Tejal Shah

Extending Arts Practice

Grant Period: Eighteen months

Visual Artist, Tejal Shah, works with video, photography, sound, installation and performance. Her research-based praxis is often layered with multiple references, with a political focus on moving the periphery into the centre. Her early work amalgamated the politics, codes as well as formal tropes from mainstream pornography and BDSM culture to queer politics and Bollywood’s traditional negation of female desire. She has exhibited widely in museums, galleries and film festivals, all over the world. In 2003, she co-founded, organised and curated ‘Larzish’, India’s first international film festival of sexuality and gender plurality. She recently completed her MFA from Bard College, New York, and lives and works in Mumbai. With this grant, Tejal aims to create a multi-channel video installation that explores the liminal spaces of inter-being through the use of text and dance choreography. This will enable her to extend her practice from overtly identity-based political works to explore a more nuanced enunciation of the human and animal condition in the present ecological environment. The video’s characters will belong to a poly-gendered species whose sexuality being multifarious, are ‘impelled to metamorphosis’. She will address issues around interspecies through the contemporary references to mythical creatures like the unicorn.

This is the first time Tejal will work with choreography, text, and the specialisation of sound to produce an all-encompassing installation with sound and multiple videos, which was adapted to the site at which it was displayed. Tejal will first conduct research on various texts and documentation relating to interspecies dynamics, understanding animal movements and behaviour and how they were incorporated in popular culture, traditions and ritual practices in different mainstream as well as indigenous cultures with special emphasis on performance. She will also look at existing ritual or religio-cultural practices that included within their structure gender transformation. She will begin with producing the film by shooting at transitional areas within a metropolitan environ where indigenous eco-systems have evolved, such as the municipal garbage dump in Deonar, Mumbai, and the marshes and banks of forgotten rivers in the city like the Mithi River originating in Powai, and the mangroves in Mahim, Versova and Sewri. This will be followed by a shoot at Dholavira, Kutchh, where she will use the history of seals and depictions of encounters between humans, gods and beasts, as a background to explore the idea of a mythical cross-species being a reality.

Rehearsals with dancers and performers will begin simultaneously. The final stage of the project will involve post-production work including editing, mastering, sound and graphic work, animation and colour correction. The project will premiere at Documenta 13 in Kassel in 2012 before travelling to various venues in India such as Project 88 in Mumbai.