Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Day Six- The Birth of Dark Chambers and Catharsis- Manjunath at Work

(On the sixth day Manjunath sports a self-designed T-Shirt)

When Manjunath Kamath joined facebook almost a year back, he used to keep his daily status as ‘Ha’ (an expression to symbolize his laughter). The next day it would be ‘Ha Ha’ and it went on like that. People started responding to it. Many joined the laughter and many took it as an offence. Manjunath kept on laughing. It was almost like art critic Abhijit Tamhane’s ‘Google Vipaasana’ (his gmail status for over a year as he decided not to chat with anyone).

Humor, a group of German sociologists studying on the subject has observed, is a most violent weapon, which is used against the social ills. By saying this, they reversed the generic view on humor and laughter. Humor and laughter is no longer the protective shield of the weak. On the contrary, it functions as a camouflage of a guerrilla fighter, who could consciously single out issues and attack it with his acerbic wit and laughter. One who smiles is the most powerful. One who shows a countenance that reflects severe constipation in brain and intestines, thinking that such a face would project their intellectual depth in fact declare it for the world that they are cowards and weaklings.

Laughter is a way to exercise power over people but with good intentions. Manjunath Kamath still exercises his artistic power to laugh, laugh at and laughed at. It is almost like the canned laughter heard in the television shows. Zizek cites that the canned laughter is a method television has invented to create a reflexive society. A society that needs to be taught even the basic human emotions is a reflexive society, according to Zizek and he says that the canned laughter teaches the audience when to laugh, where to laugh and how to laugh; thereby creating a different sort of system of appreciation and power play.

Manjunath’s works are like the canned laughter, especially reserved for all those who are suffering from intellectual constipation (and indigestion too). Hence, when he comes to Gallery Espace on the sixth day, he can do nothing but laugh at what he has done. He looks around and smiles to himself. From a laughing personality, he has turned into a smiling personality; it is like changing your old bayonet gun and picking up an ultra modern sniper.

Manjunath starts with a wall in the ground floor. He creates a dark chamber where an upturned human head functions as a chandelier. And folding side of the wall, through an illusionary hole, a single bulb comes out. Why the bulb again, the artist asks to himself.

(The Dark Chamber)

From the Black Chamber, Manjunath moves on to a niche sort of space in the same floor where he creates a durbar with a hooded and packed king conspire with his similarly packed and hooded courtiers. This mock epic theatre/theatrical presentation speaks volumes about the artist’s innate resistance to power structures and his ability to stand up and laugh at these mock heroes; these scarecrows. But scarecrows could be dangerous, as the crows sitting on the trees outside Gallery Espace. They come and peck at your head. Power always pecks at the wrong part of your system.

(The Durbar begins)

The Durbar of Veiled Power establishes an uncanny connection with an adjacent image of a heap of human feet; the plebian on the move. Manjunath, I am sure, sub-consciously reverses the first shot of Charlie Chaplin’s ‘Modern Times’- a herd of bowler hats thronging in the London streets.

(The Durbar)

Behind the Elephant of Espace and the Hangman there appears a landscape. From behind the hills, faces come out and peer at you. When a layer of black paint is applied on the wall, the whole scene turns into something eerie.

(The new landscape)

Manjunath moves on to the ceiling where he makes squiggling lines to create a pattern. It seems that he can go on endlessly with these lines as he enjoys doing it forgetting even the strangest body posture that he needs to adopt to draw these lines.

(the Ceiling)

Manjunath moves on to the ‘Carnival of Hidden Terrors’. It has transformed so much since the first day. A group of Jamia Millila students and a few of them from Delhi College of Art, watch the artist adding new images of hooded men and their connections with the already existing ones.

(Manjunath adding new images to the Carnival of hidden terror)

The project must be cathartic to Manjunath. He goes back to the image of plumbing. Next to the wall where he had drawn the ‘Rain’ on the first day, he draws a plumbing system with pipes that turns soft at the metal straps, giving away the impression that they are made of clothes.

(Soft Plumbing)

Artist Somu Desai comes from Vapi to be with Manjunath. And for the young viewers, today is a day of frolicking.

(Somu Desai at the dark chamber)

(Jamia students making maximum out of it)

Friends and art lovers come in. Artist Megha Joshi has been here since morning. Artists Sreejata Roy and Koushal Sonkaria also pay a visit. Sabih Ahmed, young art historian and the Assistant Archivist of India Region for Asia Art Archives spends time with the images and us.

 (Artist Sreejata Roy)

(JohnyML and artist Kaushal Sonkaria)

(Young Art Historian and Archivist Sabih Ahmed, Somu Desai and JohnyML)

(Espace director Renu Modi with friends)


Manjunath, Somu and myself sit on the gallery floor and chat on the other wall projects. ‘All for one and one for all,’ comments Somu Desai.

(View and We)

It was a great Tuesday and in Delhi all the sisters were going to meet their brothers to tie Rakhi (a thread that is tied to the hands of brothers by sisters to re-affirm their love and faith for each other). Brothers-in-law were taking decorated wives to their brothers. And the city was choked with brothers and sisters. And in the never ending traffic jams, most of them were uttering expletives which had references to brother, sister, mother and so on.

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