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Chronicle of a pandemic in 458 screenshots

Photographer Rema Chaudhary's new show at Method Bandra is a visual narrative of the covid-19 lockdown

The minutiae of daily life
The minutiae of daily life (Rema Chaudhary)

The pandemic will feed art for years to come. The social isolation, fear and anxiety humans have gone through in this past year, continuing into our uncertain present, is ripe with all the drama and pathos, allegory and metaphor, that an artist could crave, and we are seeing this already in artistic expression of various kinds.

Photographer Rema Chaudhary’s visual narrative ‘Alone, Together’ chronicles her experience during the total lockdown of last year. As a self-proclaimed recluse, the artist expresses her craving for human connection during this time, which compelled her to connect with an ex and eventually became a series of 300 photographs depicting their day-to-day lives in isolation.

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The photos are not really artistic in nature; they are actually screenshots of an always-on video chat, and their scrappy, digital quality adds to the unrealness of the time they depict. “With a glut of screen time, we had become protagonists of our own reality tv show. Some might think of it as excessive, but being watched through a screen is better than not having a witness at all,” says Chaudhary.

“Having our need for human connection met virtually, we felt freed of our anxiety to look for it physically. Although there’s nothing particularly glamorous about the day-to-day, the world beyond the Welcome mat is incredibly intimate and private. There is something very delicate and graceful about the way we move through our mundane routines without us even noticing it, and so, we started noticing it,” says the photographer.

Taking a screenshot is spontaneous and mostly us just telling ourselves, “Remember this,” she says. The photographer and her friend continued this practice for 6 months, unaware of the fact that they were building an archive. Close to 500 shots later, they realised the stream of photos had a narrative quality. “With this arrangement, I take you through a typical day in our virtual support system. What I hope to have captured is not salacious voyeurism but two people fulfilling the very human need of wanting to be witnessed in our most raw and unfiltered states.”

Also read: A Pakistani artist's search for home

Chaudhary is a well-known photographer based in Mumbai. She held her first solo show at Method Kala Ghoda in October 2019, “The Lightness of Being”. At Method Bandra, where the current show is on, setting up the installation involved taping up more than 300 screenshots from Chaudhary's photo stream. “For us, the most intriguing thing about this is that while 3000 km apart these two people learned to live their lives together in the midst of a pandemic,” says a representative of the gallery, an independent creative art space in Mumbai’s art district, Kala Ghoda, and the Bandra outpost.

Alone, Together will be on display till 14 April between 10 am and 8 pm. at Method Bandra, Pearl Haven CHSL, Chapel Rd, Bandra (West).

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