• Video and installation by Utsa Hazarika
Performance by Nooshin Rostami
• TIFA Working Studios in Pune, India, 2016
• Link to the full video
• The dresser used in this work is a vintage piece of art deco furniture, traditionally associated with women’s appearances and the idea of femininity. The artist’s performance subverts the dresser’s connotations with the objectification of women’s appearance and the internalization of the misogynistic ‘gaze’. It reclaims the agency of the female subject by acting upon the dresser, instead of the dresser’s gaze acting upon the female subject; it goes against the expected passivity implied by the arrangement of the dresser and the seat before it.
By dismantling this arrangement, and by using the various parts of the dresser in ways they are not intended to be used, the performance undoes the dresser as an object. The video is based on the installation Dresser (an instance of object), which draws on the philosophical works of W.V.O. Quine, who dismantles object-oriented ways of seeing and thinking by looking at objects as things that ‘happen’, rather than as things that ‘are’. Breaking the unity of form, of both object and video, allows us to look at them as instances or occurrences of their scattered parts.
The title of the video, Nazar, has various associations in Farsi, Hindi and Urdu, including vision, sight, to look at, perspective, point of view, the evil eye, opinion and to keep an eye on. These associations bring together a sense of ‘active looking’, or a sight or vision that also ‘acts’. In the context of this work, it also references a critical ‘way of seeing’ beyond the physical form, which is implicit in the dismantled dresser, its subverted gaze and the reclaimed agency of the female subject.
The installation, Dresser (an instance of object), on which this video is based, is documented here: