Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bose says Yes to NO

(Malini Gulrajani, Sudarshan Shetty, Bose Krishnamachari, JohnyML and Shankar Natrajan in front of 1 x 1 Gallery, Dubai)

Bose Krishnamachari compresses his aesthetic ideas into one single word; that has been his hallmark style for quite sometime. Whether they are his curatorial projects or solo exhibitions, Bose comes up with certain titles that provide some clues to the viewer for developing intellectual engagements with the works. His latest solo show, which is currently on at 1x 1 Art Gallery, Dubai has a thought provoking title-‘NO’.

A few months back, when Bose was preparing this show, I had a brief discussion with him. He had told me that the title of the show would be ‘NO’. To quench my curiosity, Bose had explained it in the following terms: “The word ‘NO’ encapsulates the artistic authority. It is the artist’s right to negate certain demands made upon him. An artist is not a victim of his circumstances. On the contrary, he holds considerable authority to negotiate, manipulate and interpret the circumstances that he finds himself to be in.”

(Love- Tamaso ma, jyotir gamaya)

When the show is on, Bose has worked well on the notion of ‘NO’. From it being a simple artistic/authorial authority/right, he has pushed the limits of this notion to include deeper philosophical issues pertaining to life. Hence, ‘NO’ for him, now is a sort of positive negation as we see in the Upanishads. ‘It is not this, It is not this’ is the crux of the Indian spiritual thoughts. Linguistically speaking, the sign is not something that signifies only one signified. It has multiple roles in the process of signification. So the artistic need is to ‘negate’ the given, dispute the authorial interpretation and allow the play of multiple signification processes.

Through this philosophical negation what Bose attempts to convey is an idea about contemporaenity. The ‘idea of contemporary’ is not about of celebrating the spectacular, but it also paves way for the critique of the given social spectacles. Using his trademark style Bose displays a set of works that debate this idea of contemporary in terms of war, global power playing, love and the production of visual cultures in the public and private spaces.

(Minus + Minus = Plus)

Those people who have been following Bose’s works for the last one decade know it for sure that he uses certain unconventional mediums and styles in his works. During the 90s Bose had done a set of works, predominantly using the Braille paper as his pictorial surface. Here in ‘NO’, he extracts certain notations/alphabets from the Braille language and uses them for his purpose. For example, he makes a sculptural relief that reads ‘Love’ in Braille language. There is another wall painting, which creates some sort of illusionism, where he writes NO+NO= Yes, using the Braille codes. In yet another sculptural relief fitted on the wall, Bose says, ‘Minus + Minus = Plus’.

The viewer is invited to experience a sort of virtual blindness, which is antithetical to the spectacularity of the contemporary world. What do the social spectacles do to a citizen with all its glitter and glamour? Bose seems to say that the people are rendered blind when they are bombarded with the visuals. Over saturation of visuals is a way to blindness. Once we are blinded, we would be forced to use our other faculties understand the world and our sense of touch is intensified in the process.

Hence, we have these works, which demand our touch. But Bose plays from within the ambiguous space between vision and touch. Even if these works are made out of sculpted Braille codes, it is received by the people through their ‘eyes’. While the eyes do not comprehend the intended ‘meaning’ of it, the viewers are forced to touch them. But as they are ‘displayed’ works and the norm is against touching a work of art, they shy away from touching it. So the negotiation with these works becomes an active but embarrassing process, which the artist wants to evoke amongst the viewers. He would like to tell the people that this is how the social spectacles reduce the participating and observing people into miserable entities.


This is where the artistic intention becomes clear and the message becomes direct. Bose asks his viewers to ‘negate’ what is seen and accept what is intended with a sense of critique and celebration. He repeatedly says that ‘Love’ is the singular human feeling, which is going to save the world. The Braille codes, the intentional blinding of the viewer, tell the viewer to accept the artistic intentionality. Bose tries to collapse the conventional by saying that adding up two minuses can create a plus and a two nos can create a ‘Yes’, which is mathematically impossible otherwise.

(Stretched Bodies 360 degrees)

In this show too, Bose continues with his fascination for the stretched bodies paintings, which are popularly known as the ‘Stretched Bodies Series’. Each revisit reassures the convictions of the artist who believes that a line or a form could be taken to the infinity by repeating the act of drawing or building a form using maximum colors, maximum forms, maximum textures, maximum freshness and maximum accidents. Apparentlly, the brushstrokes in these paintings appear as dexterous sweeping of a hand that holds the brush. But the artist envisions a world of infinity in these strokes by repeatedly moving the brush and allowing them to compress the colors at symphonic intervals in order to capture the immensity of the universe in a single squiggling stroke. The artist reads and re-reads Mondrian’s vision through these works. When he alters the shape of the canvas into geometrical shapes (here predominantly circles) he captures the infinity of the world conceptually in a three sixty degree movement. Bose calls himself a chromo-maniac who uses maximum abstraction to achieve minimum figurative ideas as well as maximum figuration to reach to the minimum/minimal abstract qualities.

(Roots +Maps = Mondrianity)

‘NO’ is also about search for the roots. In ‘Roots+Map= Mondrianity’ Bose creates a map that resembles a tree; here is a tree that evokes the feelings of a cloud (a Duchampian one); here is a cloud that makes you image an exotically designed shelf; here is a shelf that leads you to the anatomy of a human body; here is a human body that reflects the whiteness of Piet Mondrian; here is a Piet Modrian leading to Kasimir Malevich. This is a journey of an artist in search of the ‘roots’ and extremities of existence. The classificatory mode of mapping and grid creation puts events, imagination and rumination into a system of global knowledge, which the artist would love to deal with again and again in his works (as seen in much celebrated LaVA).

(White Builders and Red Carpet)

‘NO’ could be about saying ‘No’ to the imperialist forces also. Bose re-presents a work from the show titled ‘Everywhere is War’. Titled, ‘White Builders and Red Carpet’, this work is about the speeches of negation; here negation of the human rights by the imperialist powers. Speech is a performance enacted consciously for communicating the presumed intention and its desired effect. With the absence of performers, evidently the ideological bigwigs, their seats of power that grow as skyscrapers become emblematic of their threatening presence. Mythological allusions to the tragic outcome of a final meeting (as in the Last Supper), the ultimate performance of trust, betrayal and revelation, make ‘White Builders and the Red Carpet’ more poignant than celebratory.

(Long Live....Andy Warhol and Mahatma Gandhi)

Appropriation of a grand narrative and the critique of it through the positing of the artistic self within such narrative is a technique that the artist has been using for a long time. In ‘Re-locating the White Cube’ and the series of paintings that followed it, Bose had critiqued the grand narratives within the aesthetic discourse. While positing the self image within the recognizable and popular icons of Andy Warhol (to emphasize Radical Aesthetics) and Mahatma Gandhi (to position nation, nationalism, narration and the supreme forms of conceptual performative politics), the artist deliberately creates a sub/inter-textual reality where the societal grand narratives are appropriated for temporal gains by the political leaders (as in the hoardings erected by local politicians with the grand pictures of their leaders in order to publicize their allegiance to power).

Grey is the tone of the backdrop against which Bose places his discourse on NO. In his creative schemes colors play a great role. However, when it comes to the presentation of their outcomes, he chooses to place them against the gradations of grey. Here we witness an artist who does not want to see through the eyes of judgment. The extremities of social life as well as philosophical life (even the spiritual life) are such that it cannot be seen against the backdrop of white that accentuates the given. Bose virtually does away with the white color and creates various tones of grey in order to intensify the modes of perception and even comparison.


layered said...

Thank you for showing 'NO'. enjoyed your writing as well.

JohnyML said...