Monday, June 24, 2013

EDITORIAL - Bharti Kher's Moral Agitation and Reality of Indian Art Scene and more


Bharti Kher’s Moral Agitation and the Reality of Indian Art Scene
(Bharti Kher)
India does not feature at the 55th Venice Biennale. In 2011, Lalit Kala Akademi had taken initiative to have an India Pavilion there and as all of us know Ranjit Hoskote was the curator of our National Pavilion in Venice. This year we are not there. Noted artist Bharti Kher laments that Indian bureaucratic apathy is the reason behind this lack of participation. Kher finds it difficult to digest the fact that smaller, poorer and war worn countries are there in the 55th edition. She concludes her complaint or rather outrage by accepting that art cannot change the world. “But we cannot escape apathy and indifference and I am not talking about politics, I am talking about love,” is the last line from Bharti Kher. A few important art people have responded to it (for details read While agreeing with Kher, some of them suggest that they should form a union of artists and art workers (my interpretation) and force the government agencies to take responsibility. Some of them say that they should pick and choose a few important people (read Kiran Nadar, Lekha Poddar, Peter Nagy and so on) and make them chalk out the future action. Some say, ‘just forget it’. Though critical in many points I think such initiatives are the need of the time. But the complexion of it should be different. Why? Read on.
( Lalit Kala Akademi)
I like and understand Bharti Kher’s moral agitation. But I strongly believe that it is a bit anachronistic. The demand for India’s aggressive participation in International cultural forums like Venice Biennale and the critique on bureaucratic apathy should have come from an artist like Bharti Kher at least five years back, to be precise when our art market was booming. Today, when all the private agencies (read galleries) have proved themselves to be spent forces and behave like small time businessmen from pavements, why we suddenly feel the need for government support? Doesn’t it sound like what Vijay Mallya had in his mind when his air traffic business went bust? See, I have done my best, I made air travel an experience, I handpicked the air-hostesses  I made wonderful calendars and I even gave you take away stuff. Now I don’t have money to give your freebies. Why doesn’t the national coffer loosen up a bit and revive my business? The business tycoon seems to say. The artists who have enjoyed all the facilities of private enterprises and business houses during the boom years now simply say that the same should be provided by the government, not only to themselves but also to all the art business houses.
(Ranjit Hoskote)
Let’s us go for a reality check. The Lalit Kala Akademi, which is responsible for lobbying and facilitating international participations, has been doing it even during and before the boom years. Did anyone care to ask about the quality of such programs? Everyone approved the Indian Pavilion in the 54th Biennale because it was curated by Ranjit Hoskote, who has made no sense to the contemporary art scene (or has made sense to everything of Indian contemporary art from Sabawala to Gond Art, from Gobhai to Tanmoy Samanta) despite his self appointed role as a ‘cultural theorist’. The approval came or eked out only because Hoskote had become an essential ingredient in the international cultural packages from India. Anybody who disputes me should disprove me with five cultural theoretical propositions forwarded by Hoskote, based on Indian contemporary art, which have changed the art scene of our country the way Foucault’s or Agamben’s ideas changed the cultural world. We all know how Hoskote was pushed into a soup in Venice when he faced the real bureaucracy. Did he have the guts to criticise the cultural magnets of this country after he came back from Venice and brought out the issue in public? 

(Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts)
There a stone’s throw away from Lalit Kala Akademi you see Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA) and on the other side Azad Bhavan with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), two agencies with a lot of funds to make anything happen in the field of culture. In IGNCA things happen but nobody comes to know. Taking the help of the ICCR many people go around the world. The mainstreamers who criticize government now used to consider those people who have any connection with the IGNCA or ICCR just B and C grade artists who are ready to ‘do anything’ for a free ticket. Why didn’t these people intervene and facilitate a change when money was pouring in the art scene a few years back? Were they too busy to think about the cultural importance of their country? 

One of the respondents (to Bharti Kher’s letter) speaks about forming an organisation of artists, a sort of union. Union is always formed by those people who are socially and economically and even politically weak. They form unions to wrench their rights from power centres. That means, when boom was around artists and other art players were not weak. Now they are weak so they want organisations and unions. None ask this question, why only the lack of participation in Venice Biennale raises such hue and cry. Why none thought of forming a union of artists for helping out those artists who have been deprived of the benefits of economic boom? So we have to see this idea of forming a union with a bit of suspicion. This union will not be for the benefit of a larger art public but will be a conglomerate to push their business plans over the government’s shoulders. Some even suggest that instead of talking about Venice, we should be supporting our Kochi-Muziris Biennale. I would warn them that before getting into such an act ask the KMB trustees to come out clean in public regarding the expenditure of public money. If they are clean, I will be at the forefront to support KMB as an alternative to the world art scene.

