Three Departures

Three Departures, 2006

Monali Meher

Sinopale 1, “Thing”
curator: T. Melih Görgün

Using the physical spaces, inside and outside the prison, the stagnant, mysterious and nostalgic energy, motivated me through various actions to reflect and create temporary installations in these significant architectural spaces of unique character.
My focus was on abandoned objects such as a bus, mattresses, trolleys, iron beds, and spaces like staircases, courtyards, doorways, and entrances to manifest performances.
I created performances titled, ‘Three Departures’- one departure each day for three days.
Each ‘Departure’ was a still action, almost frozen in my attire on the different locations of the prison.


*First Departure

Duration 3 hours

I stood on the top of the bus wearing an Indian saree, outside in the courtyard of the prison.
The abandoned rusty bus had not moved for a long time. By using this as a metaphor of an otherwise moving vehicle to escape, in this case, it was motionless. Therefore I stood on it dreaming – waiting to be moved.
I created circles around me by turning 45 degrees every 15 minutes to have different views like the seascape, hills, prison building and, trees. I carried an umbrella which I open now and then to protect myself from the hot sun. The Indian attire was intended to feel familiar with the culture, and find similarities to deal with my homesickness or nostalgia. The stillness, concentration, focus, and state of mind are the prominent factors of this action.


*Second Departure

Duration 3 hours

Outside in the courtyard with trees and a stonewall with an inbuilt arch in the background, I installed an iron bunk bed. I arranged many small plants on the top layer of the bunk bed and lay down on the lower part of the bed without a mattress. I had a salt heap under my head as a pillow, and a coal heap underneath my feet. I used salt and coal as cleansing components in this ritualistic action against the negative energy, thereby transforming into the positive energy of the body and space.
At the same time, I experienced a kind of end or feeling of death while lying on the metal bed.
Unexpectedly, the weather became rough and stormy with the hard, cold wind blowing. My body felt stiff in one position for three hours long. There were moments I felt numb, asleep or was I dreaming?


*Third Departure

Duration 3 hours

People from Sinop were very curious and enthusiastic to take part in the Sinopale activities such as performances and workshops.
I decided to transform the last action, ‘Third Departure’ into a participatory activity.
I chose a big hall inside the prison with a staircase disappearing into the wall, symbolizing a sort of dead-end.
On the opposite side of the wall, next to the entrance to the hall, was a video projection of me sitting still in the park. Thus the ‘stillness’ appeared in this mediated image, where not much happened except the sound of birds, people, and passing traffic in the background.
I talked about my first two departures which was translated into Turkish by Suna Suner (performance artist). This followed with a cooking activity where people helped with washing, cutting, and cooking. We made a simple meal with rice and vegetables using Indian spices. All the people participated in the cooking activity and enjoyed the delicious food afterwards.
There were spontaneous activities around the cooking process such as, discussion about spices, singing and flute music. The sound of cutting vegetables, smoke, and the smells of the food filled the space with a familiar feeling of warmth and homeliness.
Through this ritualistic act of togetherness in the prison, the ‘Third Departure’ was created of a different kind and through another level of communication with a new culture through a very simple activity of daily living.