Artist performs against rape at Delhi art fest


New Delhi: Nagpur-based sculptor and performance artist Surbhi Bhattad began her month-long performance art here Saturday to protest gender abuse and rape.

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She is performing at Dilli Haat in south Delhi and at Great India Place Mall at Noida with an act “Does the Glorious Movie Scenes Inspire You To Rape?”

The performance is a body act featuring the young artist, who lies on the floor like a corpse at a crowded public venue. She is clad in white with a leather chastity belt strapped to her groin. The chastity belt – shaped like a woman’s pelvis – has a screening device around the pubic region that beams footage of popular “rape sequences” from eight Bollywood blockbusters with the message, “Does this inspire you to rape?”

Bhattad will perform at the two venues for three hours everyday to challenge onlookers to react to the footage.

“The performance is difficult and disturbing because the footage sends different vibrations in my body. It makes me cry. It involves a certain amount of risk,” Bhattad told IANS after a performance at Olive in the Diplomat Hotel here Friday.

The reactions of the audience, who had to look at her pelvis to see the videos, ranged from outrage to trauma. Most of the male viewers admitted to feeling “confused” and “humbled”.

The performance has been inspired by the artist’s intervention work with “victims of gender and child abuse” in Nagpur.

“I have been speaking to women who have been sexually and psychologically abused. Bollywood movies have been a trigger in titillating libidos and reckless behaviour among the lower middle social segments, where education and awareness are yet to make incursions,” Bhattad said.

The artist said “she found it easy to engage with her body in carrying forth the gender message”.

Bhattad’s performance has been described by critics as an eye-catching exhibit among 15 works of multi-media public art across 15 venues in the capital in a new project “Publica”, which opened Saturday morning for a month.

Designed around the theme, “Spectacle”, the exhibits highlight “pollution, road accidents, body building, changing play spaces in cities and yoga” by three international and 12 Indian artists.

The venues include Indira Gandhi International Airport, DLF Emporio, Promenade Mall, India Habitat Centre, Dilli Haat, Select City Walk, The Great India Place, Garden of Five Senses and Sabyasachi @ Carma fashion store in Mehrauli.

The festival is being supported by the Delhi government and Ho Ho buses which will touch the venues in a special festival run everyday.

Publica has been curated by the Floodlight Foundation led by Delhi-based arts entrepreneur Surbhi Modi of the S.K. Modi Group, which has been promoting Indian art at international venues like Tate Britain, House of Lords, Kensington Palace, the Guggenheim in New York and Ueno Royal Museum in Tokyo.

“The festival is trying to embed appreciation and understanding of public art into everyday life and use arts as a tool to build awareness,” Modi said.

The S.K. Modi Group manages the Institute of Fine Arts with support from the University of Arts, London, and the Prince’s Drawing School, London.