 66 Minutes in Damascus : Page 35 Photographs of Sleep No more : Alick Crossley for Punchdrunk, Photograph of Then she fell : Chad Heird, Third Rail Projects

Page 25 Photograph of Marina Abramovic : post/27574191167/the-art-process-performanceart-performance-art

Page 41 Photographs : Perch, Chennai

Page 26 Photograph of Marina Abramovic :

Page 41 Inside Shanthiroad Gallery Photos : 1, Shanthiroad

Page 30 Photograph of Marina Abramovic : video/445751682_1280x720.jpg

Page42, 43 Photographs of Basheer : Perch, Chennai

Page 42 Photographs of Workshop : Karthikeyan Gopinath Photograph of Raum-Zeit Pirtein : Tobias Daemgen

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Please note: All photographs belong to the author unless otherwise specified




30213, A Performance Installation