Anne Rochat – An Indian Encounter with the Artist
I have just come to the end of an extended stay in India. I have been living in an old crumbling palace, the infamous and incredible Z Hotel in Puri, Orissa, facing the Bay of Bengal, hanging with my co-conspirator Aroon Thaewchatturat.
Puri, once a hippy haven for Japanese drop-outs, is now an all but forgotten beach destination and sees very few visitors in the summer months. The local Jagannath temple dominates daily life and ensures that the new curses India is afflicted with – rampant consumerism, fast food and supermarkets, too much traffic and a crumbling social fabric – are kept at arm’s length for a few more years. Hard to imagine a better place to write a book.
While in Puri, we witnessed the amazing Rath Yatra, one of India´s most enigmatic festivals, which attracted some 1.2 million visitors this year. The local deity Jagannath, along with his brother and sister, is taken on holiday, from its temple to another temple at the other end of town. To undertake the journey, the gods are loaded onto huge wooden carts which are then pulled by thousands of ardent devotees. The Yatra remains one of India’s great spectacles.
Besides spending long nights with a fantastic gang of resident bohemians, intellectuals and free spirits, I was writing the text for a new forthcoming photo book on Cambodia, to be published by Lonely Planet shooter Kraig Lieb next year.
The Z Hotel, owned by an enigmatic and illustrious politician and newspaper owner, and run by the world’s most friendly hotel staff, has a certain mystique and attracts its fair share of odd, off the wall characters. This year was no exception.
Several old friends dropped by and many of the guests are artists, writers, archaeologists, photographers or simple eccentrics. Most remarkably, Swiss perfomance artist Anne Rochat passed through, taking a break from a residence in Benares and delighted the hotel guests and staff with her exuberant personality – the Z´s manager even coined a name for her – The Magical Lady. We spent several days talking art, books, our work and everything else there is to say or stay silent about in life, and managed to move between the dimensions, the sacred cows, and the shit on the beach (with a little help from the Puri gang).
Anne’s radical approach to the here and now is reflected in her quirky, at times painful, but always original body of work which grows at a rapid pace and sees no end in its attempts to explore the outer limits of what can be done with the human body in relation to sound, space and alien objects. Watching Anne work is like watching cell division – life force and rapid growth of individual expression stretching into what appears to be infinity. The bridge between Anne’s life and performance is tenuous, overwhelmingly romantic and occasionally overlapping in a frenzy of give and take. This informs her work with incredible vitality and passion, so very important in a world run by money and avarice, where smart phones count for more than a smart way to express oneself. With every step she takes, Anne ensures that the cracks where the light comes in widen a little.
In this sense, Anne Rochat’s work is like a refreshing hurricane, demonstrating that there is more to life than daily routine, bad news on television, the deck of cards stacked against the individual, and the realities of a rapidly diminishing life space, something that is as acutely felt in India as anywhere else. Her presence in Puri reminded me of a quote from Kerouac’s On the Road:
“…and I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!”
Check out this clip of Anne in Room 106!