I write this post in retrospection. In April, I enacted my first performance titled ‘What cannot be said, will be wept’, that summarized my year as a Masters student at University College London. Doha. The performance was directed to touch many levels of my personal interaction with the Qatari culture, my education in one the best universities in the world, and my physical and emotional boundaries. Caught between the migrant masses from South Asia and the elite expatriate community, I tried to revert to my original identity by questioning the notions of rejection, labour, physical pain and loss of dreams. The performance included a song at the beginning, followed by cleaning the gallery floor and a short reading from my journal and culminated with a song that inspired me to see through a difficult phase in my life.
After performing and looking back, I have learnt to respect actors and their profession. The performance required weeks of preparation as I tried to get into a character that was in contemplation, hurt and at loss. Unknowingly, the character took over me, and led to midnight walks all by myself, smoking a couple of cigarettes and consuming endless cups of tea, followed by loss of appetite and lack of sleep. Playing the guitar took prominence in preparation for the big day and small cleaning routines to get the back in shape. During the dress rehearsal, I realized how difficult this would be for me- as I broke down again and again, unable to fulfil the rehearsal. If this would to happen in front of my colleagues, it would, maybe, open a Pandora’s box of questions, that I was not looking forward to face.
Before I go on to the text for the performance, written by Sonia Brewin, a short note on the aftermath. I was physically and emotionally drained out after the real performance. Lost, I wandered, until finally I broke down on the way to the airport- tears that did not stop. After reaching India, my back gave away, something that I would afraid off. After the painkillers gave away, there was a week-long agony of immobility and depression, which sank me even further. Without realizing, the two-three period saw a loss of five kilos of weight that was noticed in Delhi. With immune shield gone, blood tests resulted in high sugar and thyroid disorders. A throat infection that fails to leave me left me speechless for weeks.
Why did I share that? For me, it was the extension of the performance, something that I did expect to happen. By the time I got back on my feet (much to family’s delight), a month had passed and lost. Acting is not easy and this experience made me realize so. But then, do we really act?
Thank you Sonia Brewin Mueller, John Mcnally, Louisa Brandt, Alkindi Al Jawabra, Neha Thakar, Dr.Karen Exell, Dr.Trinidad Rico, Giorgio Piga and Christto & Andrew for your support. This performance is dedicated to you.
Note by Sonia Brewin Mueller:
Set in the rarefied space of a gallery, Amit Jain’s performance is about making sense of a year exchanging his family life in India for new encounters in Doha. His capacity to communicate the stimuli of this year is scrutinized through the construction of this art piece.
As Indian, Amit has observed that he is part of a demographic that is the largest in Qatar yet within the arts and culture is hardly seen or represented and yet in other capacities is seen everywhere.
From 2013 – 2014, Amit has been witness to a wide variety of experiences as a tourist, student, educator, friend and curator and he has also during this time considered the existence of men in an urban space that anonymises them through their labor.
The abstraction of this thought is his solo performance of silent, deliberate, crouched labor, cleaning a gallery floor. He commands scrutiny and invokes that the audience produce meaning from their own vantage point.
Performance art where the artist is a builder of ideas, cleaning away latent cultural dialogues, ushering in new concerns is an exciting way to address and embody ideas and by passing on the baton of consideration through his performance, Amit exchanges the gesture of cleaning the floor of a gallery for a deep catharsis of another kind and Amit in so doing concludes his year in Qatar, constructing one last cultural memory to take home.