In this series I am combining historic, British, documentary photographs with personal images of my father. For example one historic British photo void of people, a ruin is complicating by adding an Indian man, my father dressed in Western cloths. This changes the power structure, as these British images of the 1800’s “documented” India as an open-air museum, profoundly in the past, disempowered. As I explore my father’s love of the British Empire and his desire to embody it, I am critically analyzing colonialism and at the same time desiring a discredited history. I find we reinterpret our parent’s lives; their identity is part of ours. I am exploring the politics of representation.
“…At some point it was decided that reality was not the only option: that it was possible, permissible and even desirable to improve on it; that one could substitute a more agreeable product… The replacement of reality with selective fantasy is a phenomenon of that most successful and staggeringly profitable American phenomenon, the reinvention of the environment as themed entertainment” The Unreal America – Architecture and Entertainment, by Ada Louise Huxtable
Federal Series – The Way it never Was – Idyllic bedroom community
- Reproduce a certain era, class – HeyDay of yesterday to Tourism (no preservation, fake , developer) – a selective look at history
- Replica is accepted as genuine and the simulacrum replaces the source
- Illusion fuels the replica of historic nostalgia that caters to tourism that is a major part of our national economy
Boston Post Road Series (Route 1) – Diplomat
- Consumption / Economy – new new new
- Interested in dilapidated – something “real” about them
- Abandonment has its own meaning and message, a direct contact with what once was that disappears with restoration – one of these anomalies with no answer. In the restoration, what you see is what you get and what you get is not what it was.
In this video project I will explore two aspects of my father’s life. First his hopes, dreams and issues of emigrating from India to the United States. And secondly, on a more abstract level, why my father, growing up in British India, takes on the views and values of the colonizer. Specifically for the second exploration I will examine the many meanings of the Taj Mahal and what it meant to my father. And then ask the larger question: how does meaning get manufactured and who more importantly has the power to produce it?
In the first part of this video project I will research my father’s life during graduate school. He attended the University of London for his Ph.D. from 1958 to 1962. As his graduation date approached he was faced with the decision of whether to return to India or immigrate to the United States. After my father passed away I discovered over 50 of his personal letters that I plan to have translated. These letters, mostly written in Urdu, dated between 1958 and 1962 are a correspondence with my father’s family and a few close friends while he was in graduate school. The few that are in English bring up the hardships of my father being in London, working towards his Ph.D. with limited financial resources. They also convey the anxiety he suffered over his family’s demand to return to India for an arranged marriage and his personal dream of immigrating to the United States. I believe these letters will provide a greater understanding of the hopes, dreams and issues that a colonial subject faces while immigrating.
In the second part of this video project I will investigate the many meanings of the Taj Mahal which will raise the following questions. Was the Taj Mahal the ideal symbol of love and devotion or was Shajahan’s intention to create the ultimate symbol of Islam? Has the Taj Mahal become a colonialist subject of appropriation? Was the monument remade, sanitized, exoticized and appropriated by the West? Is it Indian at all? On a personal level I will explore what the Taj Mahal meant to my father as an Indian. Why did he take the Western colonist’s viewpoint of the Taj Mahal? And then why do we as family choose the ultimate symbol of India the Taj Mahal to be in his head stone? How do we remake the meaning of the Taj Mahal yet again?
These two aspects of my father’s life immigration and the colonial effects are deeply entwined, one influencing the other. This investigation will start to explore the paradoxes my father faced as a colonial subject: how the colonized takes on the views and values of the colonizer? And what does it mean to be born in the East and die in the West?
Disney World is the most visited vacation destination on the planet. Annually 46 million tourists visit the Orlando area. In Sarina Khan-Reddy’s series of photographs entitled “Picture Spot”, she explores the perpetuation of the colonialist image, the construction of the exotic, in Disney’s theme park – Animal Kingdom. She asks the questions: What is authentic? What is the role of photography in tourism? What happens when you construct a scene (a spot) for a tourist snapshot? Does this perpetuate the construction of the other? Click here to to review video documentation in Disney’s theme park – Animal Kingdom.
