Sunday, October 14, 2018

Chronicler of Stupid Common Men: The Art of Navanshu Kumar

(Navanshu Kumar, artist)

Navanshu Kumar, a young artist based in Khairagarh/Bhilai (incidentally he is also a final year MFA Painting student in the ISKVV, aka Khairagarh University) prefers to call a spade a spade. If anyone asks him why his canvases and installations do not have this ‘beauty’ component in him, he immediately chips in with an answer; according to him the idea of beauty has been debated at various levels and a contemporary painter perhaps does not live in that notion of beauty. In the ideal world that the artists of the yester years had been trying to realize beauty could have dwelled safely but today with a fast changing world in hand the very idea of ideal has been lost. Hence, it becomes imperative for any creative artist to look beyond the idea of beauty and perfection, and engage him/herself with the world, comprehend and express it as it suits to him. Seen against this backdrop, Navanshu’s paintings are ‘a-paintings’ or ‘anti-paintings’ carrying the historical dilemma of all the painters in the post-Duchampian art world where each one is destined to with an anti-painting or create an ‘a-painting’ using the age old language of painting itself!

(work by Navanshu)

In such negotiations, any artist including Navanshu makes a tight rope walking while creating a painting using a painterly language and remains constantly conscious of the fact of tumbling down into the realm of pure painting with all its idealism-baggage. It is exactly the way the radicals use the language of authority against the authority in order to topple it. When they assume power they could either re-articulate the language of power and authority or could extend the language of hegemony as an act of perpetuation. The danger of such perpetuation is this that it not only maintains the linguistic authority but also it facilitates a change in the approach of the user (here the radicals) and makes them as good or bad as the authorities in the previous regimes. Duchamp had saved himself from the tyranny of painting while resorting to the painterly language that was vogue in those days (cubist-expressionistic) before he completely shifted to the usage of readymade objects as works of art or as components of the works. The Abstract Expressionists of America had also tried to move away from painting but ironically became the new age purists thanks to the theoretical formulations of Clement Greenberg. Picasso was perhaps one artist who successfully juggled various creative languages and including that of painting but transcended all kinds of purism (even he did not allow his cubist experiments to be purist in nature).

(work by Navanshu)

Navanshu lives in a country where artists are pressed to do painting ‘also’ by the gallerists despite their success in other mediums and expressions. Artists making huge steel or bronze installations are expected to make small scale paintings to satisfy various market forces. I am not overlooking the fact that artists at time feel the compulsions from within to do various forms of art using various mediums. While accepting that I would also maintain that the paintings done by such artists would become dead weight in their later career provided the character of the art market changes for good. However, for the time being the tunnel is endless and no light is seen for even a shredded painting could be further auctioned only because it has been shredded live in a well-choreographed prank. Hence, a young artist who is hardly 23 years old would feel the pressure of the market sooner than later; chances are more that his anti-paintings would be re-dubbed as pure paintings and the style that he has developed so far would need its own sophistication. That is not a bad thing to do for the artist has to live in a society where the communication currency is nothing but money. Therefore Navanshu’s entry into the art market may not surprise anyone (even if it would be via residencies or biennales or primarily buy small time buyers and finally via galleries) and as an art critic my critical gaze is currently placed on him to see which direction he would take in a few years’ time.

(work by Navanshu)

One may by now be wondering why I call the paintings of Navanshu, anti-paintings. They are anti-paintings because they move drastically different in theme and style from the mainstream painterly practices of the day. There was a time (especially from 2000 to 2014) when every young artist in the country painted images that were mediatized in one or the other way. They all followed the so called contemporary synthetic style of photorealism that at once established the Renaissance Illusionism while extolling the possibilities of glossy two-dimensionality, almost denying the presence of any kind of depth of history. The Renaissance illusionism was used as a benchmark of the skill of the artist in question and the flatness was to be seen as his/her ability to articulate the contemporary discourse (which was absolutely shallow with artists with half-baked knowledge or google driven information posing themselves as the champions of the world issues which are immediately recognized thanks to their entry into multiple discourses via words, pictures and moving images). Navanshu breaks away from this shallowness and delves deep into a sort of expressionism that primarily captures people and places in the most unlikely fashion while problematizing his own relationship with art history at various levels.

