What comes to mind when you think about the temples and religious practices of India? For those familiar with the region, concepts like purity and piety would most likely top the list. However, visual designer Akshita Chandra shows this isn’t always the case in Being Censitive, an interactive illustration project based on the Khajuraho temples of India, or more specifically, the temple’s erotic sculptures. Through this project, Chandra aims to incite discussion around the topic of Indian’s system of censorship and moral policing.
提到印度的宗教和寺庙，也许多数人会将它与虔诚与纯洁等词语挂钩。而艺术家Akshita Chandra却做了件破格的事。她借鉴印度克久拉霍寺庙中的性爱雕塑，大胆创作了一系列“尺度颇大”的插画互动作品，名为《Being Censitive》。借此讨论印度社会对于“性”的审查制度，以及大众心中对性这个话题的审判标准。
Regarded by many to be India’s mecca of sexuality, Khajuraho is a small village located southeast of New Delhi. The nickname comes from the erotic carvings of the Khajuraho Group of Monuments, a cluster of well-known Hindu and Jain temples. These sculptures left behind speak of an open-minded outlook on sexuality, an outlook that’s quite different from the conservative viewpoint of modern-day India. Today, the sculptures seen in the Khajuraho temples would most likely be unacceptable and would be subject to censorship. It’s exactly this juxtaposition between the past and the present that intrigued Chandra.
The idea to borrow from the aesthetics of the Khajuraho sculptures in her illustrations is to allow viewers a look at the religious temple art through the lens of censorship. “I’m also referencing a few recent examples of censorship to create a subdued dialogue between the past and the present,” Chandra elaborates. The project consists of eight interactive illustrations with movable elements that allow viewers to physically engage with the work and reveal or cover up the characters. As Chandra describes, the goal of the project is for people to think critically themselves about the issue of censorship. “I’m interested in exploring the line between what might be considered obscene and what might be considered acceptable.”
One illustration looks at when Indian law enforcement arrested over 40 couples from their private hotel rooms, accusing them of public indecency. One of the arrested individuals said, “I am not a prostitute. I am an adult who was out with my fiancé, who I am supposed to marry next month, to find some privacy. I had entered my name in the hotel register with my identity proof and also handed over the relevant documents when asked by the cops. But, when I tried to tell a female constable all of this, she slapped me.”
Another illustration is based on a quote by right-wing educational activist Dinanath Batra where she stated, “Sex education will pollute young minds and hence must not find space in the improved and ‘Indianised’ education system that the government wants to introduce.”
The censorship practices of India’s TV Channel Romedy Now also became one of the topics in the eight-part series – the network censors any appearance of clothed cleavage, considering it to be highly obscene.
This project was Chandra’s way of bringing attention to the issue of censorship, a topic she’d long been intrigued by. After four months of research and revisions, Being Censitive was debuted to highly positive reception on both a local and global level. “I feel extremely grateful for the kind of exposure I got through this project. I got to interact and converse with so many people from all across the globe. It feels wonderful to know the kind of audiences this project has been able to reach. It’s something I never imagined when I initially started.”