Monday, November 25, 2013

EDITORIAL - Women Artists in the Times of Molestation and Rape..

Women Artists in the Times of Molestation and Rape
(The rape of Lucretia- Lucca Giordano)
When I curated ‘R.A.P.E’ (Rare Acts of Political Engagement) with twenty four women artists, at Art Konsult Gallery, New Delhi in March 2013, a few women activists amongst the artists-critics community asked me publicly what right I had got to curate a show like that. Their argument was that women’s voice should be raised by women, not by a man. While agreeing completely with them, I had responded that my decision came after waiting long enough for some woman curator to take up that topical issue and do something towards it. When none was coming forward (even till date none has come forward) I decided to do the show. I did not want to make the notorious ‘Nirbhaya case’ a sensational point of departure that would bring attention to the show. My aim was not to discuss ‘Rape’ but how women artists responded to such issues including rape and brought certain responses in their works. What I conceived was a grouping of political engagements through visual arts done by a group of young women artists. Contrary to my expectations, the media took it as a direct response to ‘Nirbhaya’ issue and gave it a huge publicity.
Today, once again, in the context of the infamous Tehelka scandal that involves Tarun Tejpal, the editor-in-chief of the media organization, I find the same callous response from most of the women artists in India who are public figures, therefore liable to respond to this issue. While most of them keep absolute silence on this issue, a few of them serve their duty by sharing certain articles pertaining to this issue in the social networking sites. Something is always better than nothing. Hence I should laud those people who do this ‘responsible’ sharing. But what surprises me is the general muteness from the part of the women artists. A woman artist friend told me in a private conversation that an artist’s job is not to give out immediate reactions in a public forum. Instead, an artist waits for the responses to mature, take a form therefore the artist could give a proper expression to it. She did not say all these words. But that was what she intended. But I would say, it would be too late when the expression comes out. My demand is not a reaction through art, but through certain words so that an opinion could be formed in the public domain. Shamefully, only the art community, as diversified it is, stands today without a unified opinion about the present scandal pertaining to an alleged rape attempt by a powerful editor.
Sharing an article is one thing and having an opinion of one’s own is another thing. I do not expect a public intellectual with some credibility, which many women artists claim to have, remain silent. Why does it happen? What happened to our women artists who claim that they debate the deeper and crucial issues of society in their works, at least in a very existential fashion? I have come across many women artists from different linguistic and geographical regions in India and my conversations with them have informed me that they did not mind following the tradition while keeping a rebellious facade. Art has always been a place to hide, to express the reality. A woman artist who observes karvachauth could literally kill her husband’s surrogate in her painting. That is a different issue. But what could be the immediate reaction, a studied response, or a well thought out opinion that is expressed in public? Have the women artists gone dumb? Don’t they have tongues? Why they separate art and life? Why they think that life could take a different pace while art could be entirely different? Then what about those writers, sociologists, politicians, singers and so on who openly express their opinion in public? Should I say that a singer can express her feelings only through her singing? 
First of all we have to understand that art cannot bring in any revolution in today’s world. Art is a slow teaser. It occurs, people see it, interpretations happen, ideas come out and some social itch may take place, mostly on the economic front. But if your art is really really strong then people are going to think and talk about it. It could be one point where they anchor their beliefs in. But look at our pathetic art scene with very vocal women artists. Most of them are vocal when the bets are safe. I am sure that our women artists are expressing their moral agitation on Tehelka issue from their drawing rooms. They must be calling each other and weeping over the issue. Or they must be even saying, how could Tarun do this? It would be just an allegation. There must be a political agenda behind it. It must be a game to fix him. I see a few responses from some senior women art players in the social networking sites. They all behave as if they were about to swoon in disbelief. could you! You could have done it with some consenting ones.
What I call the ‘reversed patriarchy’ comes from this mindset of women artists and art players. If an atrocity is done by economically deprived migrants, Dalits and other disempowered people, the hue and cry from our women artists would have been so strong and condemning. But in this case they are still ready to give Tarun Tejpal a chance. I am not a Tarun Tejpal detractor. Actually, as a man I should be thinking in his lines. But I understand how power works and I hate all those people who use power of whatever kind to subject others irrespective of gender. I ask the Indian women artists to come out and speak about the atrocities committed against women, using your words, not by your works. Imagine what would happen if all intellectuals keep quiet saying that our job is to write articles and give seminars, not to react in public? Art is not a glass house. It has the strength to take criticism. Only thing is that the artists should have the courage to live up to the name of being an intelligent, responsible and committed artist.
Today’s artists’ response whether it is male or female reminds me of a particular story from Nazi Germany: A soldier came into the house. Before raping the woman, he told her husband, keep my balls from touching the ground while I am on your woman. After raping her, the soldier left. To her dismay, she found her husband rolling on the ground laughing. Irritated she asked what was so funny about it. He said that in between he let the soldier’s balls touch the ground. 
Most of our artists are like that Husband. 



I am a seed of the tree
(Photo by Bindi Sheth)
India International Centre is hosting an exhibition that will feature the life cycle as well as rituals of Bene Israel Jews living in Ahmedabad through photographs clicked by Bindi Sheth accompanied by texts of Esther David. This exhibition titled, ‘ I am a seed of the tree’ is an outcome of the research grant allocated by Hadassah - Brandeis Institute of Brandeis University USA.

The exhibition will showcase the life of 150 Ahmedabadi Bene Israel Jews in past three years and their multicultural ways of life. Also there will be a talk post this exhibition and the speaker will be Esther David.
The show is on till 27th November 2013.

Light & Space
(Watercolour by Swaraj Das)
Beanstalk, Gurgaon, presents a solo sow by a young and upcoming contemporary artist, Swaraj Das. The show titled, ‘Light & Space’ displays his paintings which have a lot of overlapping of colours which reflects a careful organization and arrangement of his life experiences. His works are mostly abstractions.
Swaraj has won many awards and extra ordinary repute in a small span and never feels tired painting to fulfill the demands of his admirers.
The show is on view till 30th November 2013.

In the spirit of florals
( work on display)
Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai presents a solo show of art works by noted artist Madhukar Munde. The Mumbai based artist holds a diploma as an arts teacher and later he did a post graduate diploma in 1985. 

He has displayed his artworks in India and worldwide and his talent has been highly appreciated by the art lovers. He creates a unique piece of art each time he holds the brush. His works are primarily realistic and figurative, florals with spiritual subjects to adorn the canvas.
The show is on view till 25th November 2013.

Ceramic Dimensions
(Works on display)
Bajaj Art Gallery, Mumbai presents a solo show of ceramic sculptures, by artist Shalan Dere. The first solo titled ‘Ceramic Dimensions- a Dialogue in Clay’ displays her love for the medium of clay. 
The art exhibition is a culmination of two decades of her life experiences portrayed through vivid shapes and forms. From a constructed Buddhist begging bowl to a complicated mural of drunken emotions, her stunning collection of art works on display speak volumes to the viewer.
The show is on from 16th to 21st December 2013.

(News reports by Sushma Sabnis)

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