Review: “The Great Game: A New World Order?”, Maverick Arts, Issue #170, by Charles Giuliano
Click on the image to see the full Video – The Great Game: A New World Order?” is a three channel video which explores the new colonization embodied in globalization. Through comparative strategies, the viewer is asked to examine the differences between the current glorification of US war technology, the past glory of the British Empire and the glamorization of the 3rd Reich as expressed in the Nazi propaganda film, “Triumph of the Will”. While growing up under British India, the artist’s father not only loved the British style but was also seduced with its glory. After immigrating to the US, he was very critical of the American imperialist agenda, while maintaining a good deal of nostalgia for British India. Khan Reddy finds herself questioning some of these same contradictions. She raises the questions: Does longing to identify with a discredited history negate the understanding of critical issues? Is the nostalgic fetishization of the British Royal Era the same as the festishization of war technology? (4 minutes).
Sarina Khan Reddy’s latest performance video work is a deeply personal and yet very public as. She engages in self-examination to express her desires, frustrations and ideological views as an American mother and a South Asian diasporic artist. This three channel video performance explores the differences within her cultural identity as an Islamic-American woman where she questioning the dominant ideology around domesticity, hysteria and the body in the West.
She uses straightforward video, setting up a stationary camera and filming herself Sufi dancing, whirling, sensual movement and open eye meditation, braking the 4th wall in film and returning the gaze. She appropriates, short clips from mass media, for example the Brady Bunch to disrupt the meditative performance. She juxtaposes this with her life as a middle class mother raising children, disciplining, and meeting the mundane responsibilities of running a household. Across the three three screens a subversive ticker tape runs, questioning motherhood and self exploration.
Growing up in a dual household with a traditional Indian father and a puritanical, Yankee, reserved new England mother, she later became interested in the mystical aspects of her Indian heritage. She spent over a decade exploring the Sufi tradition as well as becoming an initiate of the South Indian tradition, Sri Vidya and learning the complex rituals associated with it. Both of these traditions emphasis the notion that self-realization is through the body, that exploring the longing and desire buried deep in every human heart is done by opening the heart and letting the body lead, not the mind or ego. In many Eastern philosophies the body is considered the Devine, in the West it is often objectified.
She raises the questions: Can a middle class American mother reconcile the conflict of the culture of a “Soccer Mom” with a deep inner calling to explore consciousness through the body? Does she have time? Will she feel guilty? Can she attend to domestic duties, career, motherhood and inner callings? Does she need safety and certainty? Can we try to live outside or our cultural ideology and its imposed morals?
“The Western Taj Mahal” – This piece explores the many meanings of the Taj Mahal. Has the Taj Mahal become a colonialist subject of appropriation? Was the Taj Mahal the ideal symbol of love and devotion or was Shajahan’s intention to create the ultimate symbol of Islam? Was the monument remade, sanitized, exoticized and appropriated by the West? Is it Indian at all? (4 minutes)
“License to Kill” – This single channel video questions how Pop culture perpetuates colonialists values of created notions of “civilized” through the glorification of violence, visually articulating Edward Said’s ground braking work Orientalism. This piece uses a James Bond theme song and couples it with graphic footage of a constructed colonist scene of a massacre of unarmed civilians who are non-white and wearing turbans. In a historical context it starts to question how these past events have contributed to events of today. (2 minutes)
Click the image to view the video
“The Great Game: A New World Order?” – British Colonial Installation: This installation functions on three different levels. Firstly, to draw parallels between the British Colonial Imperialism of the past and the “New World Order” of today. Secondly, to raise the attention of the passive viewer who may watch documentaries from the comfort of their living room. Thirdly, on a personal level, the artist is looking at her desire for the nostalgic, romantic crafted image of the British Royal Era. She is questioning her reproduction of an era through the sensual atmosphere of a British Colonial living room and questioning the aesthetics of her consumption? The items within the installation are an important part of the artist and her extended family’s homes. Most of the sepia photos are of the artist and her family.
“With Us or Against Us” – This single channel video examines the blurred boundaries between entertainment and the news and the relationship between militarization and the corporate globalization. This piece shifts between footage from the Hollywood blockbuster movie Rambo III and footage in the Oval office of President Reagan meeting with Afghan “freedom fighters” with a subversive ticker-tape at the bottom of the screen. The question of how history is deliberately forgotten is raised through a metaphor of writing and erasing. (5 1/2 minutes)