Saturday, February 6, 2010

Resistance and Survival: Videos and Aesthetic Responsibility

(Still from 'Vortex' by Babu Eshwar Prasad)

(Still from 'I am a Bad Guy' by Bharathesh Yadav)

(Still from 'Amusement Park' by Gigi SCaria)

(Still from 'Disable Weapon' by Hindol Bhrahmbhatt)

(Still from 'Selt-Portrait' by K.M.Madhusudhanan)

(Still from 'Hollow Men' by Prasad Raghavan)

(Still from 'Talk' by Manjunath Kamath)

(Still from 'Axiom of Infinity' by Murali Cheeroth)

(Still from 'Rear View Mirror' by Somu Desai)

(Still from 'Not All Flowers Fall' by Surekha)

(Still from 'And Another Day' by Surekha)

Suddenly, contemporary life finds too many tools to unlock itself. In other words, it finds too many mediums to express itself. However, the charm of the conventional mediums does not die out. Instead of fading away from the mainstream discourse of general life, they come as the strong points of reference. When a new medium is used, its affinity with the conventional ones and also its ruptures and departures from the same becomes all the more important. What happened during the last two decades in the practice(s) of video art is this. By now the affinities are found, the departures and ruptures are clarified. Video art has fought its way to the discursive fields of Indian contemporary art.

There was a time when deliberate ambiguity of the familiar played a key role in creating the aforementioned ruptures from the conventional. Now it is the time for dispelling the ambiguities of the medium. Video as a medium has earned its right to exist in the aesthetic discourse. While the artists indulge in the discreet charm of digital technology and its enchanting effects on the viewer who is disadvantaged by the ‘lack’ of ‘knowledge’, it has given an added responsibility to the artists to deal with the charm of technology to engage people with the ‘content’ within the visual result that they create using this medium.

A closer look at the video produced in India during the last ten years would reveal that the artists’ indulgence with the medium’s inherent complexities has taken a new course to accommodate socially, politically and culturally relevant themes. These themes vary as per the artists’ involvement with the society in general and aesthetics (and the politics of it too) in particular. Video, in this sense has graduated from being a trendier medium to a responsible medium to convey effective ideas to a mass which prefers to engage itself with art more closely than any other mode.

The ten artists in ‘VIDEO’, however diversified their approaches to the medium be, resort to and respond to one common theme; a thinking individual’s die-hard struggle for equal rights and justice. His/her hope for a better future and at the same time their innate humor employed in analyzing the events around them are expressed well in these videos. The maturity of their language also confirms how video has become an extension of creative practices irrespective of the hierarchies attributed to it by certain vested interests.

Surekha’s videos show the reconstruction of an innocent viewing. The childhood memories of watching an airplane making rounds in the sky get translated into the terror of looking at the planes as potential threats that would destroy towers and high rises. In her videos she traces the artificial control lines. Composite architectures, deliberately made and set into motion by Gigi Scaria, tell us the tales of powers that are hidden behind the facades of prosperity and urban growth. Political Realism of Gigi tells us history’s icons becoming growing dead bodies in our domestic spaces. Babu Eshwar Prasad registers the implied violence of abandoned industrial materials. And Somu Desai looks at history as a referential point to asses the injustice of today.

Self Portrait of K.M.Madhusudhanan is a photographer’s travels through morgues. He finds his companion in a policeman. State’s violence and the dead men’s histories grow into the existence of the photographer; he becomes the victim and the chronicler of pain at the same time. Murali Cheeroth too harks back to the words of resistance inscribed subtly in the annals of history. His existential questions defy the law of gravity. Hindol Brahmbhatt joins the millions of people who look at the symbols of peace with hope and realize how they become the mechanisms of death and violence before their eyes.

Bharathesh Yadav makes an appealing picture of God as represented in the popular narratives. At the same time the same god forsakes him when he himself turns out to be a bad boy and counts the dreary moments of life in order to survive. Manjunath Kamath must be laughing with his viewers as he presents the endless and strategic arguments between the powerful. All the arguments are supposed to end in agreement and in mutual threatening. His protagonists find no direction in the animated video but they all find a way unto themselves, eventually. Prasad Raghavan dispassionately documents how his life’s mission is being destroyed by the callous hands of the State. Through a very personal micro narrative, he reveals a world of silent resistance.

These videos in VIDEO could be a cross section of contemporary lives that are critically and aesthetically lived. They don’t play with the mesmerizing effects of mechanics. They don’t make claims of being ‘interactive’. But they make the viewers ‘active’ in thinking; about the works they watch, if not at least about themselves.


New Delhi, February 2010

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