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Project: Billboard
Date: 1997
Location: Pullimudu Junction, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India.

As part of a three-month residency at the International Centre for Cultural Development in Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) I became fascinated by the hand-painted, billboard sized advertisements around Pullimudu, a railway and road intersection in the suburbs. The billboards are for hire, so I called the number and hired a master painter and his assistant. I was interested in the idea of creating a strong image in a public setting that was not publicity for a product or event, but rather a reflection of the local area, the place itself.

The design came from fragments of old posters I found underneath the billboard; the labour hired from the workforce that paint Bollywood cinema posters in enamels by hand. The enlargement was made using ruler, string and chalk and it took master and assistant four days to complete. In comparison with the other advertisements adjacent, this billboard drew attention from passers-by and because it was ambiguous; it appears to refer to a woman looking directly at the viewer from behind a veil. The debate around women’s independence and the significance of the veil was a hot topic at the time, especially within the context of a multi-cultural city of Moslems, Christians, and Hindus. This attracted the local press, and for one month, the project acted as a touchstone for the continuing discussion of this issue.

After one month, the hire period expired, the billboard was re-painted white, with a red telephone number prominently displayed. Aesthetically (as the white was partially transparent) I almost preferred it like this.