Objects in the Mirror Are as They Appear is a film about the Clive House in Kolkata, one of the city’s earliest examples of colonial architecture, where the descendants of a number of refugee families that previously occupied the house have nowadays been driven out in favour of a project to revamp the house into a museum. The families still live on the property, and the film offers a glimpse into their everyday life. It is not, however, the artist’s gaze that we follow, as Gullaksen hired a local, all-female crew to shoot the film. He applies this strategy in order to avoid an exoticising male gaze on the women being filmed and to provide unique access to their lives. The collaboration creates a technique for ‘imploding’ cultural differences related to geography, gender and modern versus traditional outloooks. In the beginning the film resembles conventional ethnographic moviemaking, as we follow the residents over the course of one day. The next morning, however, we are introduced to the film’s lone voice, a physician who has chosen to adopt these people as his new family. For him, the area is a retreat where he can hide from what he calls the middle class’s mediocre and judgmental gaze. Referring to both western and Indian art, as well as the Bengali film director Satyajit Ray, the physician recounts his relationship to Clive House and the community around it.
(Tarje Eikanger Gullaksen)