Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The New Nebulizer and The Feed- Performances by Murali Cheeroth and Alok Bal

(Murali Cheeroth does his performance titled 'The New Nebulizer')

(Alok Bal does his performance titled 'The Feed')

Ravi Cavale’s Gallerie Serendip is in the outskirts of Bangaluru. From the city centre it takes almost forty minutes drive to reach there. On the way you see the new metro lines being built and the latest film posters. The suburb is now filled with high rising apartments and plush corporate buildings. And now you know why a new gallery is there. Ravi Cavale wants to create a new client base.

Gallerie Serendip had done a camp in Coorg, near Mysore in April 2010. Veer Munshi, Manjunath Kamath, George Martin, Alok Bal, Nikhileswar Baruah, Farhad Husain, Reji KP, Babu Eshwar Prasad, Murali Cheeroth and Gopinath were the camp members. On 9th morning the outcome of this camp was opened at the Gallerie Serendip.

Generally, an exhibition that showcases the works done in a camp should be a not-so-exciting affair for the art lovers. But this opening was really exciting not only because the works done in the camp are above average (generally camp works prove the opposite, as you know) but also because of the two performances by Murali Cheeroth and Alok Bal.

(Audience watching Murali's performance)

Murali Cheeroth is not new to performance art. Wherever he goes, Murali performs. However this time, though he is prepared well to perform, he has not titled it. Hence, I call it, ‘The New Nebulizer’.

Murali Cheeroth clad in a pair of jeans and a corduroy jacket, with a scarf worn around the neck walks into the centre of the gallery and keeps an artificial brain on a pedestal. He tries to scream things into the brain. Then he tells the audience with a smile, ‘I am speaking to a dead brain. I am speaking to a dead brain.’

With bloodshot eyes Murali looks at the audience. Then he takes out a plastic heart and start inhaling from it. Then he tells the audience, ‘One day she came to me. She said she needed hundred rupees. She said her farmer's son’s dead body was in the mortuary. She wanted hundred rupees.’

Again Murali tries to speak to the brain. Then again he inhales from the heart. Then again he tells the audience what the woman had told him.

Then Murali tears off the brain into pieces. With a sad face he again speaks to it. Then he takes the pieces around the gallery and hands over each piece to people randomly.

He goes back to his seat and inhales again. Then with a smile he tells us, ‘It is not a heart. It is a new nebulizer’

In this crisp performance, Murali makes a retake on the famous Beuysian act of ‘How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare’. However, unlike Beuys, Murali speaks not of art, but of life and creates a link between his performance and the context of art, while the Beuys’ being the other way round. And the ultimate irony of our life, a sort of underlining our acts of cannibalizing of emotions, Murali tells us with a smile, ‘It is not a heart but just a new nebulizer.’

(Alok Bal enters the gallery in his 11 number jersey)

Alok Bal performs at his studio and in the football ground. He was a player in the Orissa State football team. But he chose a career in art. But his passion for football never died out. Even today at the age of forty one, Alok Bal plays football everyday. He runs a football club in Baroda and is called ‘XYZ Club’. And he trains slum kids there and this kids’ team has won several matches in the state clubs level. And Alok funds the team with the money he makes out of his paintings.

But this is Alok’s first performance piece in a gallery context. He has not named it. Hence I call it, ‘The Feed’.

Alok Bal in his number Eleven jersey comes out from a room behind the gallery. He dribbles a yellow football. And on his hand there is a toy.

Alok Bal had found this toy in Ahmedabad at his friend, Hindol Brahmabhatt’s studio. A pack of ten wooden hens stand in a round and peck at the middle. These hens are moved when a wooden ball suspended from the device moves.

The performance was the result of playing with it at Hindol’s studio. While playing Alok said, ‘Suresh Kalmadi and his team eating away from the Common Wealth field’.

It was simple and symbolic. Alok decided to do the performance in Bangaluru then and there.

Alok dribbles the football while walking amongst the viewers. He goes near the audience and kicks the ball towards them. Soon inside the gallery you see everyone playing football with Alok.

During the performance the intention or the meaning of the performance is not pronounced. Perhaps, this performance does not need any political reading unless someone deliberately wants it to be so.

The whole idea is of making the gallery a field, where everyone takes part in a game. They almost forget they are in a gallery. Certain pretexts are broken down and a new context is subtly established. You need not be too serious before a work of art. Approach it with an open mind and with a sporty mind, perhaps things would change for better. Art may start speaking to you.

It is interesting to see people playing football with an artist inside a gallery where his painting is hung on the wall.

What I find more interesting is the entry of Indian male artists into the domain of performance art, which is more or less ‘reserved’ for the women artists. Or it is almost taken for granted that if there is a performance piece somewhere, it would be done by a woman artist. Murali has been consistently performing in the shows, camps and gatherings though the Brahmins of the Art Caste System have not accepted these as ‘Performance’ art with a capital ‘P’. After doing his piece in the gallery, Alok’s response was simple, “I want to do more performances’. And I am sure many more are going to do so.

Post Script:

Manjunath Kamath went and screamed at Murali’s ears after the performance, saying that ‘Now I am speaking to a live brain’.

To know more about Alok Bal’s life and times please refer to this link http://johnyml.blogspot.com/2010/01/alok-bal-story-of-painter-and.html

(In case of not working, please cut and paste this link to your window)

1 comment:

amrita said...

Your writing did take me through the performances and gave me an insight into Alok the person and the artist!Thanks.