art of epiphany

05/09/2008

(AN UNDERGROUND REVOLUTION LOST )

Advertising is the art of manifesting an appearance. Manufacturing a deity; an image for the masses to drink up. The more absorbtive, the better. Graffiti has been an effort to subvert advertising in most cultures. It is not a mere expression of drawing techniques and skills, or colors. It does not only carry a ‘coolness’ factor with it because it has the element of risk and adventure attached to the artform. Theres a deeper cultural ground that manifests itself into graffiti cultures. Many photographers/ artists/designers have attempted to document the graffiti culture in india. But most seem to be looking at the graffiti generated as part of commercial advertising. Thats not really grafitti. Even commissioned works may not qualify as an emerging graffiti culture. The premise of this art is to articulate what the advertisements/ visual bombardments leave out/disguise or mislead on.

From personal experience, the only authentic graffiti that I may have encountered is scratched out words and figures(usually always pretty demeaning to women) in buses and  train toilets. Or the ones at public places, especially historical monuments in cities or ones visited by the civic-sense lacking Indian public which has almost no caste or class distinction. Most of them seem to display a society of sexually depraved men who have been repressed from any sort of sexual talk with women. Secret writings on the walls are their desperate means of communication about their most natural but unfortunately suppressed desires. Also a certain attitude towards sex and women seems to come about which is representative of nothing but highly damaged perception of the opposite sex. This culturally spontaneous graffiti that has emerged hidden in the toilets/trains/ buses of India which spontaneously seems to make an effort to subvert the sexual taboos in the social/familial structures. Opposed to this natural tendency of the Indian graffiti culture, the graffiti that seems to have been born in the tubes of london or the trains of New York has been a more direct critique of capitalism/advertising and inequality of the sexes. This culture has emerged as a pure subversive socio-cultural art with all the adventure/risk but clear social messages and intentions. The commissioned works have come much later when certain styles (like schools of graffiti) have found appreciation and connoissseurs. Some of the works are detailed masterpieces and have become celebrity graffiti artists, some still guarding their identities and sticking to the essence of the medium and its illegality and focus on the art and the anonymity of its presence, making it actually an intended voice of the people. What is fascinating is that the American/European graffiti cultures have emerged mostly from the lower classes of these locations, born out of the need to neutralize the frustrations/exploitations/struggles and their everyday socio-political disappointments which filter into their everyday experiences. Which says a lot about the patriotic, civic and socio-cultural discourse going on in the minds of the young. Their need, so strong, to scribble their message on the pavement and convert it into a whole new artform.

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Certain groups have recently come up in Bombay and other places in the country who have studied and found the Western styles fascinating and are merely emulating the styles and doing some commissioned work. These groups, however, seem to lack any sort of vision or seem to be unaffected by any real motives. this could be due to the fact that they do not really directly experience social adversities or feel that capitalism or any other agency(government/religion/family….etc.) has disillusioned them in any way and therefore their non-urgency to express anything. Even though i think, the disillusionments/disappointments are there but theres a lack of expressing or giving them any form of articulation or a mere critique of the Indian urban society by its young(15-40 year olds)  There is an air of being on guard, of complying with all constructs of social exchange, pretending, being very careful, lest one is alienated or sought to be a social deviant, misfit at the same time being an elite memeber of an elite community. The youth revolution of the sixties has transformed into college level politics. As Guy Debord would have remarked, mere apprenticeship for becoming a zombie. Kids of white collar citizens do not engage in politics. They do not understand it. The majority of the youth are too ignorant or mere dim-witted towards leadership, society, country, governments and rule. They’d like to pay their taxes, commit some minor corporate crimes, avoid the traffic policeman and any other sort of policeman or law-making authority by becoming invisible and paint beautiful colourful western forms on the city walls, hoping to believe that they can relate to another country better than their own past and present.

