Monday, April 3, 2017

New India and the New Indian Artists

(All images by Photographer Raghu Rai for Representational purposes only)
The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi in one of his radio broadcasts addressing the nation recently, forwarded the idea of 'New India'. Some people say there is a hidden agenda behind it. By insisting upon learning Sanskrit, reviving ancient knowledge systems, and a universal world view which are pivotal to the Indian world view, is looked at by certain sections of the Indian society which have been conditioned by a peculiar notion of secularism, with skepticism. They confuse modernity with the ideological imports from the West. They also think that the Indian world view and the ancient knowledge systems and wisdom specific to it are anti-modern or pre-modern. This view reflects in the case of our making of visual art culture. They say relying on the Indian world view could hamper India art from becoming and being modern and contemporary.

What is 'New India' as far as art is concerned? According to the Prime Minister, New India means bringing 'the innovative, creative and hard working' qualities of 1.25 billion people of India towards realising a future India.  The qualities of Indian people that the Prime Minister emphasises are to be looked at closely. He speaks of the Indian people's abilities to innovate and create, without showing aversion to hard work if need be. In the case of art, Indians have been innovative, creative and resourceful ever since ; they continue to do so, but unfortunately Indian art is still subservient to its Western counterparts. We prefer to import foreign ideas, forms, structures, and aesthetic concepts and create something that would imitate these imports only to become modern and international.

(All images by Photographer Raghu Rai for Representational purposes only)
Does 'New India' mean a complete avoidance of such imports of foreign ideas and structures in art? Does it mean that Indian artists should stick to an imaginary idea about India? If they need to stick to that imaginary India, where does it lie? Foolish are those people who interpret the reliance on Indianness as abhorrence to all what is Western or foreign. Creating a New India there by a New Indian Art does not mean that the Indian artists should close their eyes towards anything foreign. India has never been like that. Even before India as a political as well as geographical entity was defined, this great portion of land had been having various of levels of exchanges with foreign countries. While those exchanges brought in many influences and were instrumental in enriching the cultural varieties of/in India. The ancient Indian philosophies and aesthetics, all these had the power to withstand the possibilities of replacement of its indigenous cultures with the foreign influences via exchanges. Indian philosophical world view has always been ' Vasudhaiva Kutumbakkam' means the world is one family.

Hence resisting the foreign imports in aesthetics is all about just being cautious about getting replaced. As Indians we are not afraid of the foreign influences and we don't consider the foreign lands and the foreign people and their creations as strange, unfamiliar or alien. But even within the family there could be power relationships, hierarchies, and hegemonies. If any power decides to iron out the differences and the voices from within the family and tries to make it monotonously uniform there will always be resistance from within in order to protect and maintain the differences which are not really in conflict with one another. What the New India aspires is the existence of these differences. It does not want to be homogenous as it recognises the cultural varieties, not only of this country but also of the world.

(All images by Photographer Raghu Rai for Representational purposes only)
Unfortunately the power mongers of the world want to create hegemonies and hierarchies even through creative pursuits. The people who accept such pursuits without asking counter questions are simply becoming the agents of such power mongers. They literally become the enemies of 'New India'. Visual art in New India is not about going back to nativism and adherence to all what is indigenous. While searching for the Indian identity such explorations had been taken up by Indian artists in the immediate Post-Independence decades. Also we had seen how such explorations and the experiments that followed, were trying to find meaningful alignment with international Modernism.
Though those were not spiked up by the philosophies of patriotism 'Neo-Indianism', they were seriously trying to find Indian-ness within the surging internationalism. To certain extent those movements were successful in establishing their credentials without resorting to any kind of revivalism as we had seen in the early 20th century.

Today in the name of contemporary art and the international art, what we see is the blind imitation of the so-called international art which has been created by those power mongers who are hell bent on developing a homogenised taste and economic structure via homogenised market that would erase all differences, tastes, and ideologies that define and nourish a universal family. The Indian agents of international art simply play the role of power brokers in the arena of aesthetic production in India by turning absolute apologists of an international market. These people have to be fought resisted and eventually ousted from the political, philosophical and aesthetical discourse of the New India. The New Indian art should come up from the Indian artists who are proud of their Indian cultural, philosophical rootedness, but never afraid of the foreign influences. While the international power brokers in India work round the clock to kill the traditional artistic skills of the Indian artists, the New India demands the Indian artists who have not been blinded by the western imports in aesthetics to delve deep into the philosophical as well as artistic abilities and varieties of India and pave a way for the New India Art, which is a beautiful and harmonious amalgamation of  concept, skill, technology and above all the universal wisdom upheld by the Indian philosophies.

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