When I saw Mee & Jey’s first few Facebook photo posts wearing weird dresses and gears, I recalled the famous performance artists- Marina Abramovic and Ulay who collaborated on their performances and partnered in life for many years. There are some other famous artist couples who practiced, performed and perambulated together exploring their art and affinity in a world which is in itself a humongous arena of perpetual revues, rigmaroles and rituals.
The duo- Mee & Jey- has transformed that series of weekly posts of being together and enacting playfully in an immense collection and exhibition called I In Togetherness. I consider this series- visually stunning, dramatically enacted and comprehensibly performed- an important and refreshing intervention in the contemporary art scenario in India where such collaborative expression by the couples is almost absent.
In this series- started in 2016- Mee & Jey explores the contours of being together as individuals and as couples. This visual and performative exploration of their joys, insecurities, thoughts and anxieties expressed through bodily gestures and material gears becomes a profound process of self-realization as well as of catharsis.
What interests me most is the multiple layering involved in the preparation of this entire series. Experimenting with their material is an obsession-turned-into-norm for all artists. First, the duo conceives an idea and ponder over. Then, they perform and document- in words and digitally. The selection is out on social media. The audience is varied, so are the reactions. Then the week next, and so on. 52 weeks, that is a year.
Afterward enters a third artist- Rajesh Kumar Singh, the photographer. Reenacting, re-documentation, retelling, the repeat of those performances again and again. Also, count the time in between and experiences and, the continuous ongoings of thoughts and reviews within and among the involved persons. And, not to miss, the words curated as the text accompanying each part of the performance documented, recorded and digitally printed and mounted on the wall. The end result- the photos- is important, but it gains its hallo from all these layerings of the process. The curation of all this as an exhibition is done in a manner that adds another layering, and Ritesh R must be congratulated for this.
It is also interesting to note the artistic endeavors, travels and professional as well as academic pursuits of Mee & Jey. The varied nature of their creativity and quest has a definite presence in the I In Togetherness. Here I must underline their refusal to relate to any ‘ism’ or grand connotation of artistic or intellectual ideas. This takes them to the realm of the Post-Modern. This might be a conscious effort on their part, or a naive denial. But, while denouncing the historical narratives, one very much practices a kind of reaction, that can be termed as a meta-narrative. In this way, it is an impossibility to get out of the ambit of ideologies. Any quest- artistic or political- cannot shun the world-view of its own or others. We find meanings in the midst, on the corners and on the margins of this immense interplay of the world-views.
Sometimes we may need to go out of the frame to find a context and underline a connection. Very much like this series where a text is pasted with every photo which supplements the frame, but is outside, but also part of the whole, and also autonomous. Art is a response, an understanding, an expression which needs to be revalued and revalidated through articulation. That articulation may look jarred, jargonistic or jested, but still they are part the discourse/s. Art, too, resides within that circle.
However, the duo- Mee & Jey- must be congratulated for this feat. And, I am sure that their exploration will be intense with time and manifested through future exhibitions. A small suggestion: Add the prints of Facebook posts where this series appeared initially.
(Published somewhere on Aug 16, 2018)