What do you want?

What do you want? features five female artists who are living in India, working amongst a new generation of artists with political/activist concepts. Challenging popular cultural opinion, contemporary political issues and controversial social situations, the artists use photography, performance, objects, video and new media to analyse problems faced by Indian women and those living within traditional family structures.

Programmed as part of Asia Triennial Manchester 2008, the first ever UK Asian Art Triennial.

Further details can be found on the Exhibtion details page (left hand side menu).

Acting as a catalyst to help communities to communicate with each other, Shaina Anand (Mumbai) has previously empowered Indian groups, such as traditional market traders, to produce their own television programmes. She will present video projections resulting from workshops that examined Manchester’s “surveillance society”. The workshops opened the doors of some CCTV control rooms in Manchester in order to undertake surveillance sessions. Participants were encouraged to discover more about the eyes in the sky that observe people’s movements, and understand how these CCTV systems work and the data they generate. .

Working across formats including interactive digital installations, video, sound and photography, Shilpa Gupta (Mumbai) returns to the North West having previously exhibited at the Liverpool Biennial in 2006. Shilpa Gupta continues a series of work called There is No Explosive in What do you Want? with a new piece of work using objects confiscated from passengers at Manchester International Airport. The work attempts to restore innocence to ordinary, everyday items taken from their owners in a climate of political fear by upholstering them in white fabric and spreading them across a table for the viewers’ inspection. Earlier work using items from Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai also forms part of Gupta’s contribution to the exhibition.

Jasmeen Patheja’s (Bangalore/Calcutta) Blank Noise project rallies against the trend of “eve teasing”, the phenomenon of commonplace sexual harassment of women in India’s public spaces. Revealing behaviour ranging from verbal remarks to groping, Patheja discourages passive acceptance of these activities and organises groups of women to show their opposition. By stenciling pavements with details of the offence at the very spot eve teasing had occurred, wearing “What are you looking at?” t-shirts, exposing the culprits on the internet via the Blank Noise blog and by staging “take back the night” events on street corners heavily populated by men, the artist is active in giving women in India a voice against the oppressive behaviour of men. In Manchester, Patheja engages with local women’s groups who may have similar stories to tell, recording details of their experiences which will then be available for visitors to play back on headphones.

Tejal Shah (Mumbai) presents What are you? Using the medium of film, music and photography, she offers insight into the communities of transgendered individuals (hijra) living in India, some of whom support large families on wages gained from working in the sex industry. Grating with the perception of India’s conservative social climate, it is possible to have an “E” stamped on an Indian national’s passport to identify people as hijra, creating a third gender considered neither male nor female. What are You? begins with a mirror that projects the viewers’ own image back at them. After encountering their reflection, and having an opportunity to briefly consider the artist’s question, the second confrontation comes in the form of a video installation stretched across two large screens exploring the physicality of the hijras and their manipulation of their own gender.

Surekha’s work focuses upon the contemporary relation between the body and natural elements like fire and water. Examining unnatural deaths amongst women in the city of Bangalore it is fire and water, or drowning and burning, that are the recurring causes of these deaths. In one video work the characters traverse Between Fire and Sky – depicted via a two channel video-installation in which a female is hop scotching across a blue sky and fire. In another piece, Three Fragmented Actions of Silence, the image is graphically altered with scratches, blending and superimposed images, using technology to further explore gender issues and make violence unthinkable.