(work by Navanshu)

Navanshu’s expressionism may look familiar in the initial look but one could see the deliberate imbalances that he has created through the application of colors and the distortion of the images. While some of them look absolutely stock images culled from a book of caricatures, a second look would reveal that they are not stock characters at all and this aspect is underlined by the strangeness that the artist attributes to each of them through their almost blind (or all seeing?) disproportionate eyeballs and the general aloofness of posture. They look like the remnants of a war, a devastation, perhaps they look like people from a different existential plane whose denial has become the logic of our sane existence on the face of the earth. Navanshu has painted the portrait of around nine aliens; the title is deliberately misleading for the onlooker could immediately launch him/herself into the search for the aliens that he/she is familiar with. But for me, they are people around us whose alien face that we refuse or fail to see. Francis Newton Souza had done it when he painted six gentlemen from our times. They were not caricatures or representative figures; but they were more than real and affirmative. Navanshu’s aliens stand at par with those gentlemen of Souza.

(work by Navanshu)

A young artist from any part of the world at the beginning of his career would definitely think (or his thought may traverse) about the aspect of madness; not only of his own madness but also of that manifested in others. Art history lauds those artists who had gone mad but had done good paintings; it also praises those artists who had chosen low life as well as the lower middle class life. Navanshu seems to agree with all these dictums of art history but he keeps himself off so far from depicting female or male nudity which I believe is a conscious stance against the cannons of art history (while I see many of his contemporaries conjure up various emblematic representations for/of nude females, especially in a time when nudes are not so really entertained on canvases and papers). I am not particularly excited by this aspect seen in Navanshu but I see that restrain as another possibility of taking his art to a dispassionate dimension where he could deal with the political realities of today in a more existential and experiential manner as he has already repudiate the ideal ‘beauty’ concept which often comes hand in hand with the nude paintings or female body in general.

(Stupid common man/every morning by Navanshu)

What Navanshu takes interest in is the field of madness. According to my reading, Navanshu sees madness as another language (I do not know whether he is clearly a Freudian or Lacanian in this sense) which could offer us a different reality, which could be more real that the apparent reality itself. He captures this language of madness through his emblematic presentation of figures and characters that include his much debated painting, ‘Stupid Common Man’; a Kafkaesque maze that he invites us into and leave us there to negotiate the space for ourselves. This could be one reason why Navanshu’s mad people look just as normal as we are with only different reflecting in the bulbous shiny eyes that we see externalized in these images while we keep them safe within us. Madness is a different order which is against the mainstream norms therefore the mad people were send across sees to the alien shores where they were expected to die a dismal death. The idea of Ship of Fools, explained by Foucault in his ‘Madness and Civilization’ shows us how people are transported to a different reality for harboring a different reality in themselves. The restoration of socio-political and moral order in a society by sending the vagrants and the mad to alien shores and islands is what we see today in a different way in the case of the migrants all over the world. They are being constantly sent to different places; some are even forced to live in vessels moored in strange seas for long; they are called the boat people. What Foucault had said comes back to us in a different way, an open political decision and discourse. Navanshu gets these people not as boat people but as people with no lands. There are efforts to politicize Navanshu’s works as he opens it up in one of the conversations.

(work by Navanshu)

One of the recent installations done by Navanshu shows a series of curved roof tiles locally made and baked being painted into masks and were displayed in a series on the wall of a village house. According to Navanshu, these tiles are human faces (besides they are called ‘masks’) that cover themselves to hide the reality that they carry with them. The villages are changing fast; the people are changing; there are mass migrations to the cities from these areas; the ones who have made some wealth in the cities are making concrete houses back home, changing the character and complexion of the villages. But they all put a brave face before these changes. The villages around Navanshu are in their transitory state; they may fade in the coming years. The masks therefore become the masks of a Grecian tragedy relating the chronicles of massive crisis. This in variable dimensions could merge with any village in the northern part of India and tell the stories of the people there without playing the representational game. The changes in such sylvan villages are not externally imposed; each one wants to take part in the idea of development and they fail to notice what they are losing fast. The common man as usual remains stupid, comprehending it as a high amount of intelligence and reveling in it. Navanshu, as an artist is currently with them to chronicle those tales of tragi-comedies. But I am sure Navanshu has to move to a different world to shape his art further up. He could be looked at by the curators and galleries in India and elsewhere for he could not only make his anti-paintings but could articulate them verbally too.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Attack on Marina Abromovic and Mahatma Gandhi

(Marina Abromovic)

