Moving The City #1
By on Thursday, December 1st, 2016

Short film by Sheba Chhachhi with input by the HERA SINGLE Project: The film creates a metaphoric sketch of the negotiations of body and subjectivity that single women in Delhi make as they traverse the city, crossing borders of class, caste and neighborhood.


Moving The City #1

Video, 5 minutes 30 secs, silent, 2016


About the Video (by Sheba Chhachhi):

The city of Delhi. A young woman performs a series of physical movements and actions, drawn from yoga and dance, in different urban situations: on metro stairs, road dividers, inside a mall and in the thick of traffic. Her actions slip between ‘normal’ movements and unexpected ones, incongruous yet natural, eliciting a range of responses from other inhabitants of the city.

The film creates a metaphoric sketch of the negotiations of body and subjectivity that single women in Delhi make as they traverse the city, crossing borders of class, caste and neighborhood.

The city provides contradictory cultural images, a symbolic environment populated with fantasies of autonomy, sexual assertions, erotic bodies, often produced by market driven ‘consumer feminism’; offering a transformation of the familial body into a potentially altered body that allows for new explorations and possible subjectivities, new forms of desire.

However, this is fraught with contradictions: the ever present danger of sexual violence in Delhi, and the reassertion of normative gender roles via a patriarchal State to name just a few.

The gendered nature of physical space based on the demarcation between private and public space, seeks to regulate women’s movements in urban space. One of the characteristic features of contemporary urban Asia is in the increased fluidity that marks the boundaries between private and public space, especially for single women.

This work examines the interstitial spaces of these boundary crossings, marked by both assertion and precarity.


About Sheba and her involvement in HERA SINGLE:

Sheba Chhachhi is a Delhi-based artist whose lens based works investigate gender, the city, cultural memory and eco-philosophy, often drawing on pre-modern myth and iconography. Chhachhi began as an activist and photographer, documenting the women’s movement in India, moving on to immersive multimedia installations in both site-specific public art and independent works. Her works are held in significant public and private collections, including Tate Modern, UK, Kiran Nadar Museum, Delhi, BosePacia, New York , Singapore Art Museum and National Gallery of Modern Art, India.

Sheba has been an important associate of the HERA SINGLE project since its inception. She has participated and contributed to all public conferences organised by the SINGLE Team, in Shanghai (2014) and Delhi (2015), where she reflected on art, activism and image regimes in the Indian public sphere, and discussed artworks from her practice that examine urban ecologies. At our final conference Leiden, Sheba presented her installation ‘Record / Resist’ at the concurrent exhibition, Precarious Lives at the Museum de Volkenkunde, along with two artists from Shanghai (see here). Further, she has been in conversation with Christiane Brosius around her art works and practice as part of the project leader’s research on autonomy and women’s protest in Delhi. In 2016, Sheba spent six weeks in Heidelberg as a visiting scholar where she exchanged roles with the team and investigated us and our research results. Interested in the overlaps and interdependent relation between the subjectivity of us researchers and that of our informants, she initiated a process of reflection about our personal experiences during fieldwork. Through conversations, group discussions, email exchanges and excerpts of recordings, she mapped aspects of the figure of the researcher herself as a single woman negotiating the city. These insights, her own understanding of women in public space in Delhi, as well as material drawn from our informants were transformed into a short film that was first presented during our exhibition at the Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde in Leiden in September. We are delighted to have been part of this experiment in research/art praxis and are please to share the outcome in the public domain.

Feel free to share your thoughts about the video with us.