(1972, Nairobi, Kenya. Lives and works in New York, USA)
(Mixed media installation, dimensions variable)
Courtesy of the Artist and Victoria Miro Gallery.
Dirty women, dirty sheets, dirty water, dirty thoughts, dirty songs, dirty language, dirty rice, dirty secret, dirty mouth, dirty games, dirty mind, dirty streets, dirty war…
Things called ‘dirty’ are defined primarily by the juxtaposition to what they are expected to be and are not, their diametric opposite: The uncontaminated, clean, pristine, most unsullied form of themselves.
Dutty Water is a work that expresses my thoughts on how the idea of a clean, pure, neutral space is in fact nothing more than a very well constructed and heavily guarded fiction. In my mind there is in fact no such thing as intrinsic purity; purity is rather our attempt to sterilize a space or a thing to make it more digestible to our minds and perhaps more malleable to those of others.
By neutralizing or decontaminating a physical environment as well as each of its individual parts we are in actuality trying to silence and hide certain truths that are often absolutely vital to fulfill the more complex, complete, nature of the place, its history and its function. As we ‘cleanse’ an environment we are in fact ‘killing’ the opportunity for it to fully achieve its original, powerful, unadulterated potential.Women, in particular fall prey to this volatile battering of meaning and value.
Females have found themselves intrinsically linked, through time, to this inflated construct and idea of purity, cleanliness and the immaculate; they share a space in the collective imagination and imagery where their inherent value is rapidly interchangeable, regardless of the behaviors, beliefs or instincts of each individual woman. By juxtaposing various materials, images and objects and, most importantly, by siphoning water from an outside source (a sink well) in the case of Kochi Muziris without any attempt to sterilize, purify or disinfect it, I am both metaphorically and actually pouring vital material and meaning into a space (the Art viewing environment) that thus begins to act as a theatre for truths and
an opportunity for alignment with reality.