Art Project

No filters: An Indian female artist is talking about sexuality, health and flatulence on Instagram

Mumbai-based Kaviya started #100DaysOfDirtyLaundry to talk about real issues that affect young people.

Tired of the sanitised, filtered and happy depiction of everyday lives of her friends and family on social media, Kaviya wanted to talk about things and issues that not many like to discuss or even acknowledge in public. So much in the vein of #100DaysOfHappiness and #100DaysOfExercise, the Mumbai-based artist decided to take up her own 100-day challenge on Instagram but hers is #100DaysOfDirtyLaundry.

“All we see are posts with filtered selfies, vacation check-ins, fitness goals achieved, stylish clothes and fancy restaurant dinners,” said the 28-year-old. “However, behind the rose-tinted glasses of social media, ours is a generation that is grappling with serious issues – complicated relationships, materialistic binges, mental health, addiction to our mobile phones, sexuality and body negativity. I felt a strong need to address these so-called dirty taboos from a personal perspective and to help have an open conversation about them online.”

A real look at life

With this mid-year resolution, Kaviya uploaded the first post of #100DaysOfLaundry on her Instagram page on June 6, 2017. The topic was something most women shy away from – flatulence. The illustration shows a woman leaning on the arm of a chair while letting out a fart. In the accompanying note, Kaviya talked about the time she accidentally broke wind in front of her boyfriend – “Oh, it was such a hell of a smelly, noisy one that I should have jumped onto a rocket and disappeared into space. But what did I do? I went into a manic fit of laughter. So did he. And that’s when I knew that hey this relationship is here to stay.”

Most of Kaviya’s illustrations are on the lighter side. Apart from bowel movements, she discusses habits such as stalking people on Facebook, taking a million selfies, being overly possessive of boyfriends, girlfriends and best friends and internet trolling. The women on her Instagram feed flaunt their unshaved legs, imperfections and, most importantly, opinions.

#100daysofdirtylaundry Day 21 - Piece of meat (TLDR alert) . . Women's breasts are commodities. To be gazed at. To be used for selling men(& women) stuff. To make women everywhere believe that their own is always inadequate(whether its a 28C or a 40D). . . . Some years ago, I read a desperate click-baitish headline 'Free the nipple movement gains huge celebrity support'. I couldn't help but wonder if this was another sexist ploy by men to 'convince' women to bare it all. . . The campaign's virality might have partly been due to that, but it started out as a fight for Gender Equality arguing that women, like all men, should be free to bare their nipples in public - Be it a mom breastfeeding in public or a woman who just felt hot in the sweltering heat. Quite naturally, the controversial campaign went viral. Celebrities & millions of women supporters were quick to join marches, quick to upload their bare-top photos on social media, only to have police dissolve their protests or Facebook & Instagram remove their photos citing vulgarity. . . I have mixed feelings about the campaign. But the question that it raises is interesting - "It is 'illegal', a state crime for women to willingly go topless, yet you can buy dozens of magazines or hit Ctrl+Shift+N to search for a woman without her top. You can use her breasts to sell everything from alcohol to cars to creams, but you cannot let her wear her own breasts?" (Violet Rose, #freethenipple) . . That a woman can take control and sexualize herself willingly is ofcourse wrong and disgusting. Slut, bitch and other familiar name-callings basically. . . The premise is interesting considering in the 1900s it was illegal for men to walk around shirtless in the 'progressive' western world. I am not even kidding. Things changed when four guys went topless in 1934 on a beach at Coney Island, NY and were each fined $1. They protested the fine and won their case. By 1936, it was completely legal for guys to walk around with nothing on top. Men basically had their own #freethenipple campaign even before hashtags were invented. . . Closer home we have an equally controversial story that's quite the opposite. (Continued in comments)

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However, there are times when Kaviya talks about issues that deeply affect her and her generation – the fear of being lonely, bling cynicism, relying on social media to validate one’s self worth.

“I have many times, during the project, deliberated on openly speaking about certain intense, difficult topics like sexuality, relationships and fears because they felt fiercely personal to be shared online,” she said. “I have been questioned by my close ones as to what purpose sharing my dirty laundry to the world solved. But I was, and I am still, convinced how art can be a powerful medium for opening uncomfortable but necessary conversations. Most issues we are grappling with as a generation – like loneliness, anxiety, depression – are because we are always told not to openly talk about such taboos. Why? Because then people would judge us. But I think the more unbiased conversations we have about such topics, the more normalised they become.”