There is a tendency in the urban Indian who thinks he can be hip by being part of a seemingly subversive group or just of an artform which represents the new/ the outsider art (especially European or American). Something he can do and talk about that makes him part of an artistic minority i.e. adds an elitist quality to his existence which can help him further manipulate his social status or in intimidating the other more common, more mediocre, not so elite artist on the other side of the table. These groups are not subverting ‘evil’ practices of indian capitalists in any way, rather they want to get their own little pieces of the capitalist cakes using only the surface level technique of this socially critical and important  medium. Also these people use the walls of people who are very eager to please them. What is this fascination of the indian lower middle class (is it naivity?) with flashy dressed hip youngsters resembling the Hindi-dubbed Hollywood film actors or the brand flashing bollywood actors. i want to investigate the reasons for this eagerness to welcome the richer, the haves by the have nots. Is it the aspiration to make friends with them? because they (notice how ‘they’ are ‘they’, THE OTHER which says something about the biases of the author here) are not only from the lower middle class but also all that the lower middle class stands for, especially conservatism, more frustrations, more struggle, and usually cinema/television (and now going to the mall) is the only means of adding quality/standard or entertainment from their mechanical survival dominated suburban (subaltern urban? )  lives. and all these respites are also full of the glitziness of a higher lifestyle. so when someone from that higher lifestyle comes with a proposal that seems strangely new, as if it’ll help them enter a realm of the unknown high art, the swish, the glamorous people, its their chance to get an insiders view of their strange polished world.


Important Questions Seem Foolish…?

09/10/2008

OR VICE VERSA. where is the love?

The contemporary great Indian spectacle, after the television, is the mall. In many ways, it is an extension of the television, if we look at the advertising done in malls, the roads leading to malls, are the hotspots for billboard advertising. Billboard advertising are huge and very ugly. I blame them for damaging the entire cityscape, replacing the trees. They are repetitive/ use limited vocabulary/ promote western materialism and discourage individuality at the same time being garish in color and so massive in size. They are the most depressing public installations viewed by the urban inhabitant. The sad thing that digital technology is poorly used in manufacturing these seemingly perfect images with perfect human beings. Anyway, I don’t seem to be saying anything, we don’t already know. So moving on to a question thought aloud …how do we rope in the same advertisers, the same ad agencies, the same clients, the very same temples of consumption, the malls, into envisioning a positive and less oppressive experience of the city. I foresee a saturation that will turn their strategy around. That’d be the dog day of the concerned designer. Strike me down for being way too hopeful!

In the circle of cause and effect, the cause always seems to return to the consciousness. What do /will/have these advertorial images done/are doing to us. Cities are brimming with chaotic images, they are seeping into the mind of the city, throwing the collective conscious into a riot of suicides/murders/and now bombs. How do we mellow this place down. Can advertisers/media contribute in changing the way the Indian city feels? Or is that solely the work of the vote-hungry politicians and a few mercenaries who work with NGO’s that might be getting some of Brangelina’s money after passing down many hands. 

What about fair trade?

Do people in cities believe in God? If yes, what do they think of religion?

In a city like Ahmedabad, are people of different religions, neighbours? why not?

As an artist and as someone who needs to earn her bread n butter and indulge in some materialism myself, do I have a job in this country, if I want to use media and technology just for the betterment of urban space? I can’t think of one place which would want me. They want numbers/ presence which translates into flashing images and messages wherever you may find the place. If i suggest installing a screen in a public toilet, infront of the pot, i might just be given a pat on the back for suggesting such brand presence!

Can I die rich and ethical? —The great urban Indian prayer to God

A travelling circus of media installations with the light that calls the masses. now that’d be a real playhouse.

An Indian media carnivale. with LEDs as the jugglers and the Singh sisters artworks as the portrait painting machines. 

Whoever wants the honour of producing my ideas, get in touch NOW or you may forever have lost a redemptive oppurtunity!

 

If you’re naive/ hopeful/ and admit that you care, beware, you may be out of fashion. 

