Project Description

Karthik Pandian

Karthik Pandian with collaborator Mike Forcia, credit Yolanda Yang

FSC-Harvard Fellow 2022-23 Karthik Pandian (left) with collaborator Mike Forcia (right)

Karthik Ramanan Pandian is a conductor of energy. He is the son of healers, Mariappan Ganesa Pandian (body) and Lalitha Pandian (spirit), who landed in the Bronx region of Turtle Island in 1972. Karthik is the grandson of South Indian Tamil Nadars who moved from rural villages to urban centers as far flung as Okpo, Burma, surviving invasion, perilous migration, and caste discrimination long enough to see the end of British colonialism. Karthik was born on the ancestral territory of the Tongva peoples in what is now known to many as Southern California in 1981. He was an unexpected and doted on third child, surrounded by the love of his older siblings and parents as well as the comforts afforded by his father’s income as a cardiologist. His mother is a proud caregiver and devout Hindu whose spiritual energy carries into Karthik’s practice, which spans moving image, performance, sculpture, and music. Karthik cares for and is cared for by his partner Paige K. Johnston and his son, Aaru Motherwell Pandian. They share a home and studio on unceded Nipmuck territory which they call Sun & Moon Refuge. Karthik teaches nearby in the Department of Art, Film, and Visual Studies at Harvard University.

FSC Works

Still from In the River. CREDIT Tim Evans, 24 copy. Pictured: Leila Awadallah, Sam Aros, Mitchell LelaPierce

Lucid Decapitation

Karthik Pandian and Mike Forcia

On June 10, 2020, under cover of night, a monument to Christopher Columbus was anonymously beheaded in Boston Harbor. Hours later, protestors led by American Indian Movement activist Mike Forcia (Bad River Anishinaabe) toppled a Columbus statue on the grounds of the Minnesota State Capitol. Direct action against settler colonialism uncoiling in the wake of George Floyd’s murder connected a critical circuit of solidarity and resources between the Movement for Black Lives and the ongoing Indigenous insurgency against the sovereignty of the US. Lucid Decapitation conducts the energy of these acts of destruction into film form, documenting, dramatizing, and speculating around the histories that animated them through the rhetoric and conventions of Hindu mythological cinema. The work searches for relationality in Columbus’ geographic confusion – a founding misrecognition of Caribbean Natives as Indians – a confusion that Brown people live in the crosshairs of to this day. Produced in collaboration with Mike Forcia and an ensemble of Twin Cities-based musicians, dancers, media workers, and activists, Lucid Decapitation braids Indigenous prophecy, Black music, and mythological film to challenge the colonial monument’s claim on space and time. It is a call to loving destruction, to mourn, renew, and re-enchant the world; to turn away from the pedestal and towards one another.