‘I don’t really have a deep exploration [or theory] as to why a pink brain,’ Sid tells me when I ask him about his thought process behind his recent solo exhibition at Method, Kalaa Ghoda, Bandra, Mumbai. His self-deprecating humility is a stark antithesis to his stop-in-your-tracks art. As stark as the bright pink of ‘Scatter Brain’, his latest work which compelled me to reach out to him.
With constant and excessive content consumption and no down time to process or scrutinise what we lap up, we’re all left a little scatterbrained.
Sid, through this series, is on a mission to inspire people to break away from the deafening noise of content consumption. ‘We’re consuming content on a daily basis and in copious amounts. This is detrimental to our mental health,’ Sid tells me over a patchy phone call. ‘The brain symbolises attention and mindfulness. I made a brain, but when I say, where is your mind? The mind is where you pay attention.’
I’m driving through dimly lit streets of Goa while I speak to Sid. The tree-lined streets and ocean breeze of Goa means that at any given time, I have a view that’s far more breathtaking than anything I could possibly consume on a screen. I also don’t have a TV here – just my laptop and my phone. As I listen to him talk about all-consuming screen time, I am watching magnanimous coconut trees whoosh past me. Yet, I am hyper aware of the five hours on average that I’ve been spending staring at a screen during my last few days here. My brain and my body, while I speak to Sid, are in an idyllic tropical state – perhaps among the most beautiful in the country. But my mind is thinking about the next story I have to type out. It’s true, we’re captives of screen time.
During the three-day exhibition that marked the launch of Scatter Brain, Sid put up an installation, both mind-blowing and mind-numbing at once, where he invited people to smash the monarchy of screen time.
He lined up fist-sized pink brains on a table, and a TV screen on the wall. He then invited the guests to clamp all their angst in a tightly clenched fistful of bright pink brains, and throw it at the TV screen. ‘I told people to think about what they didn’t like about the TV, or how it affected their mental health and suddenly they could channelize all their angst toward the television and actually break it,’ he tells me.
And break, they did. Along with the TV screen, Sid’s guests also broke the chains of conformity, political correctness, toxic positivity and inauthenticity that the fragile fabric of our lives forces us to imbibe. ‘People in general act cordial. But everyone has different personalities in front of different people, or in different situations. Everyone at some level, hides their true personality. And that comes out only with a small set of people or whoever their home folks are. But when we did the art installation where people had to throw brains at the TV, the most timid personalities (on video) turned out to be the most violent. You could see the rage with which they threw the brain and the kind of pressures they deal with. It was interesting to see people break out of their fake personas they’d created for the world, and allow their true authentic selves to come out. If there was angst or anger inside, people allowed it to slide out. Someone actually came up to me and they said they were affected by the television a lot and breaking the TV was therapeutic for them. It’s something they can’t do in their regular life. So getting to do that was exhilarating for me.’
The 19th Century French painter, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres said, ‘the nature of masterpieces is not to dazzle. Their nature is to persuade, to convince, to enter into us through our pores.’
Sid’s installation entered through the pores of the guests who poured in to participate, compelling them to put under scrutiny how enslaved all of us are by an inanimate, man-made object. A true masterpiece.
A masterpiece in the 21st Century is made of three elements: Distinct visuals, good PR and publicity, and a thoughtful and relevant idea. For Sid, the bright pink of the Scatter Brain stemmed from his love for Pink Floyd. But, it inadvertently became an unmissable emblem. One couldn’t unsee it, or walk (or in my case, scroll, since I discovered it on an Instagram story) past it. But what’s truly revolutionary about Sid’s latest work is that it challenges the hegemony of something that so many and so much of our lives revolve around. In this digital age, many of us practically live on the screen. From dating to ordering groceries, from planning a vacation to now earning a living, a lot happens behind a screen.
So, what gave? What inspired Sid to challenge the Mogul called television?
According to Sid, ’The TV [or a screen] is the first distraction.’ He tells me, ‘I personally think that the screen as a medium was the end of us. All of us have been mentally impacted by the amount of content and screen time that has entered our lives in the last few years. Somewhere, it’s a paradox because we all know this will not go away. Yet, we’re trying to find content to retain our sanity. Like meditation apps – finding a support system in the same things that are actually ruining your mental health is ironic for me.’
A laughable irony, indeed. We’re tethered to our screens and gadgets for good or bad. Sid’s work highlights another ‘bad’ when it comes to content consumption – how gullible and passive it may be making us. ‘In the last few years, given the amount of propagative stuff that’s been around, people have literally been breaking their brains on a screen. They watch something and that’s their reality. There is no push to reality or on-ground process-driven research that people do to find out if it’s true or not. You see something on the screen, people agree to it and that becomes the reality. I wanted to break the screen because at some point, we will be confronted with the saturation of consuming copious amounts of content.’
If I have to summarise a two-word takeaway from Sid’s Scatter Brain, it would be ‘consume wisely’. As a writer and a content creator, for me, there’s another succinct yet liberating lesson hidden in Sid’s provocative work: ‘create wisely’. There are always two sides of a coin. Where there is a movement to consume less, and consume smarter, there must also be a parallel movement to create less and create smarter.
Just knowing this, both as a consumer of content and creator of content, I heave a sigh of relief. Sid’s masterpiece doesn’t only inspire, it also centres me. Scatter Brain is #JOMO in a collectible.
I write. I read. I do yoga. I hula hoop. I love cats and dogs in equal measure. I'd say the same for wine. My zen motto: "Eat kale for the body, cake for the soul." Find me on IG: @prachigangwani87