Sunday, August 7, 2011

Inder Salim Tikku’s Performance at the KNMA, New Delhi: A Tongue in Cheek or Cheek in Tongue Report.

(Inder Salim performs at the Kiran Nadar Museum New Delhi)

They say it is friendship day. So I googled it to know more. Some sites say it is in April and some say it is celebrated on the first Sunday of August. If so today is friendship day and I want to write a about a friend who has two identities fused into one.

He is Inder Salim Tikku. During early 1990s when I met him first in Delhi, he was adamant on being called Inder Salim and Tikku, if you wanted you could. But Inder or Salim would not have done the magic. He was not lucky to have a name like Ram Rahman. So he adopted one. Inder Salim comes from Kashmir. He is a man wounded by the divisions in Kashmir. He is a man metaphorically wounded by the state, India.

When I say Inder Salim Tikku, I remember one young man whom I met during my youthful days in Trivandrum. One day he came to me and introduced himself, I am Christ Nabi Krishan. I smiled at him. His original name was Krishna Kumar. To encompass all religions in him he changed it into Crhist Nabi Krishnan. I did not tell him that there are other major religions in the world. I did not want him to end up in adding more names to his already changed name. Nor did I mention that he would be called by someone C.N.Krishnan, thwarting all his purpose.

Anyway, that’s not the case here. The case is Inder Salim’s performance workshop on Performance art Kiran Nadar Museum of Modern Art, New Delhi on 31st July 2011.

I thought and still think it was a great attempt. In a country where performance art is not yet considered to be one of the possible art forms, a museum like KNMA acknowledging and endorsing an artist like Inder Salim is a very welcoming move. If at all I have a critique on this platform shift (of performance art) from unconventional spaces to a conventional space (in a museum), I would say this much, this is an ‘unavoidable eventuality’ of any art radical form of art. Inder Salim or I cannot resist it for long. But then, there are happening museums that want to co-opt anything that is different therefore becoming a pioneer in that field too. The KNMA must be doing that. But I don’t hold on to blind criticism.

Standing right in front of the price possession of a S.H.Raza painting, Inder Salim looks like a local magician in his customized black cotton clothe gown. Notice the Raza painting and Inder Salim. I like the contrast because a Raza painting is priced possession, a pride of the collector and a gem in the collection of the museum; Raza therefore a state property until he paints a Saraswati in skimpy clothes. And on the other end of it there stands Inder Salim with his body as his tool, perhaps with no price.

Inder Salim speaks to the thirty odd young people who have enrolled as a workshop participants. Out of the ‘young’ crowd, JohnyML, that’s me, Anil Dayanand, that is Anil Dayanand and Roobina Karode, that is the Director of the KNMA are the old people. We look like Andaman Nicobar islands in an Indian map. Our age is not good enough to sit on the floor for six hours on a stretch. Still we sit. You cannot lean against the wall (by order). If at all you lean (that’s quite human) uniformed security will chide you to space.

Inder Salim makes distinction between performing art (as in theatre) and performance art (as in performance art!). In theatrical arts, the performer performs a character. In performance art the performer performs the performers self, spontaneously but politically. Theatre can be included in performance but theatre is not performance.

I look at Inder Salim. He is the one who had started performance art as a devoted art form in Delhi along with artists like Sushil Kumar, Shantanu Lodh, Manmeet Devgun, Anil Dayanand and son on. During those days people thought Inder Salim was another Kashmiri with safe bank job but gone nuts thanks to displacement. But he was not.

Inder Salim was a hard nut to crack so he went on doing performances alone and along. It was Sushil Kumar who first walked the Delhi street nude with a Buddha head to cover his groin. On a good evening we heard the horrible news at the lawn of Lalit Kala Akademy, New Delhi that Inder Salim had chopped the tip of the small finger in his left hand. It was a secret performance on Yamuna Bank in slum. We were horrified. But we waited for him to come back. One day he came back with a finger which was a couple of inch lesser than before. Inder never flaunted his chopped off finger.

Inder Salim performed with his pants on with ripped off bottoms. He walked around the city showing his bare bottoms. He photographed the whole of Delhi and its disparities and kept his blog alive for long. He wrote poems in English and Urdu. He performed with Shantanu Lodhu. They masqueraded themselves as security guards and waiters. Shantanu and Manmeet danced in nude in 2005 while they opened their helpless bodies for vandalism and inscription.

Inder Salim collected shit from the streets of Khirkee and brought to Khoj International Artists Residency at the Khirkee village in South Delhi (if you cross the road from Khoj you will reach Select City Walk Mall. And it is where exactly KNMA is located. Inder Salim, man.. today the distance between places is too less!). Before a horrified audience he exhibited the shit.

We did not call him Piero Manzoni because we knew that had Manzoni been invited Khoj he would not have collected shit though he had collected shit back in Italy. Here Inder Salim was doing his rebellious performance.

Inder Salim has some wares around him. One young boy powders chalk pieces in a granite pestle. In his garb, (dear Inder Salim don’t feel offended) Inder Salim looks like a local medicine seller or a quack who fools the rural folk with magical abilities and herbs. He exactly looks like one. Then he does an act of endurance. He holds a long steel scale laden with chalk powder on his chin and balances it with his right hand. For a long time he stands like that. And I am prepared to be bored or think or smile or anything. So I just sit there thinking about my aching back.

Finally it snaps. Inder Salim opens his eyes and tells that it was one way of engaging the audience and testing the personal limits and so on. He requests the members to switch off the mobile phones and asks the aspiring photography artists to desist themselves from clicking as there are official photographs, two of them, doing the job. Anybody wants pictures, the KNMA will send them accordingly.

