Art That Moves: Kausik Mukhopadhyay at Chatterjee and Lal, Princess Pea at Sakshi Gallery

There’s a playful quality in the art shows currently on display at two neighbouring Colaba galleries, Kausik Mukhopadhyay’s Squeeze Lime in Your Eye at Chatterjee and Lal and Princess Pea’s Sunshine Ceremonies at Sakshi.

Kausik Mukhopadhyay, Chatterjee and Lal, MumbaiSqueeze Lime in Your Eye at Chatterjee and Lal
Viewing Kausik Mukhopadhyay’s show is a bit like walking around the workshop of a novice engineer. Someone who has recently got the hang of circuitry and is so overcome with joy, he takes apart every appliance in his house to rejig the components as whimsical machines. Mukhopadhyay, who teaches at the Kamala Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute for Architecture in Mumbai, has put together a collection of weird, useless machines that suggest a childlike fascination with DIY engineering. His enthusiasm is almost palpable and he manages to communicate and even imbue the viewer with his sense of wonder over science.

A tripod with spidery legs is the base for a rotating screw and fan. The contraption looks like a windmill powering a lethal-looking object. A cloud-shaped metal plate partially conceals the complicated machinery behind a pulley system that lowers and hauls a metal beaker. A shell of a camera twists periodically with a mechanical whirr. A strange edifice composed of watch parts, wires, hooks, a water tank and a little baby doll strapped to a seat looks like a mad inventor’s flying machine.

Some of the objects are set to timers, and appear to come to life periodically with loud, jolting sounds. A red rotary dial telephone shrieks like an alarm every few minutes. A contraption made of a pen hooked to an outdated printer comes on to create a pattern on a rolling sheet of paper. Little assemblages of cogs and wheels culled from the entrails of various objects start to move, making grinding noises.

Viewers might recall the movies of Michel Gondry, which celebrate homemade inventions; Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, an expression of the writer’s fascination with machines; Rube Goldberg‘s cartoons of comic machines; and museums of automata in the West filled with wind-up toys that reflect that the eighteenth and nineteenth-century preoccupation with machines in Europe and America. Squeeze Lime in Your Eye also brims with nostalgia for the 1980s and ’90s for most of the objects belong to those decades. There’s a table full of old, boxy computer screens; shelves of electronic bric-a-brac like intercoms, keyboards, hand mixers and floppy disks.

The exhibition is divided into sections titled ‘Father’s home’, ‘Mother’s home’, ‘Green home’, ‘Music lovers home’ and ‘The cloud home’. The artist’s love for technology began at home, this suggests, before the digital age consigned these objects to archives and the heaps of electronic detritus in Chor Bazaar.

Squeeze Lime in Your Eye will run until Saturday, February 25 at Chatterjee & Lal, 01/18, Kamal Mansion, First Floor, same entrance as Hotel White Pearl, Arthur Bunder Road, Colaba. Tel: 022 2202 3787. Open Monday to Saturday, from 11am to 7pm; Sunday, closed. Get directions here.

Princess Pea

Sunrise Ceremonies at Sakshi Gallery
Princess Pea was born out of weight issues. The Gurgaon-based artist, who prefers to withhold her identity, began performing as the giant mask-wearing Princess Pea in 2009 after years of listening to folks pass comments on her sister’s and her bodies. Her sister is plump, she is thin. Sunrise Ceremonies, her show at Sakshi Gallery is a series of photographs of the artist in a variety of mise en scenes doing mundane things like walking on the beach, adjusting a shoe in a car park, making tea in the kitchen, gazing out of a window, sitting on a rock. Some are whimsical poses. For instance, there are several images of Pea hugging a tree.

The idea of donning the mask, which has a large pair of eyes and pea-like spheres on either side signifying hair, is to skew the proportions of her body. The thought behind doing ordinary things looking like a Pokemon seems to be that one can be comfortable in one’s skin no matter what one’s body type is. And that all shapes are beautiful. This last thought is suggested by an exhibit of wooden doll-like figurines with pea-shaped heads and bodies in various geometrical shapes, which recall old-fashioned kids’ toys.

Few of the images have people. In most, the artist is a solitary figure, implying perhaps that overcoming complexes attached to the body is a lonely struggle. Or perhaps that the artist is a contemplative person who likes to keep to herself. One of the works is an installation that invites viewers to literally get inside the artist’s head. It’s an installation of the Princess Pea head, elongated to accommodate two openings. You stick your head inside one of these to watch a film screened on the surface of the installation. The film is of Princess Pea walking through fields and meadows. Periodically she turns to look at the camera, as if to signal she knows you’re watching her, and then continues her solitary stroll. The performance could easily be gimmicky were it not the melancholy mood evoked by the images. There’s a sense that even though Princess Pea performs routine actions, she’s somewhat trapped in her oddly-proportioned body.

Sunrise Ceremonies will run until Thursday, February 23 at Sakshi, 6/19, Second Floor, Grants Building, Arthur Bunder Road, Colaba. Tel: 022 6610 3424. Open Monday to Saturday, from 11am to 6pm; Sunday, closed. Get directions here.

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