Asking a Shadow to Dance

Creating poetic spaces through interactive typography

Artist's Note

This project envisions Kalidāsā's venerable poetry — Meghadūtam — as interactive, three-dimensional typographic forms, moving through space. Type is viewed through the lens of computation to weave form, motion and interaction to take readers through the poem’s emotional journey. If poetry is a mere shadow of emotions felt, by asking a shadow to dance, we urge to bring words to life, to hold a stronger presence, a deeper voice.
View the project Peruse the code Read the exegesis
Meghadūtam is a pre-eminent poetry in the genre of sandhesha-kāvyā or messenger poetry, that revolves around an exiled man, pining for his love in a distant land, who requests a cloud to carry a message to his beloved.
The poem narrates two love stories in parallel : one between the banished yakshā and his beloved, and another between the flowing landscapes and its varied inhabitants. As the yakshā describes the route to the cloud, his emotions intensify, change and evolve with the cloud’s journey. The physical journey of the cloud through the landscapes, becomes a metaphor for the emotional journey of the yakshā, as he goes from longing, to hope, to assurance and finally, acceptance.
In this work, I don the narrator’s hat and envisage Kalidāsā’s heart-stirring piece of poetry through interactive, expressive typography. The primary motive of this recreation is to express and amplify the emotional journey in the poem as perceived by me.

Response to the Project

The default mode of code is a line here, a circle there. I think through your work you are getting outside of that mode through the introduction of language, through the introduction of audio, and I find that when we get away from the world of formal geometry and move into the world of language and meaning, that's a really exciting space for code to go. I found your work very, very compelling.

— Casey Reas, Discussing the project at ACM SIGGRAPH · SPARKS

This project was featured on Backslash Lit and presented at ACM SIGGRAH SPARKS conference, Typography Day 2021, and the dra.ft festival.