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Why Runs The Abhisarika (A performance of picture recitation)

Priyanka Jain

25 Mar 20231:00pm to 2:00pmAll AgesPerformancePublic Art

Picture recitation is a multi-sensory experience combining image, text, voice, memory and performance. Many forms of this art were performed in India but are now nearly extinct, partially due to European colonisation. This project follows the contemporary zeitgeist of decolonisation through practice, to inform audiences about the traditions of picture recitation, and to encourage creatives to take up its practice to infuse new impulses in this artform.

Why Runs the Abhisarika honours some of the picture recitation traditions in a 55-minute audience interactive performance. This project has arisen from three years of a practice-led PhD at RMIT University, Australia (2020-2022) on the topic of contemporising picture-recitation.

The Abhisarika is one of the eight types of heroines mentioned in classical Sanskrit literature who runs out to meet her lover, sometimes even on dark stormy nights. This picture recitation explores the motifs of the Abhisarika’s iconography as found in various medieval Indian miniature paintings and tries to interpret her psychosomatic landscape through the lenses of contemporary neuroscientific research. Each motif is elucidated in a song and during the performance, the audience is invited to choose the sequence of six of the nine motifs and partially determine the structure of the performance.

With costumes, props, and backdrops illustrated profusely, and with speech and lyrics in the form of spoken-word poetry accompanied by the music of a Tanpura, let movements inspired by classical Indian dances entertain you for an hour while we traverse a bridge between ancient literature and the modern sciences.

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