Puja Bahri's Art Blows the Horn by Sushma K Bahl
A shifting focus from the meditative posturing of her protagonists in painted canvases to street vendors and rural migrants featured in multi-media sculptural installations with video work, Puja Bahri's current art scape seems to have trekked through a fascinating sojourn to arrive at the current creative juncture, taking a jump to leap out as an extension of her painterly work.
The three life-size multi-media sculptural installations with inbuilt video works appropriately titled Blow Horn run in a loop.
The people featured are individuals often seen and perceived as non-entities in a crowd - homeless and lonesome stuck at cross roads both on the city streets and their life struggle for bare existence. The voyeuristic characters are all male entities, dressed to the hilt in their colourful overalls and boots; faces fully masked. They have dared to cross the threshold of their comfort zone from rural India attracted by the glamour and glitz of urban metros. They step into the risky zone of traffic intersections, as they venture into the cities, possibly in search of some work and make money, while their women folk are left behind to fend for themselves and the family.
The three men are clearly anonymous faceless marginalized possibly migrant labour. Their oxygen masks look-alike headgear, fitted with running videos replays the medley of sounds echoing the busy buzzing streets of Indian cities. They seem to belong to some otherworldly territory. The traffic signals that cover their faces also hide their identity. Signifying closed mind or the brain switched off, the protagonists' heads are turned sideways. Scared of their surroundings and their dialect, lest they are misunderstood, they are seen to communicate through their body language searching for a way forward amidst the baffling chaos and overwhelming commotion.
They sit there, amidst the chaos and noise, each differently squatting or sitting or crouching, unnoticed by the passersby. Lost in the over populated bursting-at-theseems metro streets, they appear aimless, motionless, breathless, and helpless.
Emotionally and physically drained, they are perhaps searching for some respite and tranquility, away from the traffic- its noise, chaos and pollution. The work also features the loneliness of man in a crowd, in our uncaring money driven metros.
Coated in rich luminescent in-your-face kind of palette-, pinkish red in one, glaring green in another and bold blue as the third colour rather than the normal amber of the traffic signal; the sculptures adorn a somewhat surrealist demeanor with a touch of humour. The figures are modeled through photographic intervention and in fiberglass. The installations are created with built-in videos running in loops. The main characters are seated each on a differently designed and raised platform or stage. The surface of the seats is covered in heavily ornate furnishing with brocade. The contrast between the plush metro life that the rich enjoy and what the man on the street has to live through; is reflected in the composition.
The videos inbuilt into the signals were all shot in Chandni Chowk and feature the reality of the chaos and life in narrow by lanes and streets of India. Recordings of street sounds and voices made over a period of time are manipulated and added to enhance the performance.