© 2018 Marc Ohrem-Leclef
Jugaad / Of Love and Intimacy
- ongoing -
Public gestures of intimacy form the departure point to explore friendship and love between men in India.
Deeply moved by these physical affirmations of bonding that are mostly absent in the West, through portraits and interviews I engage in questions surrounding the fluidity of masculinity and sexuality in India. How traditional modes of male to male intimacy in South Asian might be challenged by Western points of views, dichotomies and gender identity politics is of particular interest.
Understanding that the gestures generally–but not always–do not imply sexuality, I look at them as a gateway that takes me to 'grey spaces' in the private lives of men that allow same sex love to be acted upon, while left unspoken.
Informal interviews I conduct with collaborators from a broad range of identities, classes, educational backgrounds and ages sometimes reveal how men use these traditional 'grey spaces' to pursue their desire for same sex intimacy without identifying as gay or committing themselves to be ‘out’.
Some social mechanisms that enable these unspoken 'grey spaces' have been described to me as a form of Jugaad. The term Jugaad inhabits the world of simplistic mechanics - with its inherent lack of a proposal of an ideal solution in lieu of only a 'make do’, in the context of this work it encourages a discourse about what is positive/negative about fulfilling sexual desires through fluidity, and what the possibilities and restrictions for the lives of those who desire same sex love in India today are.
As an outsider I understand that only some of the deeply personal journeys of love that I attempt to uncover can be told by me. While this role does afford me opportunities and openness at times, I also encounter the continuum of a veil of ambivalence and fluidity that allows for circumstances to be left untold, something that bears beauty in its liberty of the un-categorized.
Looking inwards, the work explores my longing for a kind of romantic, intimate friendship I sought and did not find until adulthood. My new insights into the kinds of struggles faced by those negotiating same sex love here debate these romanticized ideals, while exposing my inherently Western ideas of masculinity and intimacy.