When Words Fell
Video, 13 mins. 1998
The video stems from an old text “Laws of Manu”, where pages of the text defining a woman’s position in Indian (Hindu) society are punched out and used as ‘bindis’, along with ‘bindis’ bought from the market.
“Strategies of empowerment are also seen in Varsha Nair’s video. Body marks accorded to women to mark rites of passage are appropriated and self-administered to negate the socialising values which the marks ordinarily signify.”
Joanna Lee, catalogue for “women about women”, Singapore Art Museum. 1998
In Varsha Nair’s video When Words Fell, a text (an unknown albeit familiar cultural reference to me) describing the different cultural attitudes to the birth of a boy or a girl is read out and made visible to camera. The lower cultural expectations of joy and happiness for the girl are slowly deconstructed by the video performance of the artist as she carefully and exaggeratedly decorates herself with a multiplicity of dots to become ‘Kali’ rather than the stereotyped sub-ordinated ‘traditional’ woman and by her handling in one frame of the book itself – indicating her mind as well as voice analyzing the text’s assumptions and the measure of difference from her own life.”
From Katy Deepwell’s essay Critical Texts; Aesthetic and Political Sub-Texts, in the publication Text & Subtext – Contemporary Art and Asian Women. ISBN 981-04-2718-2