On 23rd September 2018 in Florence, Italy at the Palazzo Strozzi, during a book releasing ceremony on the occasion of the world renowned performance artist, Marina Abromovic’s major retrospective exhibition, another young performance artist from the Czech Republic attacked Abromovic with a portrait of her allegedly painted by the assailant himself. The man was immediately overpowered (as the video grabs of the incident show) and the lady escaped unhurt. In the post-truth world even the sincerest of protests could be seen as a publicity stunt but when it comes to Abromovic anyone in his/her right sense would not believe that she needs any kind of publicity stunt that involves a physical attack on the artist herself. Abromovic, who is known as the ‘grandmother of performance’ art (the term ‘matriarch’ may be reeking with the smell of a binary that even her direst of critics wouldn’t like to attribute to her. Grandmother, the affectionate term not only qualifies her authority in the field but also positions her as the pioneer in/of it) has done enough acts that extended, tested and problematized the enduring capacities of human body and mind. She does not need an external attack on her body in order to grab eyeballs from the art scene in Italy, especially a place where she had performed her six hours long performance piece titled ‘Rhythm 0’ in which she had let her body to be vandalized by the audience.

(after the attack on Abromovic)

I do not know too many details about the man who had attacked Marina Abromovic. However, I would like to see his act as a referential act devoid of any kind of reverence to the artist. The reference should be to the performance titled ‘Rhythm 0’ done in 1974 in a studio gallery in Naples. Forty one years have been passed since then and the impact of that piece in the minds of the people/artists all over the world refuses to fade. This performance piece of hers, devoid of sentimentalism of any kind stays in the annals of art history as a pivotal work of art just like Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ (1917). Any conceptual artist today cannot overlook Duchamp for his cleverest of acts of bringing a readymade into the gallery context. Today, anybody who goes for an object based conceptual art has to pay tribute to the temple of Duchamp for one cannot have an object which is not a ‘readymade’ in one or the other sense. A act of performance art anywhere in the world auto-creates resonances with the performances of Abromovic for her sheer diversity of acts using her body as the lone tool. Hence, I would say any artist who uses his/her body owes a bit to the body of Abromovic, obviously the story-telling and ever benevolent grandmother.

(Rhythm 0, Abromovic's performance in 1974)

The man, the assailant, while attacking Abromovic was in a way paying tribute to the master performance artist, the genius of body based art and obviously was making a reference to one of her earlier works. The attack in itself could be seen as a ‘performance’ which was not meant to hurt the artist. Had the supporting wood hit her head it would have caused grievous head injury to the lady is another matter, which had complicated the matter, in a way transporting it from the aesthetical realm to the realm of criminal acts. While once again testing the enduring capacity of the human body and mind, as claimed by Abromovic herself almost forty one years back, the assailant was making a point that a performance, however ephemeral and anti-establishmentarian it remained in a given context, in a different time and space the possibilities of it being read differently were more. The six hours long violence in an absolutely uncontrolled (self-restraint of the audience was the only surety that Abromovic had when she placed seventy two items of assault including feathers, needles, razor blades, knifes and even a loaded gun) might not have caused serious injuries to the artist as she stood there abnegating her selfhood and subjectivity, rendering herself into an object to be acted upon. But a portrait of the artist done by the assailant, which became a weapon of assault could be read as ‘this’ artist’s effort to reclaim her subjectivity, the very subjectivity which he tested against her real personal subjectivity in the act of assault.

(the beginning of Rhythm 0 1974)

By thrashing the portrait on her head, the assailant partly annihilated the ‘created’ subjectivity of Abromovic (in this case, the canvas portrait of Abromovic done by the assailant, and in the case of 1974 act of Abromovic, the ‘object-hood’ that she temporarily created as her ‘subjectivity’ in the gallery premises) as she had wished in her original performance by causing not so insignificant hurt on her body. The assailant has emulated the same semi-serious hurting act in his attack; the only difference that we could cite for changing an aesthetic act into an act of criminality is that he had not given any intimation to the artist that he was going to do something of that sort. While Abromovic’s original piece was done in a controlled atmosphere where artist’s willingness was all the more important that had driven the whole performance for six years, here the atmosphere was different controlled and was not expecting any attack on the artist. I am sure, given all these the performance artist in question can be given a let go only by Abromovic herself provided she sees the man’s assault as a genuine piece of response to her oeuvre and a originated out of a negative reverence.

