𝕋𝕪𝕘𝕖𝕣 𝕆𝕦𝕥, 𝕋𝕪𝕘𝕖𝕣 𝕀𝕟
Germans love to hear about exotic things like maharajas and slave dancers, the Indian rope trick, and magic.
Thea von Harbou (1888-1954), German screen writer and novelist.
Recycling selected visuals from the thrice produced film Das Indische Grabmal (1921, 1938,1959) and its second part Der Tiger von Eschnapur (1921, 1938,1959) 𝗦𝗮𝗷𝗮𝗻 𝗠𝗮𝗻𝗶 rediscovers Indianness as an ambiguous cultural construct made in Europe and assembled in India. As an artist living now in Berlin who is local in Kerala, South India, Sajan has been facing the question: “Are you really Indian, we have seen Indians on T.V and they are fairer?” Unleashing his quotidian angst in answer, the artist carefully selects the architectural blunders, cultural appropriation and racial coalescence of exoticization and othering embodied in the film and makes a potpourri of visceral images with videotexts. In his journey, in search of the shooting location, Sajan has come across the nuanced spatial politics of visual representation and the heterotopic transformations of places by time and found the inexpedient footages of Rüdersdorf and its open-cast limestone mines (some of them metamorphosized into museums). The blackened faces of white actors who acted as Indians, as extravagantly costumed maharajas and maharanis, the wooden drama, more than life structures of everyday objects, the representation of the orient encapsulated in sheer ignorance in the film resurface in this work to mirror Europe. Giorgio Agamben observes that animals in anthropocentric world do not die but perish, the tyger of the film that cannot die but perish takes the rebirth of a zoomorphic avatar of decolonial aesthetic as a critique of orientalist visual pleasure. Zooglossia or the language of animals denied by humans, accomplished in grunts, cries and roars in tamed human ears, turns to be a finitude of signification in art at large. Sajan’s attempt is to voice the disarticulated intensities of non-European subjects both human and animal buried muted in the image archives of Europe.
Text by Antony George Koothanady, thinking together partner.