Crib, be cynical/ sarcastic/ look down upon everything/ pretend some detachment/ pretend you have no feelings…                    be cool (cold)


Everyday Insanity

09/10/2008

I came across a book that could be termed disturbing by some (most) measures. 

Though This be Madness   a study in psychotic art

-Georg Schmidt | Hans Steck | Alfred Bader

devised by Alfred Bader (strange credit, I thought…)

The copy I have here with me is owned by an institutional library and seems to have been printed in 1961. 

“it is not the purpose of this book to prove anything, but to afford an insight into the wonders hidden in the depth of the human soul. The remarkable gifts displayed here by three psychotic patients open us a realm of weird poetry- a realm which the poet and the scientist, the art historian and the physician each strives in his own way to make accessible. Disease itself then fades into insignificance before man’s astonishing creative energy. To bear witness to the primaeval spirit of humanity is the sole aim of this pictorial album”

“ALL WRITING AND PAINTING, ALL SCULPTURE, BUILDING AND INVENTION IS IN FACT A FORM OF ESCAPE FROM HELL”     – Antonin Artaud

This book reminds of two other books, actually one other book and a student project document I came across. The first is a book called Outsider Art by Roger Cardinal. I’d like to type out the brief introduction that describes this book as well, as both these books are looking at the margins of art.

Both these books look at artists that seemingly bear no influence from their surroundings and society.

 

” ‘The characteristic property of an inventive art’, writes Dubuffet,’is that it bears no resemblance to art as it is generally recognized and in consequence…does not seem like art at all.’  In this book, Roger Cardinal examines perhaps the only art which can truly be described as inventive, the art engendered outside the influence of society: by those certified insane; by those who claim inspiration from

the spirit world; and by the innocent, upon whom the stamp of stereotyped culture has failed to make an impression. In doing so, the author challenges the accepted definitions of art, and the validity of the bases from which we judge it. In a society where artistic activity is all too often a by-product of professional publicity and the commercial juggernaut, he demands that we consider ‘outsider art’ as a real alternative. ” 

 

Minor Masters Of Madness …….(foreword to ‘though this be madness’, by Jean Cocteau)

‘In this age of monstrous vulgarity, of education without culture, when words have lost their meaning through being wrongly or loosely used, perhaps we should restore its true meaning to the word “realism”.

Realism consists in faithfully copying the features of a world which belongs to the artist. Thus it has no connection with what usually goes under the name of “reality”.

It follows that the artist must, to a certain extent, be a schizophrenic (I). Like a child or a madman, he can make no claim but to genius.

There was a time when a spiritless paraphrase of genius had cultural and scholastic authority, but talent in our time-the sort of talent that might stem from healing, from family pressures, or from mere habit-no longer has that degree of popular acceptance that would permit, for example, a mediocre painting t…

(i hate to write this but I lost what i had originally typed due to a connectivity glitch, and I cannot , for the life of me, locate this book again. It seems to have mysteriously disappeared!! and the librarians seem to be no help to try and locate it for me. It seems the disappearance of a book is really no big deal in this library.)

Anyway, I mentioned that there is one other book/document that I an reminded of here. That’d be a student project by Prachi Kamdar. There are only a few student projects that are worth looking upto at the institute where I study. This is one of those few. It is dedicated to studying the pocketed deviancy in society and the publication she has come up with is a celebration of that. “The commoness of the uncommons”, that I think is the title of this project if I remember correctly. I found that not only has Prachi Kamdar studied the subject thoroughly (and it is clear that she has enjoyed every bit of the same), but she has also translated that big chunk of learning into a very minimalistic publication which is interesting/ simple / subtle but heavily laden with meaning and intention. It shows that she has not only enjoyed making the visual graphic design during her educational experience but really managed to acquire an intuitive design sensibility, which is an increasing rarity at this institution. There is a sense of disappointment when one looks at the quality of the body of work produced in this space. All talk, hardly any walk.


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