#100daysofdirtylaundry Day 40 - Whispers & murmurs . . I wanted to colour the stain under the legs blue, just like an innocuous ink blot, just like the ones in those sanitary pad ads. Red does look weird I agree, even when I look down every time, 4 days a month. Wish I didn't have to bleed blue only for the Indian cricket team. . . Hush, I already hear screams of taboo, so let's quickly wash the stain off my lingerie - . . - it's disgusting YET a necessity for every woman out there. It's simply utterly disgusting if u are a woman even acutely interested in procreation. . . - I wouldn't have hated it with such vengeance if all it did was appear coyly 4 days a month & quietly made its way out. But no, it needs drama, just like every woman ever? So it plots to make me sulk, weep over rom-coms 3 days prior, bitterly cry for Ramsey Bolton's murder 2 days prior & transform me into Dracarys, the dragon a day prior. Basically, do not disturb me when I'm PMSing or else I will find u & burn you. . . - quick math- so that's 4+3 = 7 days, only a week a month losing my sanity over the red devil. Just maybe 1/4 of my life ok? Crying, acne-puss secreting, bloating, bleeding, more wailing, more bleeding. . . - what's the new furore on the net? New-age startups introducing an OPTIONAL 1 day off for women on their 1st day of period & everyone's already losing their minds. Isn't 12 weeks of maternity leave already enough? 1 more day off a month, that's 12 more days a year(for periods!), aren't you giving companies more arsenal to keep women off the workforce? Feminists disagree. I really don't know. Will some women misuse it? Maybe. Will some really need it? Absolutely yes. (For men wondering, it hurts. Maybe like when you get hit there?). . . - which brings me back to something that happened in office. Colleague approaches & whispers in an inaudible voice - psst, do u have it, do u have it? Do I have what? Dragonglass? Cooties? Ebola? Oh, you mean a sanitary pad! Yeah I do. Next time, don't bother whispering. Let the guy eavesdropping in next cubicle know u are looking for a sanitary pad. Why the secrecy about 1/4th of your life? #normalizeperiods #hateitneverthless

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Bouquets and brickbats

Though Kaviya has no formal training in art, growing up, she maintained an art journal, in which she would doodle and write down her thoughts. But once she started working, she forgot about it. In 2017, frustrated with her corporate job, she started sketching again.

Kaviya has been inspired by various social media projects. One that particularly stayed with her was a 100-days project – artist Indu Harikumar’s #100IndianTinderTales. Harikumar illustrated the experience of Indian Tinder users based on the stories sent in by people who were using the dating app regularly. “In a country where we immediately hush someone at the mention of the word sex, her brilliant project discussed closeted topics like sexuality, intimacy and desires,” said Kaviya.

#100daysofdirtylaundry Day 71 - How far will your cynicism take you? . . I have spent this entire year in two moods exactly - highly cynical and highly hungry. . . The thing is life in itself is meaningless. It is us humans who invent meaning and then wage wars over our invented stories. Think about the things you believe in - religion, materialism, capitalism, relationships, pop culture, nationalism, work ethics, ideologies, EVERYTHING is just colourfully imagined 'stories' we humans tell ourselves to make some sense of this grand confusion. Stories - because they exist only in our collective minds; ask your dog what he thinks about having an existential crisis, he most likely doesn't give a flying fuck. . . Most humans are selfish/arrogant/dumb/lazy, the system is rigged and driven by greed/shallowness/apathy for the environment and in the end, we are all going to die and there is nothing we can do about it (unless you are baby born today, you can be pretty sure your mortality isn't going to be overturned by current scientific progress). . . Politics gives me a migraine, human rights is a fucking joke, there's 7.6 billion of us greedily saying 'Give us more & more', most 'adults' have no clue what's going on and are faking it, collective mental health is in tatters, spirituality is a cleverly marketed gimmick and from the horse's mouth, god/Zuck knows what social media and technology is doing to our brains. . . Yes, that's a catastrophic interpretation of humanity. But the more I look at the world in 2017, the more I hope something will convince me otherwise, the more convinced I am of my cynicism. . . But how far will cynicism take me? Is cynicism the hiding den of a disappointed self-righteous prick or an uncomfortable but realistic take on the sad state of the society we live in? Where's that damn line? . . Should I laugh at the circus or join the circus and laugh with it?

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Kaviya is no stranger to trolls on the internet. On uploading posts related to topics like menstruation, misogyny and sexual harassment, she has been accused of doing this project for shock value. At the same time, she has received words of encouragement and support from strangers. “For all its drawbacks, social media can be a very powerful medium to build a global community of shared experiences. I have had many women from countries, such as Pakistan and Brazil, reach out saying how much they related to the work, it makes one realise that whichever part of the world you belong to, the range of emotions and experiences most people go through is pretty much the same.”

Kaviya recently posted the Day 74 of #100DaysOfLaundry on the tendency to post every moment of one’s relationship on Facebook and Instagram. “If your relationship isn’t online, is it even real?” she asks in her post.

She has 26 days’ worth of laundry left to air.

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