No Marks...in a No Marx World-Pari Baishya’s Performance at Cart Wheel
by Johny ML
At Cart Wheel Archives Project Space, New Delhi, young artist, Pari Baishya does a performance titled ‘No Marks’ in order to critique the desires and anxieties generated by the beauty industry.
No Marks...Pari Baishya is really concerned about the body marks, birth marks, skin irritations and all other indices marked on her by the society.
Young Pari Baishya who is a third year painting student from College of Art, New Delhi, uses her body as the medium for message. According to her, painting is a sort of mark making and body could be her canvas. Perhaps, the teachers in the college would not agree with this young student’s idea of converting her body as her canvas.
No Marks...is a performance that Pari Baishya did at the Cartwheel Archives and Journal premises at Chattarpur, New Delhi on 12th November, 2011. Pari came out before a selected audience in a very small pair of shorts and a pull over. Then she spoke to the audience initially with hesitation and then with some sort of daring.
Pari was talking about her body marks or we should call it the ‘markings’ on her body. Initially she identifies a scar on the right temple and she circles it with a black marker. Then she goes on to talk about the other scars that she recently received from insect and mosquito bites while travelling and camping in the hills. Then she circles each of those marks while mumbling, humming.
The not so large space transforms into a large arena as Pari cavorts in. Then with her limited theatrical props she converts the room into her own personal space. She shows her long legs to the audience while circling the scars with black marker pen and says that she does not have ‘pretty legs’.
Then Pari speaks about her birthmarks. One is on her bosom that she circles out. Then she has one on her back that she cannot reach and one from the audience circles it for her.
Immediately after that Pari realizes the need for removing those scars from her body. She takes out a cream, which, in fact, is a tube of black acrylic paint and smears the ‘cream’ all over the body wherever she thinks she has got stains and scars and marks. Finally Pari does her facial act and turns herself into a black diva. In the meanwhile she gets anxious about immaturely greying hairs. She wants them to be black, so she adds black to those streaks of hairs too.
Then Pari gets up as if she has completely removed her ‘scars’ and asks the audience to click her image till they drop dead. She poses before the audience as if she were showing her bodily assets to a panel of judges.
Pair Baishya’s performance is loaded with ideology and human pathos. Ideologically, Pari wants to repudiate the idea of ‘no marks’. The beauty industry that overworks to turn the world white tells the people all over the world to go white. And the beauty industry makes the people believe that their skins are all scarred and stained. The new age guys would only fall for the white girls with unblemished complexion and smoothness of skin. In short, the beauty industry demands a girl to be extra cautious and conscious of her skin and appearance. She is forced to believe all the time that she is just an ugly duckling and she needs to turn into a beautiful swan so that she could win the hands of a prince who would one day wander into this new forest called ‘urban space’. So she is on a perpetual wait.
Pari’s performance is a retaliatory one. She scorns at the demands of the beauty industry and selects the blemished parts of her skin to circle out and tell the world that yes she has got scars on her. So what? Now, in a mock act she smears the ‘fake’ cream on to her body and turns into a black girl, generally a category that has less demand in the marriage, professional and economic market. Here, we have all the reasons to believe that Pari’s rebellious act is to emphasize her ideological positioning against the so called ‘white’; white as the hegemonic power that rules the world and controls the tastes and even prepare the cultural outlook of the people. Pari’s retaliation comes out of her black pride and she by making herself as black as possible tells the world that yes, now she is ready to pose the same way the so called fair skinned models pose before the cameras.
On the other hand, Pari’s act also underlines the pathos of the human beings; especially of those women and girls who perpetually think about their complexion and let their bodies to be the field of desires. When she utters that she does not have ‘pretty legs’, it comes out as a normal and usual psychological response to the self analysis and the ultimate feeling of dejection on the ‘lack’ of prettiness that is demanded by the society in general. Pari, in a way, here acts out the hidden fears and anxieties of a young woman who is destined to wade through the troubled waters of fashion, beauty, desire and eroticism.
This ideological binary and their polemical setting became one of the major talking points in the post ‘Prettiness’ (as a notion had been even etched in the performer’s mind and she was not able to come out) performance session where an all cleaned up Pari Baishya sat before a very concerned and sensitive audience and faced the questions. The ‘pretty legs’ issue came up through the engagements of Sanhita Bhowal, Mrinal Kulkarni, Agastya, Anurag Sharma and John Xaviers as they all emphasised the issue of this binary (being a part of the ideological drives of the beauty industry and at the same time being critical of it to the extent of being a rebel and smearing herself with black colour). They argued about it.
In short, their criticism was on the lack of political edge or awareness that Pari Baishya as the performance artist displayed while speaking on this pressing and urgent issue, which in fact was the crux of her performance. But Devyani, a student from the Delhi College of Art said that it was quite natural for a young girl to feel ‘inadequate’ when she confronts her own self before a large mirror. However, when this feeling of inadequacy becomes ‘natural’, their feeling of inadequacy could be ‘natural’, she argued.
However, when this feeling of inadequacy becomes ‘natural’, there is an allowance of it from the individual’s side too. To resist that one has to come out of the whole notion of beauty as promoted and propagated by the beauty industry which is purely inclined towards making profit. A contemporary woman, a conscious, intelligent and rebellious woman should be making attempts of going in and coming out of this situation as looking good before an audience is not a ‘crime’ but the idea of looking good is controlled by the hegemonic ideas of beauty, it becomes a problematic issue which needs analysis, resistance and solution.
Pari Baishya’s performance has the potential to be analytical and rebellious. Though there are no conclusive solutions given through her performance, she hints at the possibility of considering the ‘other’ as the beautiful, the dejected as the acceptable, the displaced as the mainstream, the subaltern as the relevant, the migrant as the citizen, the scarred as the rightful and the stained as the saint.