Saturday, January 15, 2011

All Art is Contemporary Art- Really?

All Art is Contemporary- an invitation that I got from the Loft, Mumbai says. My initial response was this ‘Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi’. For those people who do not understand Hindi and what Ekta Kapoor does in Television, I will translate: Once upon a time Mother-in-law was also a daughter-in-Law.

Now connect these two statements. The Loft people say, All Art is Contemporary. And Ekta Kapoor says, Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi. For argument’s sake we should accept the truth value of these statements.

But then the issue is Saas cannot be always a bahu. She gets old, take stronger positions in family matters, from the door-mat status she gets elevated to the respectable ‘daadi-maa’ (grand mother), if not she becomes a weeping willow like Nirupa Roy. To put in normal words, Saas is saas because she is saas. She cannot be always bahu because time brings all changes.

Seen in the same way, all art cannot be contemporary. Like a Saas we have to see it in pre-modern, modern, post-modern and contemporary terms. Modern is modern because there is something called contemporary. Or, contemporary is contemporary because there is something called modern.

Contemporary is a word that shows the temporality of a scene. The immediacy of time that you share with your milieu is what makes your productions contemporary. You can paint like Raja Ravi Varma but then you will be called a pre-modern artist. Or you can paint like Souza, then you will be called a modern artist. If you instill certain contemporary elements into the Ravi Varma language, you will be called a contemporary artist.

Contemporary is a term of flux. Movements are in flux. Once they become settled, they are called schools. So we have contemporary pop movement or contemporary cutting edge movement but Baroda ‘school’ of art.

Modernism, in that case any thing that is qualified with classificatory terminology of (art) history, is an aesthetical and historical necessity for analysis. If you force all the –isms into one, you show two symptoms: one, you don’t know anything about history and historiography. Two, you know everything, but to sell your wares, you take this attitude, ‘I would stoop to any extent.’

Market makes right thinking people to behave funnily. They will even argue that Marxism is actually all about Economic imperialism, Arundhati Roy promotes militancy and M.F.Husain is a terrorist and so on. They can even argue that dog has four legs like a table. So Table is Dog and Dog is table. That’s vulgar logic.

All art is not contemporary. Contemporary art is supposed to be political in all sense and it contains all –isms; right from feminism to environmentalism.

You cannot force Benod Behari Mukherjee and Ravi Agarwal into one compartment and call them contemporaries only because both have loved looking at nature.

Then I saw this phrase in the same invitation- ‘Iconic Image’. Art is all about iconoclasm. A functional object becomes an art object when it is converted into icons. Each successive period attempts at breaking these icons. Henec an artist is an iconoclast. Modernism has a history of a series of iconoclasms. Post-modernism is all about the breaking of grand narratives into micro narratives. Hope you all heard of post-structuralist linguistics. This provided tools to the artists to deconstruct the grand narratives of all types.

How do you harness Tagore and Riyas to one yoke? Only by calling them all contemporary, would they become contemporary? If I use the same logic, shouldn’t I call Jamini Roy and Riyas by the same name- modernists or pre-modernists?

What’s happening here? To sell well will you kill all your Will to truth?

After reading this the Loft People must be quoting Deepika Padukone in Om Santi Om by Farah Khan:

‘Ek Chutki sindoor ki kimat tu kya jano Ramesh’

Translation: ‘JohnyML, what do you know about the pangs of a gallerist?’


pragati said...

I just read your newest piece. It rings so true what you have tried to explain by the word 'contemporary' in art.

As I was going through the earlier writings of yours, I liked the way you came upon the subject of knowings and non-knowings of languages particularly for the children of parents speaking different languages as mother-tongue... I speak in Bengali with my daughter, She can speak and understand Malayalam as her father's 'langue maternelle' is Malayalam. It just happened as she spent her school-years in Kerala and her parents spoke Bengali at home.
I , as a Bengali, go about Malayalam via Sanskrit , and believe me, it really helps as so many Malayalam and Bengai words have these common Sanskrit roots.

So when I came to listen to your talk on "Curating", at Trivandrum Fine Art's College, I could discern so many words spoken in Malayalam.

Sekar Ayyanthole said...

M L J, u r in real track.ayan want tis allin Book, for next days.

JohnyML said...

Hi Pragati,

thanks for that..

I remember you attending my lecture in trivadrum..

Thanks for this valuable comment..

pls be in touch..


harendranath said...

once one asked to ,in which medium you r working? i said........... MIND...........