Unwrapping Unwrapped: A Performance/Installation by Monica Jahan-Bose

This past Thursday Hillyer Art Space hosted UNWRAPPED A Post-Performance Dialogue and Dinner with the artist Monica Jahan-Bose and many other women who performed the piece with Bose at the (e)merge Art Fair. Bose describes the performance piece as such: “UNWRAPPED is inspired by the Indian mythological story of Draupadi, the eternal virgin who was married to five brothers, as well as the true story of Bose’s grandmother’s marriage at age seven. Speaking to women’s rights to education and over their own bodies, the performance involves wrapping and unwrapping the body with a 216-foot sari covered with writing by women from Bose’s grandmother’s village in Bangladesh, part of a collaboration called Storytelling with Saris.”

 The main room at Hillyer was buzzing with activity and excitement as guests and performers discussed the performance over food and drinks. The slideshow of photographs from the performance in October captured the movement and raw emotion found in the piece so for those who had missed the live showing, the energy and expression in UNWRAPPED was still quite clear.

 The performers were eager to share their experiences and the illuminating moments they felt during the show, which spoke to Bose’s intentions behind her work. The women cited the difficulty of working with the enormous sari and the brutal external conditions, including extreme heat and wind, as a source of turmoil that intertwined all the performers and made them come together to execute Bose’s vision.

 Artist and UNWRAPPED performer, Carolyn Becker explored the many cathartic moments she had with her fellow participants and the rest of the discussion members. One could really feel the sense of strength and accomplishment that the performers felt and this idea of women’s empowerment, a main focal point behind UNWRAPPED.

 After the discussion, I asked Monica if she found the egregious conditions somewhat frustrating because they caused such a tortured and pained look on her face in the photographs and added to the difficulty of the performance about vitality and emancipation. She replied that, while yes there were unforeseen complications, these added to the work. The physical difficulty enhanced the idea of women embracing and leaning on each other to better their circumstances and liberate themselves.

 The mood of the evening was festive and inspiring. Eames Armstrong, a performance artist who collaborated with Bose on UNWRAPPED, was a great host. Performance art can be a genre that is difficult to approach at times, however, the Hillyer’s event promoted a constructive dialogue between artists, performers, and attendees that was energizing and enlightening.

For more on Storytelling with Saris click here.

Bringing the Art in DC to You,

Mica Hartman 

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