Alone, Together: With Rema Chaudhary

Aarushi Zarthoshtimanesh 12th Apr, 2021
Screenshot of Laura Mulvey quote

Just like Mulvey’s words and analysis seem to be aware of the contradictions within their subjects, artist Rema Chaudhary’s work – always changing direction, is constantly breathing life into spaces in unexampled ways and refreshing our perceptions and ideas of what an image or vision can be. 

In the past year of extended isolation, it has been difficult to find a renewed way to palette what we have become familiar with. But, Rema, with the launch of her new photo book titled ‘Alone, Together’, finds hope, play, and vulnerability even within the window of screenshots on her phone.

The launch of the exhibition, ‘Alone, Together’, (at Method Bandra), and the book of the same name, were both interrupted with a state-wide curfew and lockdown. It’s so ironic, almost as if life is imitating art. These intimate screenshots you take of your video calls during the lockdown in the past year, are now themselves going to be in quarantine – how do you feel about that?

It’s indeed ironic but it’s also like an unplanned surprise layer to the exhibit which makes it more interesting for me.

Yes, that intimacy definitely comes across in the images and how they invite the viewer closer, to a personal space that is very personal and a part of your every day – So, where do you draw that line between personal and public, especially within your art?

On that note of traversing these personal emotions- you’ve mentioned in a previous interview that your images are more about the feelings they exude or induce than about the content. So, what feelings or memories do these screenshots take you back to? And how has it shaped your lockdown experience during this past year?

The lockdown for me started with being serially productive and just acquiring new skills specifically in the area of bookmaking. I consciously tried to make a book every other day whether it was photos from my archives or digging into old family albums or just as simple as cataloging my plants. My favourite is one I made lining up passport photos of my family starting from when we were born to now. It’s a visual trajectory of mostly terrible haircuts. 

I guess to answer your question it takes me back to a very exciting time where I saw a shift in the way I look at my practice. The screenshots presented an opportunity and publishing a book seemed like a natural progression to that.

I also believe the scale of the work speaks to a very current narrative, the ‘excess’ culture we are growing in. Other than screenshots, if you had to compile a book of any repeating motifs or symbolic items you’ve ever collected or amassed- What would it be? It could be a nagging feeling you’ve always considered specific to you, a repeating thought, or even an obsession with fridge magnets- anything!

You’ve launched this poignant photo book now, tell us about any other photo books/ books you may own or just love to refer to from time to time. Especially ones that have framed your ideas or sparked your thinking.

I have a lot of photo books that I keep going back to but, over the last year, the ones that I really connect with are the zines I’ve been collecting, with very esoteric subject matters. For example – I have a zine titled, ‘The Weather’ where every page is dedicated to a famous artist and lists out the date they died, how they died, and what the weather was that day, in a very poetic way. It’s like the obituary they never had. Why did someone make this book? I don’t know but I loved it!

Another example is a David Horovitz zine called ‘The Distance of Day’ and it’s a response to a simple question, “If the day is ending in California, where exactly in the world is it simultaneously beginning?” The zine is a product of an installation where there are two phones, side by side one playing a sunset in California and the other a sunrise in the Maldives.

This is the kind of stuff I’ve been inspired by lately. I like the idea of pursuing these seemingly random thoughts and creating something out of it.

How did you find your dialect through photography in a world muddled with constant stimuli thrown at us? I know you studied photography at university as well, so, how did you cut through the immense ocean of influences and external narratives to find your confidence and voice within the work?

For artists, photographers, outdoor-creatives and dreamers, now bound at home again, this truly puts forth that there’s art even in the lock-screen of our phones – So is there anything more you could share about your process of ideating within this project? How do you find ways to keep on looking and creating with what might already be mundane?

You know a friend shared a quote recently on Instagram that I think perfectly describes how I feel about this
“Of all the modern notions, the worst is that domesticity is dull. Inside the home, they say is dead decorum and routine; outside is adventure and variety. But the truth is that the home is the only place of liberty, the only spot on earth where a man can alter arrangements suddenly, make an experiment, or indulge in a whim. The home is not the one tame place in a world of adventure; it is the one wild place in a world of rules and set tasks.”

Perceiving our situations in that way places all of us in such a riveting and exciting time. To be able to travel to a person’s home, from the comfort of ours. To drown in their deeply personal narratives as we are cradled in our own, have their digital curtains drawn open to let us peep in, as they rediscover what it is to frame themselves inside and out. We are eagerly perched on our window screens, awaiting the next sublime and ever-changing journey, Rema Chaudhary and her work always manage to shepherd us through, all alone and all together

Till then you could step into her world through her book available for purchase online, at the Method shop.

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