Kachra Seth was an extension of our engagement with the site, DLF Dilshad Garden extension area. We created a fictional character ‘Kachra Seth’ and took him just outside of the DLF area to the main road near Seemapuri bus depot. Across the road is Ghaziabad, and the other side is earmarked as Delhi. Both sides of the road is the slum area where rag-pickers’ families live, surviving on the filth in the centre. Kachra Seth walked through that filthy passage in the middle of the road, dressed as a king, with lotus bud in one hand and a mirror in the other. Walked as a king ‘jahanpanah’ (as people called him) and adorned that filth. As Kachra Seth walks and observes, he enters an MCD toilet an anxiety was generated by his disappearance for 2-3 minutes, and he comes out with a full-blown lotus. The other was when Kachra Seth hugs the sewer pipe like a lover.
The jubilation of people seeing a fancily dressed man walking in that mix of animal flesh, dung, garbage, polythene, and shit, created a carnivalesque atmosphere, where Kachra Seth was being laughed at, and sometimes taken tragically. This was his observatory, a physical location. His presence asserted the site as a domain of power and paraphernalia, which had counter-reactions also from the local youth who were demanding attention. Multiple occurrences in that performative space were catalysed by as well as simultaneous to the main event. It was an everyday space that came to be inhabited not just by those who regularly use it, but also through the gaze or participation of those who passed by during the performance.
The carnivalesque element of the performance is a possibility that the site of the performance; i.e. the street allows. This celebration of a sort became point of formation of instant communities within the public domain—where fissure, suspense and wonder produced different sets of responses from the people attending it, people who claim that space, people passing-by that route, and people who had come for the performance. Carnivalesque and formation of instant communities are the two characteristics that re-define the function of belonging in case of Kachra Seth performance, and lead us to question of imagining who the public is for a work, or accessing public knowledge. Perhaps entering into an ambiguous terrain of work-in-public or public-in-work, is also where ‘artist’ is the most vulnerable entity.
AN EXIT HAD TO BE DUG INTO THE REAL TIME. KACHRA SETH IS FERRIED AWAY.
by Inder Salim, http://www.artconcerns.com, October 2010
The marked space for performance was already littered with garbage, but it also happens to be a garbage sorting space for a colony within Seemapuri ( Seema=boarder). There he dressed himself as a King, with a lotus bud in one hand, and mirror in the other. He then moved into a toilet for public use, and came out with a full blown lotus in his hand. He then moved toward the black thick pipe which lifts drainage from the sewer, and hugged it, like a lover. He then moved towards more garbage.
The incessant rain had already mixed chicken feathers, dead animal flesh, coloured polythene and mud. There was a small mosque, a road full of vehicles, and a police post, and that point also leads to UP. As a King’s ghost, the artist was in narcissistic mode, and therefore, unable to register the terrible/unhygienic conditions ofDelhi’s Seema (periphery).
This is the first performance organized by the group WALAS (say bijliwala, doodhwala, boxwalla etc) initiated by Akansha Rastogi, Paribartana Mohanty and Sujit Mallick, who intend to continue with more such attempts in coming days ( I hope, nights as well). After the performance, they served the guest and other artists with a Samosa and a glass of Pepsi while sharing the comments on performance. It was wonderful, a very unique effort, since nothing like this has ever happened across the River inDelhi. I am personally very excited about this great beginning.
The audience has made it happen in many ways than one. When Sujit (artist) entered this public-make-shift-toilet, he made a point that even a King too has no choice here, but to use the same toilet, almost dysfunctional, put there by the corrupt Govt. You can always see if there is someone inside or not. In this MCD toilet some doors are missing, and some are covered with tattered jute, and some with nothing.
But the artist moved in with a lotus bud, and returned with a full blown lotus. Most of audience missed the nuance, but those who noticed the transformation of lotus must have found it quite humorous. I was simply delighted to see its layered meaning and profundity. The audience waited in anxiety outside this toilet for few minutes, for the King (artist) to come out. That was a very dramatic moment, echoing almost cinematically about the phenomenon of the King always attracting people. Everybody was curious to know what the king is doing inside. A boy actually went up on his toes to see, but that was the moment when the King stepped out.
At the start of the performance, when children jumped in to form circle around the artist who was entering his King’s robe, there was a questioning in the audience. “ is it some film shoot?” some one said “ is it about the garbage here?” The politics of this area is that people living here don’t want to highlight the areas as most dirty (which it is) because of Garbage. The Govt has already started to grant contracts to companies to lift the garbage from city, but that move is automatically rendering thousands of families unemployed inDelhi. They claim that they sort the garbage and enable it for recycling, while as the companies simply lift it and dump it outside the city, which is not environmentally friendly.
So, the local mood of audience was different at two points, one who were little unsure about the real purpose of the performance, but thought vaguely about garbage problem in the area and therefore, happy if the area is cleaned. And the second who feared the act might finally lead to highlight the unhygienic ambience of the area and the subsequent grant of contract to company to lift the garbage which will automatically render them unemployed. There were very strange elements in the audience, which created some stress to the artists who was compelled to talk during the performance.
The most interesting point in the performance was the hugging of big black circular pipe, with lotus in one hand in front of a pond of stinking mud. One cannot stop thinking about the intrinsic relationship between lotus and the mud, and the desire to hug his beloved in the garden next to a pond full of lotuses.
Everything was so poignant, when he moved away from the pipe and strangely someone from the audience brought a green tree twig and held close to the King.
Quite a green hopeful ending…