“Space is your medium,” Kelly tells us. “Close your eyes and think of a space, any space, the first space that comes to mind.”
“Stay there…look around. What do you hear? Do you smell anything? What do you feel?”
Kelly has us sitting in a little circle like an AA meeting, going around the room, sharing our spaces with each other.
It’s the first day of Installation Art, which is basically sculpture in which space is an additional medium. Space is integral. It can entirely transform your viewer’s perception, if you use it effectively.
In our little circle, I close my eyes and find myself on a bus. I can barely breathe. I open my eyes abruptly. I can’t talk about my space.
We’re sharing now. It’s Andrew’s turn; he’s talking, but I can’t hear him. My thoughts are louder than his voice. I can’t think of any other space. I can’t talk about this shit. Think of something else. Another space.
Now Laura’s talking. It’s almost my turn. My thoughts are louder than Laura’s voice, too. I can’t hear her, but I remember how I wanted to be a bus driver when I was little. Whenever anyone would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d say, “A bus driver!” and they’d laugh.
I close my eyes again. I’m back on the bus. I remember that I boarded a bus in Delhi. I must have been seven or eight and was traveling around India to see the city where my father grew up. To see their old house and our family and friends. To be reminded about how my dad’s childhood friend died as his scooter was smashed by a bus. Reminded to never drive a scooter. They’re dangerous.
I remember the summertime heat. Heat and humidity like I’d never before experienced. No air conditioning on this bus packed with people. I couldn’t breathe. It wasn’t the scooter that was dangerous, it was the bus. Or, maybe it was actually being a scooter near the bus.
It wasn’t either of these buses that I saw when I closed my eyes. It was another one.
It was the bus Jyoti and Awindra boarded. I watch them step up through the bus doors. I hear the doors slam closed behind them, and I hear the wheels pick up speed and the rocks crunch beneath the bus.
I can see Jyoti and Awindra smile at each other silently. A teenager already on the bus smiles at them too. A man across from them moves closer. “Sister, what’re you doing out at such a late hour?” I hear him say. The teenager’s eyes catch his, and his smile turns into a smirk.
Laura’s still talking about trees and plants and some open space somewhere in Illinois or Wisconsin. She’s an art major too, but also a biology major. We all tend to bring those other parts of ourselves into our art, if we’re open enough, or if they force themselves through.
I look back, this time Jyoti and her friend are on the floor of the bus, screaming and shouting. Jyoti’s friend goes silent — they’ve gagged him. They use a pole to make him stop moving.
Once he’s still, they use the pole on Jyoti too, but not just on her head. I see them fuck her with it, over and over and over. I watch her fight back as I watch them fuck her. She bites them. They laugh. They pull her intestines out like a rope, longer and longer and longer.
I watch them finish, open the doors to roll the couple off the bus, and continue driving into the night.
She stays with me. The bus. That space.
It wasn’t the bus that was dangerous. It was being a woman. It’s not being out late at night, it’s not the clothing worn, and it’s not what’s said. Those aren’t the common denominators.
That space. I can’t think of any other space. I can’t talk about this shit. Think of something else.
This post is written in memory of Jyoti Singh, called “India’s daughter,” (as well as in memory of all silenced, unknown, or unrepresented victims of violence) and would like to thank Awindra Pratap Pandey for dedicating his life to combating corruption and violence against women.
Audrey Haque is a writer, artist, and feminist. For meaningful rants and other writings, you can follow her on Twitter at @audreyhaque or check out her seriously outdated portfolio at audreyhaque.com.
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