Vengayam (‘ven-gaah-yum’) – meaning ‘onion’ in Tamil – is a performance installation that investigates the constructs of identity as traced through the signifiers of citizenship, migration and nationalism. Responding to a recorded bilingual critical essay and the personal reflections of the artist, the installation attempts to dissect and understand relationships between the project of nationalism, neoliberal capitalism, and the dictates of culture as they play out upon contemporary generations of Australian immigrants.
The work traces the journey of citizenship across three nations (India, Singapore and Australia) using markers of the artist’s birth certificate, passport, citizenship document and visas. Through this process, it explores transnational sources of ideology that govern the dictates of ‘Indian-ness’ and the paradoxes therein, whilst also highlighting the expectations of contemporary Australia upon the assimilated model minority, and the dysfunctions between these two spaces.
These pathways and their associated provocations are an attempt to articulate and communicate the complex psycho-spatial landscape of identity-formation for contemporary generations of Australians. It also aims to better understand how the expression of individual identity is vulnerable to the dictates of political and cultural hegemony.
Vengayam was first performed as part of Critical Animals in the This Is Not Art festival in Newcastle, NSW in 2018.