(Mahatma Gandhi)

This is where I remember Nathuram Godse and Mahatma Gandhi. On 30th January 1948, Gandhiji was on the way to his evening prayers at the Birla House in New Delhi when Godse pulled the trigger at him. Godse, it is reported that had reverence for the Mahatma but he did not like the way he tried to interpret Hinduism. He suspected that by helping the Muslim community in India and the newly formed Pakistan Gandhiji was eroding the cause of the Hindus, who Godse thought would meet with its demise if Gandhiji was allowed to speak for the Hindus. Gandhiji’s life was an ensemble of performance pieces, carefully designed and performed by the Mahatma himself. Godse was the also a performance artist in that case who was taking the Mahatma’s own reference to bump him out. A chill went through my spine as I read the post attack statement delivered by Abromovic in the media. It read: “The man came up to me looking into my eyes and I smiled at him thinking that he was giving me a gift… In a split of second I saw his facial expression change and he became violent, coming towards me very quickly with force.” Doesn’t it sound eerily familiar in the context of Gandhiji’s assassination?

Friday, October 12, 2018

When Nikhil Tiwari and Friends Hold Hands with Marina Abromovic in Khairagarh

(Nikhil Tiwari and team performing Even Odd One)

‘Even Odd One’, conceptualized and performed by Nikhil Tiwari, a first year MFA Painting student at the ISKVV, Khairagarh was meant to be a part of Inktober Khairagarh Festival 2018, undertaken by a Mauritian student artist-curator, Akshay Seebaluck whose collaborative ink art project would be on display on 15th October 2018 at an alternative exhibition venue at the basketball court in the campus. ‘Even Odd One’ started off as a complementary project however soon gained its own identity bringing out the desired participatory dynamics from among the student community by the artist-curator, Nikhil Tiwari. The project held at the ‘street’, the main road that runs through the small university campus had the resonances of the ‘notorious’ performance art piece titled ‘Rhythm 0’ by the grandmother of performance art, Marina Abromovic. More about it later.

Indira Sangeet Kala Viswa Vidyalaya aka ISKVV aka Khairagarh University is one of the exclusive universities in India that offers graduate and post graduate courses in only in ‘fine arts’ disciplines that include painting, sculpture, graphic arts, dance, music, instrumental music, theatre, folk art performances. Tucked inside a small town surrounded by expanses of rice fields and orchards, this university is at once well-known and ill-known. Seen as a small town university, it has not gained the so called ‘intellectual institute’ status amongst the mainstream academies in the country. However, the contributions of this university are no longer overlooked even by the Kochi Muziris Biennale organization. While Khairagarh is known for its graphics art department headed by Prof.V.Nagdas, the repute of the same faculty is known in a global scenario as the Graphics Art Department conducts annual international printmaking symposiums which are attended regularly by famous printmakers from at least ten different countries.

Students still bend down to touch the feet of the teachers; the Vice Chancellor is fondly called Didi (elder sister) by the students. A sense of tradition envelops the university whose main building is a small of palace of the erstwhile kings. The traditional appearance could be a bit deceptive for the university has all the facilities including 24x7 free wifi connectivity, gym, hostels within the campus, canteen, basketball and volleyball court, garden, two auditoriums and much more. A state of the art gallery is soon to be completed to house a permanent collection of contemporary art and a regular gallery. But when it comes to radical performance art, may be the tradition poses some hurdles for the students. The clever ones overcome the hurdles with their neatly planned projects and ‘Even Odd One’ is one such program nicely packaged to get the accolades even from the teaching community and the village folks who use the campus road as a thoroughfare.

Nikhil Tiwari conceptualized the whole performance as a social experiment project in which he wanted to show the ‘soft’ and ‘tough’ side of feminine nature and at the same time he wanted to tell the people that the ‘male world was not that bad’. Discussions on feminist and the feminine aspect of women in the contemporary societies held in various occasions in my classes had led him to come up with such a project. The project demanded a collective participation of the female students who at some point developed ideological differences with the conceptualizer and in a way he was abandon the project. Clever as he is always, Nikhil Tiwari could tweak the whole project into an ink hurling project where he managed to get two fellow female students and another willing male artist from his own class. They were dressed up in white and black attire and black and white colors were ready for the audience to throw at the performers. Nikhil’s idea was to highlight the human qualities; the nature of nature is contrast- white could carry black and black could carry white. In the process of carrying the other in oneself, one’s own identity merges with the other thereby nullifying all kinds of discriminations. But at the same time, the natural outcome of the project was the possible orgy of violence when the performers make themselves available objects to be smeared upon by ink. The splash of black and white started off in a slower pace only to gain momentum by the seventh minute or so and everyone was attacking the performers with black and white ink till their identities were merged into an abstraction. The white backdrop against which the whole performance took place remained the only ‘archive’ of such interaction/violent interaction/playful interaction which would be carrying the story of the enacted violence for the posterity. This backdrop carrying the stains of ink would be on display at the Inktober venue on 15th October 2018.

