Object creation
VOGUE India|August 2020
In a Vogue India exclusive, leading performance artist Nikhil Chopra digs into his archives to recreate his iconic gender-defying personas. The result? A series of post-pandemic avatars—dishevelled but stronger, finds Shahnaz Siganporia
Shahnaz Siganporia

A decade ago, in a quiet corner of Mumbai’s Colaba, in the darkened gallery of Chatter-jee & Lal, a bright spotlight shone atop a solitary drummer. He sat there with absolutely no idea how to play the drums, and over five-hour sessions, every day, for five days in a row, the nameless player tried to ‘master’ the instrument. As his proficiency grew, he shed the anonymous black full-length bodysuit and slid into gold, silver and sequinned spandex. In turn, the performance went on to explore the transformation from obscurity to a fantastical sort of stardom, with Freddy Mercury meets Ziggy Stardust vibes in place. “How do you create zero, in terms of characterisation? The bodysuit defines shapes in my body that are not traditionally masculine, but I also have a hairy chest. And this allows me to create an androgynous figure without definition.

Man, woman, either, neither,” says Nikhil Chopra, as he looks back at Drum Solo (2010) and his experiments with the bodysuit, which has gone on to claim pride of place in his oeuvre. Each performance sees the artist transform from one persona to the next. Costuming (the bodysuit was made by his long-time collaborator and designer Loise Braganza) helps him navigate his chameleon-like personas that range from fading rock stars to lifeless maharajas.

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