Tired of the sanitised, filtered, and happy depictions of the everyday lives of her friends and family on social media, Kaviya wanted to talk about things and issues that not many like to discuss or even acknowledge in public. So, much in the vein of #100DaysOfHappiness and #100DaysOfExercise, the Mumbai-based artist decided to take up her own 100-day challenge on Instagram; but hers is #100DaysOfDirtyLaundry.
“All we see are posts with filtered selfies, vacation check-ins, fitness goals achieved, stylish clothes, and fancy restaurant dinners,” said the 28-year-old. “However, behind the rose-tinted glasses of social media, ours is a generation that is grappling with serious issues—complicated relationships, materialistic binges, mental health, addiction to our mobile phones, sexuality, and body negativity. I felt a strong need to address these so-called dirty taboos from a personal perspective and to help have an open conversation about them online.”
A real look at life
With this mid-year resolution, Kaviya uploaded the first post of #100DaysOfLaundry on her Instagram page on June 6, 2017. The topic was something most women shy away from—flatulence. The illustration shows a woman leaning on the arm of a chair while letting out a fart. In the accompanying note, Kaviya talked about the time she accidentally broke wind in front of her boyfriend—“Oh, it was such a hell of a smelly, noisy one that I should have jumped onto a rocket and disappeared into space. But what did I do? I went into a manic fit of laughter. So did he. And that’s when I knew that hey this relationship is here to stay.”
Most of Kaviya’s illustrations are on the lighter side. Apart from bowel movements, she discusses habits such as stalking people on Facebook, taking a million selfies, being overly possessive of boyfriends, girlfriends and best friends and internet trolling. The women on her Instagram feed flaunt their unshaved legs, imperfections, and, most importantly, opinions.
However, there are times when Kaviya talks about issues that deeply affect her and her generation—the fear of being lonely, cynicism, relying on social media to validate one’s self worth.
“I have many times, during the project, deliberated on openly speaking about certain intense, difficult topics like sexuality, relationships, and fears because they felt fiercely personal to be shared online,” she said. “I have been questioned by my close ones as to what purpose sharing my dirty laundry to the world served. But I was, and I am still, convinced how art can be a powerful medium for opening uncomfortable but necessary conversations. Most issues we are grappling with as a generation—like loneliness, anxiety, depression—are because we are always told not to openly talk about such taboos. Why? Because then people would judge us. But I think the more unbiased conversations we have about such topics, the more normalised they become.”
Bouquets and brickbats
Though Kaviya has no formal training in art, growing up, she maintained an art journal, in which she would doodle and write down her thoughts. But once she started working, she forgot about it. In 2017, frustrated with her corporate job, she started sketching again.
Kaviya has been inspired by various social media projects. One that particularly stayed with her was a 100-days project—artist Indu Harikumar’s #100IndianTinderTales. Harikumar illustrated the experience of Indian Tinder users based on the stories sent in by people who were using the dating app regularly. “In a country where we immediately hush someone at the mention of the word sex, her brilliant project discussed closeted topics like sexuality, intimacy, and desires,” said Kaviya.
Kaviya is no stranger to trolls on the internet. On uploading posts related to topics like menstruation, misogyny, and sexual harassment, she has been accused of doing this project for the shock value. At the same time, she has received words of encouragement and support from strangers. “For all its drawbacks, social media can be a very powerful medium to build a global community of shared experiences. I have had many women from countries such as Pakistan and Brazil reach out saying how much they related to the work; it makes one realise that whichever part of the world you belong to, the range of emotions and experiences most people go through is pretty much the same.”
Kaviya recently posted the Day 74 of #100DaysOfLaundry on the tendency to post every moment of one’s relationship on Facebook and Instagram. “If your relationship isn’t online, is it even real?” she asks in her post.
She has 26 days’ worth of laundry left to air.