About her six hour long performance titled ‘Rhythm 0’ in Italy in 1974, Marina Abromovic said, “This work reveals something about humanity. It shows how fast a person can hurt you under favorable circumstances. It shows how easy it is to dehumanize a person who does not fight, who does not defend himself. It shows that if he provides the stage, the majority of the ‘normal’ people, apparently can become truly violent.’ This forty four year old statement rings true even today. When Nikhil’s performance started the students were hesitant to attack him and his friends with ink. So the volunteers wearing Inktober uniform came to fore and started doing the needful only to give a cue to the onlookers who soon became willing participants in the attack and the volunteers had to stop the attackers on the midway to protect the eyes of the performers from the constant ink attack. Abromovic was not speaking about India’s mob lynching today. But Nikhil’s project could push it towards the mob lynching tendencies that contemporary India has been showing in the recent times. A person with a clear identity could turn into the arms of a faceless mob provided he/she is given the ‘right occasion’.  Both Abromovic and Yves Klein have been the source of inspiration for the Inktober artists in Khairagarh so far and on 15th more surprises are waiting in wings for you; perhaps some of them would be the first of its kind in the history of Khairagarh.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Banksy, the Most Willing Player in an Infantile Game, ‘Going Going Gone’

(Banksy's work getting auto-shredded at the Sothbey's)

A stunt is a stunt is a stunt. Banksy’s ‘Going Going Gone’, the shredding stunt at the Sothbey’s last weekend auction should be taken as a stunt well planned, well executed and well discussed. A stunt gains its due mileage when its impact reaches the maximum number of people and Banksy, as usual should be cheering with the masters of the auction universe for the expected results. A print of the famous ‘balloon flying girl’, a piece of thought provoking graffiti work had gone for an estimated price of $1.36 million before it got shredded into pieces by a shredding appendage hidden inside a ‘clumsy’ frame. I am not here playing a myth-buster for the myth around the ‘Going Going Gone’ work (an instagram notification by Banksy himself) has already been busted by many. But the question I want to raise here is simple: Is there any myth at all behind this stunt that shredded a ‘print’ of a work of art whose original was originally made to defy and lampoon the art market?

Banksy’s transformation from an invisible/incognito graffiti artist, a sort of space snatcher or space occupier to the darling of the auction market has been gradual though unsurprising; it is bound to happen to any products including the cultural ones as they are destined to be dragged into the existing value system which as of today is determined by monetary value therefore are liable to be a part of the market system whether the producer of such products wants it to be so or not. Banksy’s anonymity becomes questionable mainly because of this market intervention; it is disputable whether market made an intervention into his life and art or it was Banksy who pulled the strings in such a way that the market wouldn’t have stood and stared. Banksy today is an industry (the products of which could claim a higher price for their scandalous value as the whole affair is based on scandalizing the social norms, which at the height of capitalism becomes the real norms that goad the affluent and callous indulge in such lascivious sports like pillow fighting a la Fellini’s La Dolce Vita) and industry has to have myths to prolong its own life and that of its products.

(source: Vanity Fair)

Myth making a part of any industry (any film star shedding a few kilos for a role is one such myth though a part of it could have an iota of truth in it). A myth becomes a believable myth only when it has some bit of truth to spice it up. That microcosmic truth in a macrocosmic lie/myth helps it to perpetuate itself in rational and believable terms as a myth is always seen in a predetermined perspective; rather the truth is that the myth has often only one perspective to retain its awe. The moment it is interpreted and critiqued from a different perspective, it not only bursts the myth in question (demystifies it) but also nullifies all the claims built around it. A nullified myth is as valueless as a tattered gunny bag that is still a bag but fails to hold anything substantial in it. Therefore, any myth in any industry conveniently discourages demystification efforts by critics by almost annihilating their status and career (remember what happened to Khalid Mohammed, the film critic and writer). The only unfortunate thing that happened with Banksy, the anonymous artist is this that he became a part of the game that keeps the already busted myth on.

