Nandita Raman b. Varanasi, India, works with a range of mediums including photography, video and language. Her work has most notably been exhibited at Franz Josefs Kai3, Vienna, Center for Documentary Studies, Duke University and Columbia University. Her cinema hall photographs will be shown at George Eastman Museum in fall 2017. She curated the group exhibition “I need my memories. They are my documents” at SepiaEYE, NY. Raman’s work has been published in Harper’s Magazine, Conveyor Arts, The Sunday Guardian, Marg Magazine among others. She has taught in City University of New York and International Center of Photography and is a graduate of the Bard College-International Center of Photography MFA program. She is a recipient of Alkazi Foundation’s Documentary Photography Grant for her ongoing project Letters to Alice, Bill and Allen.
Letters to Alice, Bill and Allen is an ongoing project consisting of drawings and photographs that are my letters to journals of Swiss artist, Alice Boner (1889-1981); poet, Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997); and American photographer William Gedney (1932-1989), written during their stay in Varanasi (Banaras) between 1935 and 1971.
I’m moving through the city, wishing to reclaim it, to make this heady and almost mythical city my own. How do I experience my body as I traverse the city full of female deities but where women are conspicuously absent from public spaces? “The form of the temple, all that it is and signifies, stands upon the diagram of the vastu purusha.”1 Vastu refers to the physical site and purusha means person and refers to Universal Man. Even though earth is considered female, as soon as a land is bought the vastu purusha is ordained the symbolic custodian.
The three journal writers, Boner, Ginsberg and Gedney dealt with body in their work. Boner was fascinated by body in action. She deconstructed Indian dance and sculpture using grids. “India is a place of direct contact,” wrote Gedney. The way Indians sit “involves much more physical contact with their own bodies.”
Having lived away from Varanasi for more years than I have lived in the city, I find myself to be somewhat of an outsider. Being a woman adds to this peripheral position in spite of the cultural fluency. As I delve into this project I’m using the journal writers’ voice as a counter perspective to my familiarity.
Artist website: nanditaraman.com