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July 17, 2017

What Makes Film Researcher And Video Artist Pallavi Paul Such An Insightful Observer?

Text by Zaral Shah

“The biggest challenge is to keep oneself from being reduced to an approval-seeking worker”

As a film researcher and video artist, she imagines her own work and life to be entwined with the world and its rhythms. On her artistic practice, 29-year-old Pallavi Paul says, “To work around a given set of circumstances always determines my work. Therefore, as and when they start mutating, so does my approach. I am largely interested in thinking about poetics and ethics.” She examines language and its influence on social identity — adopting a documentary style and working with non-fictional material.

An admirer of German film-maker and author Harun Farocki, her videos explore themes of “fantasy, resistance, politics, and history”. Pallavi studied literature before getting her master’s from A. J. K. Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia — which gave her the skills to begin her experiments with storytelling. She has been an artist in residence at Khoj International Artist’s Association in Delhi, the Vancouver Biennale and Delfina Foundation in London. She is also the recipient of several prestigious fellowships, including the Charles Wallace India Trust and Inlaks Sivadasani Foundation.

While her newest work, a three-channel 42-minute film, The Dreams of Cynthia, is one she found technically, emotionally and intellectually difficult, she says, “The biggest challenge is to keep oneself from being reduced to an approval-seeking worker. To do this, works should be abandoned when they are strong enough to fend for themselves in the world. Even as I say this I know it is the hardest to do.”

Pallavi’s early independent video works Nayi Kheti and Shabdkosh were displayed at the Tate Modern in London, and she has also shown at the Edinburgh Art Festival and Experimenta India film festival in Bengaluru. At present, she is pursuing a PhD in cinema studies at JNU and working on a commission with the Wysing Arts Centre that will be shown at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

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