YOGA IN EVOLUTION

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The 2016 edition of the Art+Science Residency, The Undivided Mind, hosted by the Khoj International Artists' Association in New Delhi, invited six artists to develop ideas at their studios around the theme of 'Health' . The intention of the The Undivided Mind is 'to bring together artists and scientists as equal partners, with an aim to create a space which pushes the boundaries of scientific research and creative expression.'

I. THEME

The theme of the 2016 edition of The Undivided Mind is Health. Within this broader framework, artists have been responding to three intersecting curatorial frameworks defined within Health systems. Terrestrial Health refers to that which is on, or related to the earth. It suggests an investigation into the physical health and structure of the body (both human and animal), the environment, the community and the interrelations between these spheres. Mental Health refers to that which is of or relating to the mind. This sub – theme focuses on a psychological investigation of what constitutes Health of the mind and raises questions about the ‘socially’ defined state of well-being; where issues’ surrounding the legal rights and entitlement of personhood, for those living with a mental disorder is open for debate.  Finally, Extraterrestrial Health may refer to any object, being or idea beyond the planet Earth. This sub – theme opens up a space where the relationship between Earth and other planetary bodies can be studied. What does it mean for human existence when sending human life forms to Mars is projected to take place by 2020? What are the long term effects and solution to space debris if life projects out beyond Earth? -Khoj

II. IDEA

Mohan Polamar (an exponent of Iyengar yoga, artist & climate change consultant) and I collaborated on an idea envisioning the future of yoga, its practice and relevance in the not-so-far future of interplanetary travel and advanced climate change:

Yoga in Evolution will work with two assumptions: one of them being yoga is an evolved form of physical practice; and secondly that the humanoid form is an efficient form of biology, no matter the galaxy. With these fact-based assumptions, we will trace back the origin of yoga through visual observations founded in the present, as if the present embeds the past and the future will divergently travel into the past and the future to explore the yoga in them.

By re-discovering the art in yoga we intend to set free yoga of its esoteric and recently developed fundamental underpinnings, and pave a clear path to guide humanoids on earth through climate change and space travel.
Raja Ravi Varma's rendition of the mythical saint Dattatreya (Source: Wikipedia)

Raja Ravi Varma's rendition of the mythical saint Dattatreya (Source: Wikipedia)

III. STUDY OF GROTESQUE

If by adding two additional arms to a human we invoke the feeling of Grotesque, then there must be a point where grotesque becomes the new normal. David Lynch explores in detail in his film 'Elephant man'. There were main clues to this ephemeral human condition of identifying with the Grotesque. Why is the elephant man grotesque? Why are the Hindu gods not?

The aesthetic uneasiness of Khirkee and its surroundings creates a landscape for a photographic exploration of the mundane and the grotesque. In the fleeting moments of affection interspersed with grimy dark corners we look for a their possible interplay. A fictional character meanders through these spaces letting us observe how a string of grotesque can survive an environment of sensitivity and practicality.

We made photographs during different times of the day and night, building a narrative of a presumed future form inhabiting the spaces as they were. Mohan adorned a contraption that simulated two additional arms and wandered the narrow alleys of Khirkee.

The photographs represents the exploration - both in terms of what the neighbourhood felt like and the aesthetic of a futuristic form in these everyday spaces. The photographs were printed on translides and displayed as a running strip over two backlit LED panels.

 

IV. INSTALLATION

This installation Upside Downside Evolution is immersive, experiential and performance based. Ideas that will challenge the concept of being human and human evolution in this period of accelerated climate change will be introduced both directly and vicariously. This technozoosemiotic installation was discovered from within the practice of yoga philosophy bringing together bio art, neuroscience, robotics and quantum mechanics.

As climate change ravages the earth the option of interplanetary travel becomes urgent compelling us to train our focus on technology related to space travel. This effort is a seed that will transform human to a super human and accelerate the inevitable inter planetary human dwellings.

Installation at the Khoj Studios, April 2016 (L to R): 'Spaceman to Superhuman' video projection, 'Astopleb' and the exploration of Grotesque.

Installation at the Khoj Studios, April 2016 (L to R): 'Spaceman to Superhuman' video projection, 'Astopleb' and the exploration of Grotesque.

Spaceman as Superhuman (Video projection, 0:11s)

Spaceman as Superhuman (Video projection, 0:11s)

At this moment and for some time to come the definition of a super human will fit the astronaut. In space every concept spins on its head. Flying like superman is not being super at all. The challenges of this superhuman are immense and often unimaginable, Losing bone density, eye sight and muscular strength are just a few. The experience of picking a simple object such as a pen in space and on earth is not the same and in fact they cannot be compared at all. Fundamentally weight needs to convert to resistance in zero gravity and the practice of yoga here on earth is based on just that concept. This makes yoga an ideal place to look for solutions to suit the environment of the superhuman.  

Experiments in the 'Tub of Loss', a sensory depravation tank.

Experiments in the 'Tub of Loss', a sensory depravation tank.

During the residency we simulated weightlessness by making a sensory depravation tank and experienced the loss of body and explored the resulting change in the mind.  A piece called “Tub of loss” will embody the experience vicariously.  We conducted thought experiments to empathise with the physical movements of the astronauts simultaneously conducting a kinematic study of asanas. This effort led us to an object and idea that is ideal for exercise in the International space station. This said object does not figure in the installation but the idea will be presented in parts called ** 'Astropleb' and 'Spaceman as Superhuman'. As the process matured with events and discussions around the residency the human reaction to grotesque stayed on as a crucial idea to explore which we did with photographs and called it the 'Elephant man'. 

 [** 'Astropleb' was made in Bangalore by Ankit Shekhawat who heads the medial lab at Moonraft.]

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