Preethi Athreya’s 'Inheritage' is a unique multifaceted exhibition

Tracing a history with objects that we inherit and/or acquire, contemporary dancer Preethi Athreya’s multifaceted exhibition is one-of-its-kind 

author_img Rupam Jain Published :  03rd February 2023 12:00 AM   |   Published :   |  03rd February 2023 12:00 AM
Preethi Athreya

Preethi Athreya

How do we experience time? How does time connect with us? And, how do we pass on our connections to another person or, to the next generation? Born out of intrigue, a deep delving into the past through objects that surround the present, contemporary performing artiste Preethi Athreya set out on a discovery to eventually connect dots that define us. The result is a unique multifaceted performance/installation that she is presenting for the very first time in Chennai.

'Inheritage' is a performance installation that traces a relationship with objects inherited, passed on or lost. Through a choreographic lens, it looks at objects that speak to a cultural and colonial heritage, embodying critical questions of our attachment to ‘belongings’, to the idea of ‘belonging’ and to place. It was around 2020, with the world under lockdown, when Preethi “began looking at all the things I was surrounded by and sometimes, they may not even be functional things but they move with us inexplicably from place to place. I started to trace the history of these objects, and realised that we have to pass through a colonial history, sometimes the history of the world to understand how these objects came into existence and how they made their way to us,” she explains.

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In 2021, Preethi received the Residency from the Camargo Foundation, France. “I went  there for three months, and started writing on the objects. There were 13 objects I had taken photographic images of, and carried some smaller ones with me. During my time there, I wrote, then reflected on some of the writings to see how it would move my body. I continued the work upon my return; and only now that I have gathered enough material, I decided to make a multifaceted presentation,” she shares.

Her writing established some kind of relationship with these objects and how they were an extension of her physicality. She wanted to know if they were talking to her with regards to her own anatomical being. ‘Is the chair an extension of the hip? Is the elbow an extension of the table as I lean onto it? Is the hand part of the book it is holding?’ are some of the questions she constantly asked herself. “I began to write about how these objects were affecting me physically. So the writings trace a history of the object and also the sort of sensation that it is producing in the body, giving rise to some bit of movement. Also, there is a sound score that came from moving the objects,” Preethi further explains.

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At the exhibition, Preethi says, people have to take their time to make their relationship with various elements, which include images, sound, scanning a QR code to listen to a text associated with the images, and there’s also writings in the form of a booklet as well as live movements now and then which she executes.

Some of these objects that Preethi refers to include “a nice Madras coffee  filter which came from my aunt; a leather puppet; a desk bell that belonged to my uncle; my father’s LP player that no one wanted to repair, a smocked night gown my mom gave me when I was in my 30s,” she says, adding, “We have to take agency to articulate our relationship to things around us because they do affect our lives. We need to be able to realise that things co-exist with us all the time and that there is a transactional thing happening. If we are able to sense this in so many different dimensions, we also realise what it is we are surrounding ourselves with which can lead to other choices we make, aesthetically, politically and socially.”

February 10. 4 pm.February 11-12. 11 am to 7 pm.
Espace24, Alliance  Française  of Madras.