Monument of Arrival and Return
Monument of Arrival and Return, 2016
2 mins 20 secs (excerpt, 9 mins 37 secs)
Single-channel video, sound, colour
Commissioned by Contour Biennale 8
With the kind support of the Gujral Foundation
'I am interested in exploring my position as an artist by adopting multiple roles including: an author who writes narratives; an initiator who sets in motion collisions of people and improvised scenarios to create original stories; as an observer who teleports in or out of the everyday situations he is observing to see intimately: from within and from without; and a withdrawn subject, at times, such as a disengaged onlooker on a main street. In my recent work for Contour Biennale 8, Monument of Arrival and Return (2016), I have attempted to withdraw from the direct making of the film, instead positioning myself as a dramaturge setting up a scene where the protagonists – a group of railway porters and luggage carriers (locally referred to as 'coolies' in keeping with the British colonial expression) – are invited to engage and improvise with a set of domestic objects and personal items. I remotely produced the film with a local crew in Lahore, Pakistan, who received a series of sketches and narrative instructions while remaining far away from the actual shoot, and only later received the intuitively performed footage as a 'delivery package' to carry out the editing process. My own journey as filmmaker thereby, becomes inscribed by the longer history of the movement of coolies ('Kuli') who were transported as indentured labor during the British Empire across plantations, industrial units, shipyards, and railway platforms. Today-wearing red shirts bearing sewn numbers-the porters at Lahore's railway station continue to wait for the rumbling trains to arrive, then call out and rush toward incoming travelers to transport their belongings from the stone-laid platforms to the asphalt road outside.'