BLOT! To Premiere Music Video for “Medicine Corner”
London-based Wellcome Collection’s year-long project Medicine Corner will be spearheaded by New Delhi audio-visual duo BLOT!
New Delhi audio visual duo BLOT!, which comprises Avinash Kumar and Gaurav Malekar, kick off the year with a fantastic start. Winning a grant from London-based Wellcome Trust, which is one of the world’s biggest medical charities, the pair have spent the last three months researching, documenting and working on a “light-hearted audio-visual journey that revolves around select,Â splendid street-doctors, quacks & messiahs of India,” which will premiere at Amethyst in Chennai today. Says Kumar, speaking about the project, “We’ve gone to people with an open mind and tried to extrapolate the realness of informal medicine. In a way, it’s celebrating what the country is and how faith healing, bloodletting and all these other things can exist along with modern medicine.”
In this interview with Rolling Stone India, Kumar tells us more about BLOT!’s brand new work.
You mention that you’ve been documenting informal medicine in India, what has your research process been?
The basic premise of the project is that we’re looking at a topic which people don’t talk about, and transforming that into something fun and engaging. For us it’s important that what we make doesn’t become a music video which just takes the information from the street and present it to the audience. It’s investigative research.
Who has been the most interesting person that you’ve spoken to?
There was street dentist we met (in Delhi), who is also a part of our video. He was fascinating because he had this mix of being completely crazy and bringing up deep questions such as the nature of access to medicine in India.
Was it ever awkward?
We were once stuck in a tiny room with a guy who practises black magic in Old Delhi. It’s difficult to find people like him, because of new legislations and government forces that work against them. It also makes them more hesitant to talk to us. But we did find him, and we were trapped while he tried to cure health problems with black magic and asked us a lot of things that we weren’t comfortable with.
You received theÂ Wellcome Trust International Engagement Award in 2015, could you tell us about that?
We initially started working on this project just as a music video but once they saw the amount of work we’d put into it over the last three months, they suggested that we apply for the grant. It gives us resources we need to work on it for the remainder of this year. So far, our research has been based in or around Delhi, but we’re going to be visiting other cities and smaller towns and villages and well soon.
You’re launching the project in Chennai, what are you planning for the show?
That’s been a bit of challenge. There was the option of a fun BLOT!Â show that we could do with this content, which is in the vein of what usually like to do with popular culture and vocals. But we wanted to create something that would be in between watching something at the cinema and being at one of our shows. We’re performing inside a small art gallery, so that changes things too. The overall mood will be a bit more somber.
You’re also planning an accompanying publication ”“ what will go into that?
We’ve got five prints of the publication; its aim is to combine all the things on the project from research inquiry, to visual journals and comics, to communicate. Between Rishi Kumar (Aan Comics), Kunel Gaur (from the studio ‘Animal’) and Painter Shabbu (a sign painter), we use our research to try to create a museum in book form. The topic is healthcare, but it’s all extremely fun and it goes well with how we like to work. Anyone who picks it up should feel like it’s both visually engaging and intellectually stimulating.
What impact are you expecting the Medicine Corner project to have?
From the perspective of the project itself, we want to see how well we can work with artists and designers and more mainstream art forms to talk about informal medicine in India. We visited a bone setter and found a patient who was a doctor herself. Her orthopedic doctor hadn’t been able to help, soÂ she felt like she had no other routes. This bone setter had been helping her and now her treatment was almost done. These situations become interesting because they challenge the notion that these forms of informal medicines are only for uneducated people.
As BLOT!, the ideal thing would be people realizing that electronic music is much, much more than nightclubs and music festivals. We’re always trying to pull the outside world into music culture.
Medicine Corner Video Launch
January 28, 2015 – 9 ”“ 11.30 pm