The Banksy myth is an economic necessity for the art/auction world and it is at the same time a cultural necessity for the might land of Britain. Banksy being a British artist (that itself is an anachronism as an incognito artist need not necessarily be a ‘British’ artist by origin; he could be an accidental Brit operating from the United Kingdom), it is the responsibility of the state of Britain to take care of the myth. Though Banksy had started off as a nuisance/a threat to the public morality who vandalized the sanitized public spaces, after few years, with the growing respect that he has been gaining from different parts of the world (from New York to the War destroyed Gaza strip), it became the responsibility of the state to keep the mystery shrouding the Banksy legend intact. If the British Police say that it is clueless about Banksy, despite its claims to have arrested Banksy in various occasions, then we should doubt the mystery solving abilities of such an efficient policing system, which is supposedly one of the best in the world.

(Myths Unlimited)

The economic world/the corporate world and the political world are playing hands in glove in protecting the Banksy identity thereby perpetuating the myth. I do not know whether the United Kingdom gives its citizens a sort of constitutional right that allows one continue the life of anonymity. Many of the musicians have stage names and also a sort of fantasy life style but still they are real people who hold a passport and go through all the immigration procedures in the foreign lands with their real names and real personalities. How can we think that Banksy remains incognito and lives among the people without ever raising suspicion even of a security guard? (Someone at the Sotheby’s auction venue was gushing that Banksy should have been around while his painting was getting shredded. Someone could even say that the trigger was even pulled by him. The most imaginative ones could say that the Banksy himself must have been bidding for his works.)

As an art critic and historian, I do believe in the works of Banksy; but I keep asking this question, had it not been the mystery around his personality, would his works have raised the curiosity quotient among the art loving people all over the world? Banksy has been instrumental in making graffiti art fashionable and I always see his parallel in the rapper Eminem who adopted rapping and made it big more than Tupac, Biggie, Ice Cube or 50 Cent could do. As Eminem gave rapping both critical edge and social acceptance, Banksy took graffiti art by force from the Black radicals and aesthetically polished it and added the much wanted mysterious quotient with an incognito signature. While the graffiti vandalism of the Black and the Punk invited punitive actions, the graffiti of Banksy raised curiosity for its sophisticated aesthetics that played up visual pun and black humor. While Banksy kept the steam of socio-political critique on in his graffiti, he took off the violent edge of the vandalizing types of graffiti. Basquiat had transported graffiti to canvases and Banksy took the route of public walls to reach the conventional canvases.

The gasping in the auction house upon seeing the shredding of the canvas by Banksy was choreographed and controlled. It was a controlled implosion as we had seen in the collapse of the twin towers, minus its calamities. Yes, as disaster capitalism always does, the collapse of twin towers resulted into the destruction of the countries elsewhere which paved the way for the realtors to spread their foot prints all over those countries, the shredding of a work of willingly by the author himself in fact has increased its price by several folds. If it had been taken for One Million Pounds, Banksy later claimed five millions for the shredded work. The whole affair is a classic example of poetry as willing suspension of disbelief. All the players willingly suspend their disbelief and pretend that it was a ‘prank’ played by Banksy himself. But they do not accept the fact that it was a prank well-choreographed and played by all the parties involved. May be that is what we do today, like children playing the game of invisibility. Some children decide to make one of them invisible and pretend that he is not seen at all even when an unsuspecting child says that he could see one; or otherwise, they pretend they someone when there is none. This game in the auction house takes the art players into a state of infancy where they are willing to make someone visible or invisible. The game is all fun so long it yields millions of dollars. And Banksy is the most willing player of all in this game.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Finding the Genuine and Imposter Artists in the Genre of Abstract Art

(Painting by Bose Krishnamachari)

No question is ever asked if there is no answer to it. So is true to say that each answer also carries a question in/with it. That means questions and answers are never two different entities but the extensions of the same in all the possible directions. In an inextricable relationship they are entwined forever, at times manifesting as questions and at other times coming forth as answers. Any question left unanswered would wander like ghosts making lives of the people around it difficult. Answers that go without questions too are like ghosts, but of a benign variety like a truism destined to remain in the text books without ever getting underlined or quoted. So it is always good to answer a question and question an answer. Proving my motto right, my student, aspiring critic and also a future art entrepreneur who would like to start an ‘intelligent gallery with definite commercial intent’, Oorja Garg has forwarded this question which came up in her mind after reading my article on abstract art as an answer to her question regarding the topic. I had concluded my previous essay with a statement that ‘along with several genuine abstract artists you will always have some imposters.’ Now Oorja would like to know how as young art critics (future art critics) they could distinguish a genuine abstract artist from an imposter.

