What is the future of Indian art? Friends ask me. They are seriously worried because they are confused about the kind of art they see around in the galleries, biennales, museums, art fairs and in the social media. They are confused because they are not doing that kind of art. Their kind of art is often looked down upon as something originating from the conventional mediums or conventional thinking. I would like to dispel all such misgivings by saying that a human being is always created by the conventional mediums and conventional thinking unless he/she is not produced in a test tube or processed in a laboratory through cloning. There are galleries still exhibit and celebrate the conventional mediums and artists but they cleverly diffuse the demarcating lines between those works and the so called experimental works that one sees in the above mentioned fields of art exposition. It is time for a person like me to tell you where exactly Indian art is going and where exactly the artists in this country should head to.
They say, a changed situation necessitates suitable changes in all the walks of life including the creative expressions for these expressions are not originated from the robots but human beings who still are the very same organic beings as they had been ever since the beginning of civilization making only minimal readjustments in the basic constitutions of their making. Robots and animals also could make art but the art made by the human beings are considered to be the most authentic forms of art because it is commonly believed that the human beings unlike the animals and other creatures have the special capacity to imagine, innovate and execute as against the natural tuning of the other beings like for example honey bees that make excellent honey combs which could be called architectural wonders. But they have been the same since time immemorial; as you could not make out a difference between the honey comb of the 7th century BC and honey comb made in 2017. However, the art of these two periods differs considerably because it shows the changes that have occurred in the human thinking and the gradations of intellectual and emotional quotients. That is bound to be so.
However, that does not mean that the changes in the physical environment should change the fundamentals of human talents and the ways in which they express themselves. As restless creatures fitted with this special capacity to create a series of worlds through thoughts they could envision themselves in different forms and shapes and their manifestations could be made possible by the available materials and technologies. The ability to think within and think in between, and constantly find linkages between different knowledge zones, the human beings have developed this tendency to extend their views and expand the limits of innovation by being inclusionary in a variety of ways that includes ideological incorporation and materialistic as well as technological innovations. This also facilitates a situation where the original thinker has to take the help of a set of skilled people to execute the ideas that are originally thought thereby giving the agency of execution into various hands and playing a centralized hub in order to hold onto the various aspects of making. This has in away alienated, in pure Marxian terms, the creator from the created and unlike the Marxian proletariat a new set of creative people have come into being who do not feel the pangs of alienation because for them the creative alienation is another way of getting things done exactly the way a business entrepreneur gets his done and rakes in profit. In this way art in the contemporary times has become an alienated act of making without the existential pangs to tail in.
The art of today is the celebration of alienation and it is diametrically opposite to the Marxian as well as humanitarian alienation that in a way tried to re-establish the autonomy of the worker/artist in a given situation. But today even the Marxism has failed in instilling the idea of belongingness and in preventing the proliferation of alienation. Ironically, even the artists who have subscribed to the Marxian ideology have embraced the reverse alienation so that they could accept the good(y)ness of capitalism and enjoy the profit that their works of art brings in. That’s why a contemporary artist who does a lot of innovative art behaves more like a business entrepreneur than like an artist, and dresses up and lives the life of a business person. The identification with the alienating class has made the erstwhile artists who were with the alienated class now has helped them to see the alienated classes to be their handymen so that they could be used for getting their works of art done. These background artists (most of them educated in the art school) become the shadow players who literally do the work of art exactly the way a factory worker does, get paid and are packed off unceremoniously and all the glory come the artists who manage the events to take place. This creates the historical confusion for the artists who have really done the work and the artists who belong to this newly created class feel the pinch and start doubting their own works of art or even the materials that they use.
Is there any need to worry so? In my opinion, there is no need to worry about such things at all. It is high time that all the artists who are not really alienated from their works but are forced to work like alienated people in the field of art discard the art created by the artists who love this alienation. The business class artists who do all the experiments and get the experiments done by other artists who are skilled should be shunned and their art works should be really discarded. Whatever comes to hold the centre stage in the mainstream discourse is going to be displaced as well as replaced by the former peripheral discourses. Hence, the artists should have faith in themselves and do their works in their so called ‘conventional mediums’. The whole idea of feeling alienated is a false idea for one should understand that an individual’s life is not connected to the business patterns that a few entrepreneurs have created. An individual artist’s life does not decide business patterns of the world. One could live without all those. One could do all his creative pursuits while doing something else for eking out a living. But that needs a lot of grit. If one wants to pursue full time career as an artist he/she should be creating his/her own environment for that. The moment one connects everything with the amount of money that one wants to generate for making such facilities or wants to generate out of the works of art, one is lost. The idea of making money should be detached from the idea of making art. Once you do your art, money is bound to follow. Today’s spectacular art is all about business; art is created for making business negotiations. They are not creative outputs; but forced creations that are meant to serve the purpose of business. I do not say that business is a wrong thing; but anything made into business is going to be away from creativity; they become part of mass production. Mass production does not mean that produced in masses but for produced for attracting masses thereby attracting business. This alienation also plays a double game by persuading and dissuading the people towards and away from the works of art taking inclusive and exclusive stances alternatively. On the one hand these mass(ive) works of art persuade people to come and to take a look at them and at the same time they are kept away from the final negotiations of it. People are never given a chance to ‘have’ such works of art.
The real work of art is those aesthetical objects created by individual artists who do a relentless pursuit of creativity as well as polishing his skills. Artists who do their works should be doing it silently and they should be leading a serene life devoid of all sorts of greed displayed by the mass artists. They are not the role models for a real artist to emulate. The artists who do alienation art are just businessmen taking part in a larger business activity. Like the sanitary napkin companies advertise the need for girls’ education, these artists also makes tall claims to make their works of art to be seen by people and used for business purpose. But the real artist is like a devotee in a temple. He/she should be feeling one with what they do because that is the only thing of worship they can have. They create their god and worship and they could take different methods and materials to do that act of worship. An act of worship even if done in public is not to please the people around. It is first of all to please the worshipper and the god. Here the god is the art itself. And if the art is good, people would really take it home. But you would be able to give it to those people who want it for an affordable price. That is the only way to avoid all kinds of confusion and create your own followers and admirers. It is possible because at least a few artists in this country have proved that they could create a beautiful environment to create their beautiful art. Your art is not going to make any change in this world. Your art is going to give you that devotee’s power that people would like to heed the way they had listened to Kabir and Meera. Work towards it. Forget all those business art. Art would bring you money but art could bring you money only when you are free of all thoughts about money. The question is whether you want to beg for you money keeping the art as a your ‘wounded child’ or you want to celebrate your devotion to art and with art like a devotee drunken by Bhakti? I belong to the latter group and I am always high. Welcome to this heaven. The universe belongs to you.