The final goal of every piece of art differs largely –– some might be in pursuit of adoration, some do it to provide solace to its consumers, while others create an impact. No matter how big or small, this impact is capable of shifting mindsets and sparking conversations –– in 2021, both these aspects are much more than we could ask for.
French artist JR had said, “Art is not supposed to change the world, to change practical things, but to change perceptions. Art can change the way we see the world. Art can create an analogy.”
These changes in perception are those that can cause one to live a life that is far better than how it has been –– and Indu Antony’s project, Cecilia’ed, aims to do just that.
Cecilia’ed is a public art project that aims to disrupt the ‘normative notions of gender in public spaces’. This is done by using ‘the politics of herd mentality and celebrity culture’. Focused in Bengaluru, this project uses expressive and performative art to turn spaces that were once unsafe into those that can be accessed and used by women comfortably.
At the heart of this project is Cecilia, a lovely woman from Bengaluru who is unafraid and bold. Indu mentions that she has been friends with Cecilia for nearly four years now, and with their mindsets aligned –– in terms of feminist ideology and the will to create safer spaces –– they make for a great partnership.
“I used to see these political rallies and speeches with so much crowd around them –– so I thought, why not make Cecilia a celebrity? I did research on celebrity culture and herd mentality. Cecilia felt like the right candidate, and she readily agreed,” says Indu.
Cecilia collects her own clothes and dresses herself –– the aura of a celebrity comes naturally to her. Using her ‘celebrity status’ as a vehicle to do much more, Indu backs her work with research, outreach and interventions. Having studied enough and more of feminist geography, Indu realised the lack of comfort in spaces for women. She began going to ward meetings and interacting with the community stakeholders. She also set up women’s workshops, printed pamphlets, posters, zines, lithoprints and similar merchandise. The outreach extended to an ‘everyday news channel’ in Kannada and English and was displayed in spaces such as barber shops.
“We would look at spaces where women were attacked, and those corners would be reopened. Cecilia would be brought in a fancy car, she would have a grand entry to the area, a cake was cut, and a whole performance was built around it,” explains Indu.
An aspect of her outreach that is important to highlight is that of collaboration. Every feature of these events were supplied by the locals –– from the tea and cakes, to the microphone and printing, everything was carried out by locals to create a sense of ownership.
The whole idea was to reclaim the ownership that was never offered to women –– where do women go to simply relax and have fun? Whether it is a stroll on the streets or a drink in a bar, no time or area was safe for them. Through an Open Bar, Indu facilitated nights where women could freely and safely enjoy the experience of drinking and being with their friends!
It is amusing how the idea of a celebrity can be used to bring about such alterations in society –– Cecilia herself, with her confidence and oh-so-fabulous fashion style is capable of it.
“I meet her once a week, take a shot of brandy, talk about our lives, and click pictures,” Indu tells us.
Indu’s excitement when talking about Cecilia is enough to indicate the latter’s nature –– eccentric, jolly and always up for a chance to dress up. Without her presence and spirit, all attempts at outreach and interventions would fall flat. As the soul of the project, and with Indu’s invaluable planning and execution, Cecilia’ed is more than simply art –– it is a means to allow women their autonomy and confidence.
We tip our hats to Indu and Cecilia –– working on-ground for the welfare of women in a creative manner is no short of impressive. Indu’s smart application of regular ideas to extraordinary causes and Cecilia’s vibrant presence are a match we are in awe of.
Indu mentions that her art is not here to make overnight change –– just knowing that certain people were positively effected by it and gained from it is a lot.
She says, “I do not hold the power of ‘I will change you’ –– that is very problematic. I can start conversations, and I will. I am very happy with even helping just one person.”
Art may not change the world, but Cecilia’ed has helped better individual lives, and for them, that is just enough.
Find Indu Antony here.
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