Morning In Varanasi, Series II, No. I, 2012 (excerpt)
Running time: 11:35 minutes / HD / colour
Two men are engaged in an activity. A third man walks in the distance. This footage was filmed on October 8, 2012 at the shores of the Ganges in Varanasi, India.
Camera: Sylvia Safdie
Editing: Patrick Andrew Boivin, Sylvia Safdie
Often, we do not see what is in front of us, at other time we seize the moment
On March 2011, I was on the roof of my hotel in Varanasi (Benares), taking in the glorious morning sunrise and the unraveling events of mysterious morning worship rituals. Situated on the Ganges River, Varanasi is India’s one of the most important Hindu worship centers. Hindus believe that dying here and getting cremated along the banks of the “holy” Ganges River allows one to break the cycle of rebirth and attain salvation, making it a major center for pilgrimage.
While observing this spectacular scene, I spotted what seemed to be two tiny figures across the river. They were barely visible. The haze created a blue monochromatic landscape veiling the figures so that it was difficult to decipher their activity. I focused my camera and looked through my small viewfinder that magnified the scene, yet, it was still impossible to decipher what was going on
It was only when I returned home and looked at the footage on a larger screen that I was able to decipher what I had actually filmed that morning: two men doing exercise, one teaching the other. The footage that I filmed became Morning /Varanasi. I have slowed down the footage significantly so that we can observe nuances that we would not have been able to distinguish had we been observing them in real time
I was overcome by the extent the two tiny figures reminded me of the figures in my drawings and paintings from my Figure and Ground series. What fascinated me was that the figures in my drawings and painting were informed by my own gestures both metaphorically and physically, but the figures that I filmed in the video were of actual figures involved in an activity at a given moment in time and place.
This video was shown in the exhibition Body/Transforming/Gesture, Galerie Joyce Yahouda, Montréal, in 2015.