To Seed the Future with Every Breath*

on Performance and its Movement–Building Possibilities

Join us on Saturday for an evening of performance and dialogue with queer Tamil feminist artist and activist Ponni Arasu. With a practice spanning a breadth of performative traditions, from Tamil art forms to Butoh, Ponni’s work centres the body as the anchor for the individual and the collective. The body, upon which nation states and social structures inscribe their own designs, is a tool for liberation, her performances insist, highlighting the interconnectedness of being via breath inhaled and exhaled as much as through the collective body that moves through physical space in protest. Emerging from a deep immersion in social movements within South Asia (specifically in India and in Batticaloa, a small Tamil-speaking town in eastern Sri Lanka), Ponni channels the affective impacts and implications of these contexts into her one-woman performances, wherein entire social worlds and possibilities of resistance emerge through gesture, movement, body, breath.

The evening begins with a performance of "Just Breathe", followed by a conversation between the artist and audience, facilitated by Abhishek Nilamber and Meghna Singh. We conclude with a second performance, "The Walk".

Tea and coffee will be available through the evening.  

*The title is a reference to an interview from 2021 between feminist historian, cultural critic, contemplative writer and filmmaker Lata Mani and Daniel Forster, Argentinian doctor, psychoanalyst and founder of the Pali School of Meditation at the Columbia Foundation. 

Dr. Ponni Arasuis a Tamil, queer feminist performer, activist, researcher, teacher, legal practitioner, translator and expressive arts therapist based in Batticaloa in Eastern Sri Lanka. Hailing from Chennai in South India, she has been part of movements for justice and peace in different parts of India and Sri Lanka for the past twenty years. She has been an actor from childhood and is trained in contemporary Tamil theatre practice with A. Mangai including Tamil traditional art forms; at the Grotowski Open Program; in the basics of Butoh; and in contemporary movement by indigenous performance artists in Canada. Her performance practice forms the connecting thread across her pedagogic, social justice and therapeutic practices. She has primarily worked with the Marappachi Trust, a Feminist collective for performance and social change based in Chennai while connecting with like minded artists in different parts of India, Sri Lanka and Canada. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Anthropology at the University of Tübingen.


About the performances

"Just Breathe" (20–25 mins, 2022)
This one-woman performance art piece deals with the processes of conditioning, moulding, confinement etc. that we are all subject to and trauma that can be part of this experience. It shows the embodied process of being in this state and slowly emerging out of it – a process that can be experienced as healing. The play brings together the performer's autobiographical expression together with stories of queer folks and others with regards to social norms, the experience of being forced into them and the processes by which we emerge from them with collective movements, spaces and other tools that help and hold us. The play is experiential with voice and body leading the way, with no speech or words of any kind.

"The Walk" (35–40 minutes, 2022)
This one woman performance art piece was created to mark one year of the Batticaloa Justice Walk, a satyagraha undertaken by the people of Batticaloa in Eastern Sri Lanka, including the performer, which continues for more than 600 days now. This production is one among many creative expressions that have emerged from this long standing protest space. The soundtrack brings together sounds, voices, songs, chants from the protest sites and ordinary life in different parts of Sri Lanka over the past two years of the unprecedented economic crisis. The sound provides the context to the experiential performance art piece which takes the audience, in an embodied manner, into the ways in which ordinary people have experienced the crisis and the spaces of protest. Given the reality of crises, economic and otherwise, all over the world, this piece invites the audience to stay with the feeling of being in such crises while also expressing dissent through connecting with the performer's own embodied experience and expression of the same.