Inder Salim man...! Then he tells about in Lahore College of Art, they have developed a special department for Performance Art. I could not have remained silent for long. I ask him, how spontaneity could be taught? When performance art is all about going beyond discipline, how can you teach performance art? You can have performance art and its theories as an academic topic. But how do you teach performance art? Forget man...JohnyML has too many questions and answers too.

Inder Salim does some performances of which I like his way of introducing himself to the audience. He ties the sleeve of his right hand with a plastic rope and hands over the roll to the audience. And holding the bundle on their chests they could say hello to Inder Salim who stands a few feet away from them.

In the second performance, he allows his body to be a surface. He asks the audience to write anything on his body blindly as they could enter him through the sleeves. You could write on the garb also with chalk. Someone write on his write sleeve, who are you? I spring up on my feet hauling my aching back and grab a piece of chalk and write on his left sleeve, ‘ULAY’.

Unfortunately none noticed the connection. If you have noticed please write to me what you have noticed in the inscriptions: Who are You? ULAY.

Inder Salim speaks of the connections between the external and the internal body, the visible and invisible. Given a chance Inder Salim could become another Baba Ramdeve or Shiv Khera, Deepak Chopra or even Arindam Choudhury. But Inder Salim is Inder Salim. He does not want to become any of those aforementioned. That’s why I like him. Still the young rebel, Paribartan Mohanty from amongst the audience pitches in and says, ‘Stop your spiritual wrangling and let us perform’. Inder we are facing the new generation. Don’t take it for granted.

Inder Salim tells a story. It is about how a performance could be a social act. Once he was travelling by a packed bus. One young man was placing his ‘jack’ behind a young woman. She could not react though she was silently showing her discomfort. Inder Salim was a witness to this. He could not react either because the guys were goons. At a point it was beyond the level of human tolerance. Hence, Inder Salim grabbed his erected shaft and looked into his eyes. The guy could not react. At the next stop he and his companions go out of the bus with a sense of coitus interrupts facilitated by a then young performance artist called Inder Salim.

I like the story because I know Inder Salim likes to grab the balls and penises of other people literally as well as metaphorically. Inder Salim warns the workshop participants that none should show nude in the museum while performing because by order it is not allowed. But I like the way he over write that virtual order by skilfully removing his black garb under the pretext of changing his baniyan and showing his bare bottoms to the young audience.

Inder, you have got good bums. And occasionally you give us the glimpses of your dangling assets. I know this is the way you interpolate the inscriptions of museum laws. I like it. You have a cock studio with you, man!

I remember this story that Slavoj Zizek recounts quite often. The soldier comes and rapes a man’s wife and instructs him to hold his balls while he is in the act to keep them from touching the ground. When the soldier finished his act and left, the husband was laughing like mad. Bewildered wife asked why he was laughing and he answered that without the soldier’s knowledge he left his balls several times and they did touch the ground.

Inder Salim then initiated all the workshop participants into their respective performances. It was a good exercise.

I am posting this blog with all these out of focus pictures taken by Anil Dayanand thanks to his poor eye sight and shaking hands, because despite my written request to the KNMA, they did not send me any good pictures of this session, as promised.

Roobina Karode, Akansha Rastogi and Kiran Nadar should take notice of this. Just joking.


Shifting Focus said...

good one!

sumana said...

Fantastic ,loved d way its writen. Always look forward to read your articles on line thnx keep doing such a grt job. cheers sumana

Fingertree said...

Very very interesting, JML... and it is important to hear about the Christ Nabi Krishnan genealogy of IST...

But ULAY clearly cannot speak to the folk who do not know, and I am outside the magic circle. Some pun on 'laying' ? On Oil of Ulay? Ola? Or the Saif Ali song Ole Ole Ole....what? So what was the exercise all of you performed? What was IST trying to 'do'?

Is the point to shake up the sensibilities?

I wish you had seen one adorned shringar kiya hua white feminine foot that Inder projected out of a trunk and waved, the foot with thorns underfoot, which poor Keshav Malik sahib was so troubled by and wished to remove... at a show of Kashmir artists...

Since you make a jab at the secure bank wala fellows with bank jobs, does it mean IST is the one sole authentic voice from the valley? Curious. (Since my ancestors have been out of the valley for several generations we are anyway voiceless)

I saw Nilima Sheikh's show at LKA R Bhavan and was still sad...

Punam Zutshi

JohnyML said...

Hi Punam,

Thanks for that comment. As I said, it was a tongue in cheek write up. I appreciate Inder Salim. Ulay was a reference to Marina Abromovic's partner. Both of them are the pioneers of performance art..


layered said...

i hear gunshots with silencer... lol

AK said...

Hey Johny, thanks for the write-up. You could have take images from facebook. Number of them proliferating. Also read my small piece on the workshop.


bookworm said...

I could not have remained silent for long. I ask him, how spontaneity could be taught?
Hey Johnny I loved that question and the C N Krishnan one. Hats off to you and your wit. I get tickled by these witty ones, so much.

bookworm said...

"....But I like the way he over write that virtual order by skilfully removing his black garb under the pretext of changing his baniyan and showing his bare bottoms to the young audience."
This part is so funny, I am still laughing and laughing.Are you homophobic or was it also tongue in cheek....Hmmmm which cheek I wonder....Johnymon carry on entertaining while being so profound.

JohnyML said...

@ Akansha..Dear Akansha, if everything available on Facebook..then what is the need of KNMA? :-) When you make a promise as an executive of the museum, you should stand by that. In fact, I am aware of all the images that came in face book and all of them are posted and shared by Anil Dayanand. :-)


JohnyML said...

@ Bookworm, Dear Bookworm..thanks for those kind words..I am not homophobic...but definitely tongue in cheek in that.. left one in this..what do you say? :-)


DAREBARE said...