This a story about Her trying to reduce You to art.
You’re still as a silent something. I have to capture you before you vaporise. Exact thoughts as You in this story drifts away on a little cloud. Or something vaguely cloud-like. Must reach out and grab and bring back. To submit you to paper, to reduce you to word on a screen—it’s possible, but it won’t be accurate. It will be as skewed a perspective as any that could be formed. But since we’re living with misinformation and uncertainties anyway, the She in this story has decided to commit her memory of you to something concrete. What can she do to commemorate you?
Sculpture is hard. To get the exact shape of your eyebrows in a sketch will be difficult. Words are insufficient, but words are all we have. So words they shall be. A hot breeze is the first sensation associated with your memory. But I don’t know if that says anything about you. I don’t really know how I know all of this anyway. This is the problem with a hyperselfconscious omniscient narrator.
As it were, this is a story of Her trying to reduce You to art.
And as hard as she tried she couldn’t reduce You. How to best capture the faint little laugh that you did on certain occasions? The casual hand wave that indicated you were done talking about Something. That vague, elusive Something. And what about Her? What about the time when She exploded into a million little Hers, and they scampered away almost immediately? Her take on things will naturally form part of what She is trying to do here.
But I will stop being clever. I didn’t start this to feel smug and smart (maybe a little). The story here is about people. As all stories are. Sometimes you get that vague realisation that all of us in all our complexities will be gone. And our little magics with us. There is no way that all of your personhood will remain. If you are one of the lucky few, that are written, painted, dreamed about and remembered, even then, only a part of you remains—the vaguest shadow, the briefest glimpse of the flowing and changing complexity in you.
But we can try to catch hold of some of the drifting, flickering little bits, just as they are about to leave, or remain dormant in your memory. We may grab them. Lasso them in. It’s a violent gesture, but it is the one we have, and it’s only one that allows for that unchangeable You —partial truth mostly untruth. But what to do with a person reduced to art? Marvel at them? Play voyeur?
Of all the generations of people that have walked here, why would they want to know about you?
I don’t know, but I did. I wanted to know you. In fact, I am reaching out across representations of you through time and space—physical and otherwise. I am trying to touch you. Just our fingertips meeting would be enough for me. Anything to have known something of what it was like to have known you in the Present.
That is why I am telling this story.
Because I am so far removed from you that you exist to me as something that is between my mind and the world. You exist as if you didn’t, or sometimes you don’t exist as if you did. Your pain is less real to me than it ever was. This isn’t about me though.
This a story of Her trying to reduce You to art.
And she’s bent all the lines, blurred everything there is to blur and distorted and simplified and reduced reduced reduced. Yet that essence floated away on something cloud like before this story even began. She reached out and tried to pull you down. She held on to you as long as she could, but she needed the other hand to write. Eventually with a sigh, she reluctantly let you float away. And you’re still there, with other forms and floaters. Now I become Her. And this becomes a different story.
This becomes a story of Me trying to reduce you to your essence.
by Tanvi Joshi
Art – Shaunak Phadnis