Translations: Between Images, Words and Movement

The ability to explore multiple subjectivities if only for a brief time is refreshing and enriching. I had the opportunity these past few months to step outside of my studio practice and engage in a couple of inter-disciplinary collaborations. One was with movement and the other with words. Both were special and revealing in many ways. It is amazing how many connections one can draw by merely looking at the world through a different lens. Our materials and modes are a medium to converse, connect, collaborate and add to the richness that surrounds us. 

Dance and movement:

Dara Larson, a fellow artist and I were approached by Sumana Mandala, the creative director of a Bharathanatyam (classical Indian) dance group- Stage Sanchaar. She wanted to create a dance production along with her fellow dancers from Austin, Texas, inspired by our artwork. The theme chosen was "change" in all its permutations. My works Archetypes and Negotiate were included and reinterpreted in a different context and it seemed like they found new meaning when juxtaposed with movement and music. The end result was a multilayered conversation on how we all choose to navigate change.  Moving bodies, stomping feet, geometrical poses and mudras (hand signs) combined with the rhythm of vocal dance notations and music seemed to envelop the small theater with energy. The connection between all the bodies in the space- audience and performers alike, was palpable and powerful and came close to what could be described as an "art-happening".


Usha Akella an exceptional poet and long time friend asked me to collaborate with her on an upcoming magazine issue she was co-editing. This particular issue is based on Ekphrastic poetry by diaspora poets. Ekphrasis is in itself an inter-disciplinary construct as it asks the poet to respond to a visual artwork. After sending out calls to several artists and poets in the Indian diaspora, an issue on Muse India, an online literary magazine was published. Perusing through the issue, looking at visuals and poetic responses I am so impressed by the potential of such collaboration between artists and writers.  

In both these instances I am struck by how "craft" can be used to communicate. Whether it is coded movement or word-smithing, each practice relies on a certain "language" or skill specific to their particular discipline no matter what the subject is. It was interesting to see line, shape, color, composition, balance, rhythm, symbol - all recognizably visual tools to me, being used by dancers and writers. As a visual artist, I was stunned at the height an idea could reach when given free reign regardless of the medium we choose. 

"Collaboration" is an area which is often discussed in recent years, especially in the visual arts. These two collaborations reminded me of true potential. As artists we often struggle to retain our voice and we know conceptually that we need to let go of authorship once the work is out there in the world and let it connect with the audience. However, it is rare that we actually see the results and the power of how an artwork impacts and grows within others. I feel grateful for these opportunities which gave me an insight into how the audience views my work and actually experience creative responses to it. 

Here are links to Stage Sanchaar, Muse India: diaspora issue, Dara Laron's website:

Stage Sanchaar

Muse India: Literary Journal

Dara Larson

Embrace: A conversation about change (dance performance)
Nirmal RajaComment