Song for Aravan
2011, performance, installation, Stuttgart, Germany
In the culture of South Asia, hijras are usually considered members of the “third gender” and not men or women with a definite gender identity. Within Hindu contexts, hijras belong to a special caste. The hijra culture is based on the traditions of different religions.
In the Mahabharata, before the Kurukshetra War, Aravan offers his lifeblood to goddess Kali to ensure the victory of the Pandavas. In return, Kali promises to grant him power. On the night before the battle, Aravan wishes to get married, but does not find a woman who is willing to marry a man who could die in a few hours. Therefore, Krishna assumes the form of a beautiful woman (Mohini) and marries Aravan. In South India, hijras claim Aravan as their progenitor and call themselves “aravanis.”
The lingam or linga is the aniconic symbol of the Hindu deity Shiva. The Shiva Lingam is usually associated with the male creative power of Shiva and interpreted as a phallus. In the Western Neotantra the term is even used as a synonym for “penis.”
The idea for this performance comes from a religious Indian hijra ceremony in which the master of ceremonies cuts off a hijra‘s penis without medical instruments. While reflecting on the extreme pain a human endures, the performance “Song for Aravan” developed.
The performance resembles a puppet theater. On the stage of a small opera-theater-model there is a dildo “Lingam” symbolizing Krishna. The dildo is dressed in multicolored paper so that it looks like a puppet. The paper dresses are changed and the levels of vibration varied which generates differing sound. The artist plays the host of this opera while Lingam is assigned the role of the singer. The host names and presents the individual vibration levels as love songs for Aravan.