Yesterday tomorrow today
In 2009, the Delhi High Court in India decriminalized Section 377 of the penal code, which had made homosexuality illegal. When thedecision came down, LGBT activists and community members wept and danced with joy in the streets. International news outlets hailed the decision as historic, and many believed it was a huge step in a march toward progress in the rapidly changing country. So the shock was pervasive when, just a few years later, in 2013, the Supreme Court nullified that decision. As a result, India has the peculiar distinction of being the only country in the world to have decriminalized and then re-criminalized homosexuality.
LGBT rights groups can go back underground, safe spaces for the LGBT community can become more clandestine, and LGBT people on the down-low can remain so. But once the closet door has been opened, there is no closing it: You cannot un-come out, as individuals or as a society, and those years of freedom cannot be erased or forgotten. For untold numbers of LGBT people who believed that they were leaping into a sunny future, what tomorrow holds is murky indeed.
And so India is at a strange crossroads. By most other measures, the country is careening into the future at an astounding pace. And yet, as with many other aspects of contemporary life there, a global, progressive cosmopolitanism is colliding headlong with traditional and repressive social mores.
Progress rarely manifests as a straight line, and the case of India’s LGBT community is merely a striking example of this fact. Yesterday Tomorrow Today will explore the non-linear reality of social progress seen through the prism of India’s LGBT community via an installation comprised of portraits, still photos and multi-channel video projections. Each element will play with time, reference history and the present moment, bringing the viewer into the lives of those upended by this about-face. The resulting work will be installed in multiple locations globally (including in India and the U.S.), in order to target as diverse an audience as possible.