The Telegraph
Monday , January 9 , 2012
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Sandwoman and her experiments with peace

A head and two hands peek out of a mound of sand — is it a monarch in a peculiar sand robe? Or a sand goddess? Or, perhaps, a new-age Valmiki awaiting enlightenment? Beatrice Didier’s Work in progress for Peace at Studio21 on January 5 evoked these questions in the minds of the audience.

The artist was seen neck-deep in a heap of sand on a dais in the open space behind the gallery. Only her hands were visible, one hand holding a bunch of red roses and another an ordinary gel pen. Red candles sticking out of the sand around her glowed as she remained motionless, as though in deep meditation.

The buzz was that the artist intended to remain in this state for an hour. The bewildered audience looked on as curator-coordinator Manas Acharya intervened and Didier agreed to cut short her vrat.

Fifteen minutes later, her hands began to move imperceptibly. She tore a petal from a rose, put it into her mouth and started chewing before proceeding to write on a tiny metal box which she set on another rose petal and offered it to the audience.

Everyone stepped forward to claim his or her box, Love and Peace to Plant written on the lid and a rose petal and seeds of the kadam tree inside.

The ritual continued till only two roses remained. She slowly rose to her feet and gradually lunged forward, face down, holding out the roses before her — much like a devotee making an offering in a temple, praying for love and peace.

“Red roses are a symbol of love in Europe just as the kadam tree, because of its association with Krishna, is a symbol of love here. So, when I eat the petals, it is like nourishing oneself with love...,” Didier said as she interacted with the audience after the performance.

A trained theatre person (she has attended Conservatoire royal de Bruxelles and various other workshops), Didier doesn’t like to limit herself to the stage, preferring instead to express herself in various ways. This is the second time she has come to India and she has been involved in projects in Bangalore and other cities. She is also set to lecture at JNU.

On the way out, the man in charge of the lighting equipment was seen torn between emptying out the box and using it to store tobacco and preserving it as a talisman for wellbeing. Well, that’s the fun of experimental work — one never knows what reaction it will evoke.