Jason Underhill – FROM LOS ANGELES TO LONAVALA
By Rosanna Albertini
American, but a son of Los Angeles which is America and the edge of it, lapped by the Pacific. Our young artist had to go to London and stay there for two years to realize that post-colonialist echoes in Europe have a resonance and a flavor that is missing in his frontier city. But he needed one more step out to personally experience a colonized country. In November 2103 he went to India for a month keeping his behavior perfectly coherent with a “gross” —as he says— American side to whom he is attached more than he thought.
Only after coming back he started to think about his residency at the Paradise Lodge in Lonavala, among eight artists, as a long game that changed his life. Jason is nor afraid of clichés, for self irony saves him from shots Munchausen style. People from the Valley (continental part of Los Angeles) do act sometimes like barking dogs and laugh about it. It’s a natural thing like yawning when the day is too long, but “it being a natural thing makes it a curious thing a very curious thing to almost anybody’s feeling.” (Gertrude Stein – Narration) No doubt Jason is Jason because his dog recognizes him. Simplicity shouldn’t be underestimated. After all, “it just does take about a hundred years for things to cease to have the same meaning that they had before.” Stein again. And besides, it’s extremely hard to understand the habits of societies in constant transformation all over the world.
Underhill landed into a hilly place non far from Mumbai. Monks excavated the mountains with caves. People of these days filled the walls with simple graffiti. Four castles towered on four of the hilltops. In the small town the foreigners became bizarre celebrities: children wanted to be filmed with them.
Jason Underhill, INT. CHICKEN STALL – NIGHT, 2003
Running: Camera by Chinmoyi Patel, Merike Estna. Driver: Justin Gainan
Train: Camera by Justin Gainan
Kumar Resort: Camera by Chinmoyi Patel
Slam Book : Camera by Justin Gainan
Underhill filmed his own daily life in Lonavala. He looks like an American character incrusted into a place where jogging on the road, or sleeping as a standing horse on the train, do not make any sense. The image of India that he grabs, on the other side, gallops across imitations of western water parks and urban settlements by the same, undeterred pertinacity that fills the image of the young American guest. The two images might merge their foolishness, yet they don’t. None of them is idealized.
Underhill brought to India his human nature and gently revealed his displacement. India crossed over him cutting his breath with pollution and filling his sleeping hours with local music and sounds; he did the equivalent looking deaf. Reality was much more effective than Jason Underhill shows in the films and left marks on his mind. But, as everyone knows, the mind only relates to human nature, they are not the same: the India visitor needs to make sure he is still himself, despite the pleasure of being immersed in a much more communal life than the one he has known in Los Angeles. I’m sure for instance he wants to keep his dog for himself. Mind or nature? Never mind. Of course, there is more.