Blocks, blockprints, mental blocks, unblocked. In a four-panel textile installation that plays with words and forms, traditional blockprint techniques were used to make images of depression and joy. 13 women – students, young mothers and grandmothers – were introduced to Dharavi blockprinters Yunus and Ahmad, who provided fine traditional blocks and helped them print 12-metre fabric banners. All the participant artists were familiar with blockprinted forms, but were learning the process for the first time. They were particularly taken with the rapidity with which the images developed.
Often referred to as udasipan, depression is a relatively undiscussed issue that Unblock tried to work on from an unusual angle. The artists' banners explored the causes, symptoms and treatment of a condition surrounded by misinformation and usually spoken about in hushed tones. The banners themselves echo the festive streamers that fill the Dharavi skies and subtly put the message out on a complex issue. One banner shows a brooding man. Another shows happy emoticons referencing earlier work by Mehzabeen Shaikh for the Dekha Undekha project. A third is based on the molecular structure of a tricyclic antidepressant. The fourth shows a man hunched in sadness.
It was tempting to see the contemplative rhythmic process of blockprinting as therapeutic. A padded table ran the length of the Colour Box and the metrical thudding of wooden blocks felt like a way of unblocking the mind. A little joke went around: think of your worst enemy as your block hits the table.
During the Unblock Artbox, designer and filmmaker Chaitanya Modak made a short film. It's about happiness, sadness, mental health and growing up. If you look (very) carefully you can see the molecular structure of an antidepressant made of traditional blockprint patterns. Sonic contributions by Eternity Music and Dhanya Pilo.
Kamaldeep Kaur, Yunus Shaikh, Ahmad Razak Shaikh
Sarita Gupta, Shobha, Tennesa J, Anuradha Jogalmal, Suvarna, Renuka, Chandrakala, Anjamma Ayyappa, Ayamma, Sangeeta Shinde, Farida Sheikh, Priya Gaikwad, Nirmala Narayane
Dr Anup Bharti, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital