Thursday, July 7, 2011
Art of Self-Promotion in the name of Culture
First step is the best step. If it is the best, the rest survives the test. I wish Manu Binny George, a young artist who lives and works in Trivandrm, does not make any wrong steps in his first solo show. Why I speak like a one-eyed oracle because I understand his first solo show is going to open tomorrow (8th July 2011) at the BMB Gallery, Mumbai. I checked the activities of the Gallery’s front person, Kanchi Mehta. Came to the scene as Bose Krishnamachari’s assistant, Kanchi rose to the position of the gallery’s director as her mentor left the organization for undeclared reasons (the gallery’s website still says that it is a joint venture between Bose, Mehta (not Kanchi Mehta) and Birla. But it is a popular fact that Bose is now more interested in locally organized international biennales than in the affairs of the local galleries. He has become an expert in maintaining high secrets and keeping mum about the matter of spending public money. The Art Newspaper London says that Kochi Muziris Biennale gets Rs.75 crores is from the state government, Rs.25 crores from the central government and the rest, almost the same amount through sponsorship. That means Rs.125 Crores is going to be used for this proposed Kochi Muziris Biennale. Don’t we, as the tax paying citizens of this country have the right to know about how this Rs.100 Crores from the government is spent?). Kanchi has not posted any invitation about this show in any of her social networking sites.
I should apologize to this young budding curator, who was immensely lucky to get an opportunity to curate the Prague Biennale’s Indian Pavilion, if she is no longer with the BMB Gallery. In an art scene where opportunism beckons more respect than respect itself, everyday you find people shifting positions and switching loyalties (my stock phrases. Save me from such things). I call a friend to get some information from a gallery where she works and she tells me she had left it a ‘couple of months’ back and now she is chilling out in hills. ‘so dear, no information from my side.’ This happens with most of the art professionals in the scene. One day you see someone warming a seat at the erstwhile Bodhi Gallery (now defunct, don’t tell me that. Who knows that Mr.Amit Judge wouldn’t strike back with a better pay package?) and next day the same person blabbering in some seminar in South of India, which is organized by people who think that organizing seminar would give them some respect, if not money. So our art scene is just hopeless. Ai Wei Wei says he has used the word ‘bastard’ only once to qualify the art scene. Should I...don’t expect me to do that. I am an Indian (read proud Indian) who lives in an incredible India.
But Kanchi, in her social networking site account declares her participation in a ‘young curator’s hub’ program at Experimenter, Kolkata. Age is in our mind so even fifty plus people could be called young. Buddha Hoga Tera Baap. This program has eleven curators. India is a pro-woman country at least in the case of curators. Ten woman curators and one man curator and his name is Aniruddh Chari. His inclusion in the program seems to be after several considerations ; a Kolkatan, a columnist, an art journalist, a critic- after all he is going to give some coverage to this program in Telegraph or something. I wonder why we don’t have enough man curators? Gallerists are women, critics are women, art book editors are women, seminar circuit people are mostly women, now curators are also women, magazine editors are women, art dealers are women.
May be the guys are all turning into film making, researching, travelling, teaching, writing and so on, which really need hard work. You may think I am against women curators. I am not at all against women in any field because I am more woman than a woman in my public and private life; not like DDLJ Kajol but like Kiran Bedi. It is better to be a woman like Kiran Bedi, Arundhati Roy, Medha Patkar, Mamta Banerjee, late Protima Bedi and so on than just being another man or an art critic. Still my doubt persists why this majority of art movers and shakers in the form of women do not really promote innumerable women artists in India. Forget all those female names in the circuit, why don’t they bring new women artists. Interestingly, the best of the women artists in India are introduced to the scene by the male curators including Bose Krishnamachari and myself. Ranjit Hoskote has always been a macho curator. Perhaps, the reason is the mutual attraction between opposite sex. But then how many good male artists are brought into the scene by women curators? None. Most of the male artists are in the scene through their hard work. Of course, I don’t discount the roles of the women gallerists and dealers in their success. But I am talking about curators.
Forget all these things. I did not want to write about these things. I am a happy person because I like to do small things. Recently one friend in Bangalore wrote to me that he could not come to see me at the UB City (The Private World of Vijay Mallya of Kingfisher) where I was giving a lecture on video art. He told me that he wanted to ‘avoid seeing art in such pretentious places.’ My God....My God....come on....art is always bought and nourished by such pretentious people like Vijay Mallaya. Let us face it. Don’t say that a hotel lobby, a drawing room, a bed room are pretentious places, and these are the places where you see art. How can you call it a pretentious place? And how can you call all of those people buying art are pretentious people? Sir, if they stop buying art and start doing something else, the art scene will be screwed up big time, right? Then, my friend is a person who runs an alternative space in Bangalore. Why can’t we see UB City as an alternative space? Why do you always insist that an alternative space should be a place where one could find illiterate and unsuspecting villagers and mud walls, or morons in Skirt Pants and Pants skirts squatting under a badam tree and harangue corporate culture while sipping Kingfisher beer? Any space outside a gallery is an alternative space.
In fact any space outside conventional thinking is an alternative space. Hence, the mind is the best alternative space where you could accommodate spaces and people and create the manifested relationships in any given space and give it an alternative meaning. Actually, this inner vision is not written in any books or discussed in Seminars.
I like to do small things, which would bring bigger effects than doing big things with no effects. It is always advisable to work with a Lado Sarai Gallery and reach to wherever you want than to start with Bodhi Berlin and international houses of cultures and end up in Lado Sarai, Hauz Khas, Wazirpur, Najafgarh, Gaziabad, Meerut, Faridabad, Palwal, Hizar and so on based galleries.
(My sincere apologies to Manu Binny George for starting with his name and ending up in digging the dirt in our scene. I will be posting a piece on his works soon)