Work and statement by CHITRA GANESH | Fall 2015 | Print Only
She the Question was originally published as a 24-page comic book that was commissioned in 2012 as part of a large solo exhibition of the same name at the Gothenburg Kunsthalle in Sweden. The comic is part of a larger body of work inspired by images from the Amar Chitra Kathas, a comic book series for children created and published in India. The series, which is distributed around the world, offers religious and mythological narratives based on South Asian history and religions to a popular audience. Like Grimm’s fairy tales, Greek myths, vampire stories, Bible stories for children, and popular folklore, Amar Chitra Katha comics provide prescriptive models of citizenship, nationalism, religious expression, public behavior, and sexuality.
Growing up in New York City, having visited India frequently, I was an avid Amar Chitra Katha reader. I began to draw upon these images because I feel how potent a collectively shared set of visual images can be when they are reconsidered. These comic fragments were submerged in my deeper memory banks, and were haunting in ways I couldn’t understand until I saw them again with adult eyes.
I construct each comic frame by merging pen and ink drawings with appropriated fragments drawn from the Amar Chitra Katha compendium. I then write a new textual narrative for these images to create a fragmented and surreal narrative structure. I’m interested in the mythological form and how it enables the formulation of questions that seek to articulate who we are, where we are headed, what specifically constitutes humanity, and how we might come to terms with a cyclical relationship between creation and destruction, or death and life. My aim is to create a mythology that poses questions rather than giving clear answers; one in which ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are no longer constitutive categories organizing our worldly experience. Abject imagery and disjunctive narratives interrupt traditional storytelling forms, offering alternative articulations of conflict, desire, and power. In contrast to the traditional epic monomyth structure, which centers on the hero and his journey, my works feature women as protagonists in their own right, actively articulating their pasts and shaping their futures.
My works often integrate image and text to offer parallel visual and written narratives that occupy a singular frame. In this process, I hope to provide an opening of sorts - a third story or position which the viewer may inhabit, a dream which the viewer may step into and walk down the streets of so that my viewers and readers may share in the subjectivities of, and questions posed by, the bodies that inhabit my work. While the text in my work is inspired by stacks of books I borrowed at the public library, it is inspired in equal part by everyday mark-making such as graffiti, as well as the scratch and scrawl on the walls of public girls’ bathroom stalls - meditations in their own right on sex, longing, desperation, resonant song lyrics, self-loathing, self-love, violence, and transcendance.
Chitra Ganesh is a Brooklyn based visual artist recognized for her experimental use of comic and large scale narrative forms to communicate submerged histories and alternate articulations of femininity to a broader public. All images courtesy of the artist.
Issue Six is our second in print, and features work by Cristina de Middel, Afabwaje Kurian, Chitra Ganesh, Jayson Musson, and more! Issue Six also comes with limited edition supplements:All of Them Witches, a 32-page risograph-printed comic re-interpreting 1950s Harvey Horror comics, plus volume four of our comics section, Early Edition!