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unbound and untethered: 
Research and Journey

Arts Research Project, IFA


This Foundation Project is implemented by India Foundation for the Arts (IFA) under the Arts Research programme, made possible with support from BNP Paribas India.

2022 - 2023

Abstract : The female body exists as a complex, conflicted and culturally coded site of experience. In India, female-specific pain, illness and experience is routinely dismissed, misdiagnosed and stigmatised as psychosomatic, erratic and emotionally rooted within largely patriarchal medical spheres.  


This project draws from Devika’s lived experience with fibromyalgia and eight years of dismissal, misinformation and misdiagnosis by predominantly male doctors and healthcare professionals. Examining the complex, elusive quality of female-specific pain and subjective patient experience against standardised diagnostic testing / clinical procedures, she explores why symptoms of poorly understood invisible conditions such as Lyme disease, endometriosis, PCOS, fibromyalgia and complex autoimmune illnesses that predominantly affect the female population are routinely missed or negated amongst primary care physicians and medical  professionals. The project intends to unpack and extend its inquiry through gathering and documenting shared experiences around female-specific pain and illness, drawing from personal narratives Devika has encountered in her journey, within her family, friends, extended circles and online communities. Exploring normative diagnostic / clinical language used to measure bodily pain and symptoms, Devika traces the hidden, layered areas of experience that lie behind these dictated frames, markers and categorisations. 

Threading together personal voices around female-specific experiences of illness, pain, dysphoria and disability, Devika employs different artistic research methodologies, including: recording oral histories; facilitating body mapping workshops; journaling; photography, drawing, painting; sound and moving image explorations. In her secondary research, she explores selected archives from articles, research papers, medical journals and manuscripts, tracing how the female body has been studied, mapped and visualised in allopathic and alternative medicine.

Project Intern: Shantashree Nerekar

Project Collaborators: Srija Umapathy, Kshema Maney, Shajeela Sykawat, Maya Matthew, Viveka Singh, Srishti Srivastava

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Phase 1 

Research Journal : Secondary readings and Initial Notes

Gathering a Visual Archive (1):  Medical Imagery, Manuscripts, Charts and Drawings

Gathering a Visual Archive (2) : Journal > Body Charts, Maps and Markings 

Preparing Interview Frames and Workshop Charts: