Sexual harassment in public spaces is a reality for scores of Indian women and transpeople. With an intensity and frequency unknown to most men, this is a phenomena that cuts across boundaries of class, caste, religion, and age. In Ways of Seeing, John Berger says, “A woman must continually watch herself. She is almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself….She has to survey everything she is and everything she does because how she appears to men, is of crucial importance for what is normally thought of as the success of her life."
Women in Indian public spaces have not only the male gaze following them around, but also the nagging fear that they may be felt up, groped or physically assaulted in some way. The Indian Penal Code classifies these cases of physical contact without consent as sexual assault, but our years of ingrained patriarchy and an unsupportive law enforcement system makes these everyday incidences for a very large section of women.
In Traversing Experiences, we reimagined the portable exhibition space created by Goethe Institute BangaloREsident Eduardo da Conceicao for a public space situated at the confluence of metro, bus, and pedestrian travellers below the Swami Vivekananda Road Metro Station in Bangalore. Keeping in mind the large variance in audiences across class, age and linguistic ability we wanted to create a bilingual, experiential installation to ignite conversations around sexual harassment.
Neha Mehta sculpted an experiential walkway, constructed through the hand, the roving eye, and the hoot. She invited men to take a walk into this portal to traverse the gap in understanding the horrifying experience, that many go through everyday. Priyanka K and Heena Pari created a space that empowered, through pertinent information and the call for solidarity. Pieces that collected data about incidences and called out instances of victim shaming aimed to influence further policy decisions and ease the process of reporting.
Conversations during the initial discussion phase, and the final installation phase, opened my eyes to widespread prevalence of harassment across all groups of women. Blindsided by my male privilege, I had never experienced nor been aware of this violence that pervades our public spaces. A deeper understanding of patriarchy, as seen in action in urban public life was my personal takeaway from this project.
Participating Artists: Neha Mehta, Priyanka K and Heena Pari
Curated by: Manasa Raj & Shaunak Mahbubani
Supported by: Goethe Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Bangalore