Saturday, November 17, 2018

Notorious Rowdies

Notorious Rowdies” – a series of performative photographs by Clare Arni – first exhibited at gallery TARQ, Mumbai in 2017. The term ‘rowdy’ has a particularly evocative quality in South India. The ‘rowdy’ is an unsavory character, an outlaw, with a strangely alluring bravado. Clare Arni’s fascination with the figure of the ‘rowdy’ began a few years ago while scouring the crime beat section of a local daily, the Deccan Herald. This captivating section carried sordid tales of the nefarious activities of local gangsters, many of whom carried cryptic and outlandish aliases like Dairy, Chicken, and JCB. The crime beat section and its sensationalist reportage style were for Arni, an echo of the garish aesthetic of film posters that are plastered across Bangalore, the city she calls home. The posters glamorized violence, with larger than life characters in ludicrous scenarios.

Fascinated by the specific persona of the ‘rowdy’, Arni began toying with the idea that perhaps there is violence and drama in all of us; a rowdy under the surface, waiting to leap out. She began her project by photographing friends – fellow artists and writers – in various modes of the ‘rowdy’. The participants were asked to delve into the inner life of the rowdy they had chosen to embody, creating elaborate backstories and crime sheets. What began as a fun project has turned into a series of performative photographs that are simultaneously humorous and macabre, with an aesthetic reminiscent of a low budget film. They unearth the dark fantasies of the subjects while also serving as a mirror to the universal voyeuristic fascination with violence.


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