Finally, I am fascinated by Bharti Kher’s last sentence in the letter. She says, ‘I am not talking about politics, but I am talking about love’. Does something ring familiar? Kher takes a Lennon-esque or Beatles-esque stance, ‘No War Make Love’, a slogan that had moved all the romantics. Where political reality and its analysis fail wishful thinking in the form of romance occurs. Bharti Kher makes it clear. She says, I am not talking about politics. But about love. She does not want to go into the deeper issues because she herself believes that art is incapable of bringing about a social change. But she forgets that an artist of her fame and fortune could bring about changes provided her statements are made in full integrity and sincerity. But when one does that, one has to confront the political realities. One cannot extract ‘political or politics’ out of it. One has to leave the creature comforts and come out in public. One has to take responsibility and fight it out till the end. Otherwise such lamentations will remain in web space and yes, a few would definitely respond.



Broken Clouds of Innocence

(a charcoal work by Kanchanmala Ghosh)
The Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata presents a solo show of exquisite works of artist Kanchanmala Ghosh. The works on display are her recent charcoals and acrylic on canvas collection.

Kolkata based Kanchanmala, is an Academy of Fine Arts graduate, and has had several group and solo exhibitions in and around the country.

Kanchanmala’s works in her recent show display a mix of intense portraits and melancholy landscapes which arrest the viewer’s attention. Her near monochromatic palette and rare use of mild colours gives an intense hypnotic look to the works.

The show titled, Broken Clouds, draws the attention of the viewer to the innocence of the faces, mostly of young children, and the attempt to capture their emotion through the works. The landscapes appear to depict the onset of monsoon and the waiting felt by the earth in anticipation of a cooling rain shower on the summer earth.

The show is on view till the 26th of June 2013.

Vibration - An Art Exhibition

Karnataka Chitrakala Parishat, Bangalore, presents a show of art works by a group of upcoming and new comer artists along with established artists from the country. The show titled, ‘Vibration - An Art Exhibition’ will preview on the 24th of June 2013 at 6:00 pm and is on display till the 26th of June 2013.

The show is curated by artist, curator Vishal Sharma and the participating artists are, Juhi Shukla, Kishan Soni, Madhu Rriya, Manoj Singh, Monika Saroch, Mustajab Shelle, Navkas Sharma, Nikhil Shkdev Giri, Raj Kumar Singh, Rajeev Kumar Gupta, Runa Shelina Banu, Sandeep Shakya, Sanjay Chandeliya, Shweta Agarwal, Suhani Jain and Vishal Sharma. 

The show displays an eclectic mix of style, and genre of artworks, rendered in a variety of mediums. For further information about the show, please call on +91 9691191173/ 9808123173.

The Nadbramha show

( 'Sprout' - a print by Sujit Giram)
The Hirji Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai presents a group show a group show of art works by four upcoming artists and print makers of the country. 

The participating artists and print makers are Pravin Mukhekar, Sujit Giram, Seema Gondane and Shrikant Dahiwal. 

The works on display are in the form of paintings, in acrylic and oils on canvas, depicting various scenarios of childhood and youth, prints which deal with the regeneration and sprouting of creative pursuits and ideas, generated by the idle mind delicate and intricately designed. The drawings on display, mostly rendered in pencil an ink or charcoals exude a plethora of known and recognizable to unknown forms which blend on paper effortlessly.

The show resonates as the name suggests the deep rooted thoughts and expression of the artists as an interaction with the world around and inside them.

The show is on view till the 24th of June 2013.

Artist-run Spaces Symposium

Asia Art Archive and Para Site co-present a symposium titled ‘Parallel, Alternative, or Historically Particular?  - Roundtable on Archiving Artist-run Spaces‘ on the  28 June 2013, 6:00-8:00 pm at A Space, Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong
This roundtable is part of an ongoing and shared enquiry into the contextual framework of how artist-run spaces are being archived and historicised. Core discussants will include practitioners from the region currently working with AAA to archive artist-run space projects, as well as a number of local practitioners/artist-space founders and members from the AAA research team.
Through dialogue and conversation, this roundtable will address issues around the urgency of archiving artist-run spaces, what is being archived, and what gets lost in projects of narrativising and archiving, as well as implications of these archiving projects on how artist-run spaces are being historicised. The discussion will span various contexts from specific strategies to common challenges. It will be an opportunity to share ideas and approaches among practitioners.

Alongside the roundtable, AAA will showcase a variety of publications in its library on the topic, inviting a closer examination of the diverse approaches to archiving artist-run spaces in Asia. The event will also mark the soft launch of the digitized archival collections of two pioneering alternative art spaces in Vietnam – Salon Natasha (Hanoi) and Blue Space Contemporary Arts Center (Ho Chi Minh City) – on its digital platform.

Moderated by Linda Lai, Artist and Associate Professor, School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong, the core discussants include Ringo Bunoan, Zoe Butt, Janet Chan, Choi Yan-chi, Claire Hsu, Natasha Kraevskaia, Leung Chi-wo, Qinyi Lim, Hammad Nasar, Ellen Pau, Nora Taylor, Arlette Quynh-Anh Tran.

 (News reports by Sushma Sabnis)

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