Gayatri Kodikal excavates the ruins of history, time, and play

On a walk around Old Goa, artist Gayatri Kodikal chanced upon an archaeological dig in progress. Her curiosity swelling, she jumped over the fence to see what was on the other side: a mysterious severed hand thought to belong to an ancient Georgian queen. This object spearheaded a multi-year, multi-pronged project spanning research, storytelling, forensics, and game-making. The Travelling Hand, inspired by this archaeological mystery, takes players on a labyrinthine journey through time, space, and civilization, to unveil the story behind this ancient artifact. Part of an ongoing project, a meditation on the methodology of game-making in critical practice, The Travelling Hand offers a reminder to the struggle of holding onto heritage, identity, and ethnicity.

Gayatri walked us through her immersive installation at TENT Rotterdam—the latest iteration of The Travelling Hand—which is on view until February 17th, 2021. Made up of a constellation of stories about religion, colonial/imperial power, archaeology, geopolitics, marginal histories, and resistance, the game board is set for three players. Each play is unique and lasts one hour, and there are multiple storylines to explore at the same time.

Here, Gayatri speaks with us about the simultaneous specificity and freedom that comes with working in games, disrupting western notions of time and progression, and how the concept of shapeshifting guides her work.

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