(Painting by Prabhakar Kolte)

The question has an answer; perhaps several answers. However, I would like to stick to the genuine and imposter binary in order to arrive at some feasible answers. The first and foremost answer is that of the ‘disinterested’ analysis of a work of art by the art critic, taking its formalistic and thematic ingenuities and then moving from there to the contextual veracity of the same using the objective critical parameters set up by the critical and historical discourses pertaining to it. That means, a critic should be primarily a ‘disinterested’ personality. The term ‘disinterestedness’ in the critical parlance is a late 19th century British formulation by the literary critic Mathew Arnold, which had been taken further by the pioneering modernist, T.S.Eliot. Disinterestedness is a non-partisan attitude that highlights pure objectivity. When disinterestedness is the key to the analysis of a work of art, what a critic primarily does is looking for its ‘originality’, it’s sort of non-indebtedness to the immediate. Both Arnold and Eliot speak up for ‘Tradition’ and its role in framing the individual talents but their emphasis is on the transcendence of the past to the present and its ability to move towards future. This locates a work of art as the product of a historical process that the registration of the immediate contemporary events. Disinterestedness is possible when the critic approaches a work of art using historical parameters to which he/she does not have any partisan relationship. According to them pure objectivity is possible in discerning the genuine from the fake/imposters. Also the emphasis is on the application of objectivity, which does not have anything to do with artist’s personality or surroundings, therefore it could always move around formal values and experimentations. The early 20th century abstract art was all about these objective experimentations, which almost appeared as an aesthetical issue rather than any socio-political or personal-cultural issue.

(Painting by Velu Viswanthan)

Formalism has its own traps and it did/does appear throughout the 20th century and even now it happens in the making of the abstract art where the imposters could smuggle their wares in as genuine products. Formalism stresses on the surface values while balancing it with some internal meanings, which need not necessarily be the starting point for the onlooker or for the critic. That means, if an artist has come up with a new texture, a new treatment of the pictorial surface, a new impression, a new adoption, a new juxtaposition, a new visual value and so on in his pictorial plane we do not have any devices to discern whether it is genuine or posturing. While formalism and disinterested approach of the critique collapse the boundaries of sense and make the genuine appear as a posturing and the posturing as genuine. This is the reason why so many artists who have been either lacking in skill, craft and concept or clever enough to pass of all those lacks as ingenuity present their abstract works and gain a sort of market success and acceptance in the general art scene. As I had explained in my previous article on the theme of abstract art, the experimental aspect of art, especially that of the abstract art was taken as the prime quality of ‘modern art’. So anybody who would like to jump into the bandwagon of ‘modern art’ could come up with some color blotches and patches and say that they were modern abstract art works/artists. It is difficult to argue with such artists because they would hold onto the features of formalist modernism and say that they have all those in their works. Besides, the universal modernism functions properly when it does not fix its expression in geographically or culturally or linguistically defined forms or figures. Formal abstract experiments which could be easily abstract expressionism also overcome those abovementioned specific definitions. In this false universalism, the imposters thrived and they still do.

(Painting by P.Gopinath)

This brings us to a point where we are forced to rework on the objectivity of disinterested criticism. While keeping the historical experience of it and the employment of such parameters intact, we could also add the critic’s subjectivity in the whole discourse and discernment. Subjectivity taking an upper hand in the critical discourse may be fallacious because of the possibilities of personal preferences and bias. Therefore we need to redefine the nature subjectivity when it comes to art criticism or any kind of criticism; subjectivity has to have objective nature that means one shouldn’t be too biased to see the posturing. Secondly, subjectivity cannot be over emotional or sentimental; but it should be informed and has a deep sense of not only art history but also the social history within which art history as a genre is always operated. Also the subjectivity of the critic should be interdisciplinary in which he/she should be taking the socio-cultural, politico-anthropological, linguistic-economic factors of the artist and the art work (abstract or figurative) into consideration. This also leads to contextual criticism where the general norms of a society at a particular time in which such works of art are produced come to play a big role. That means, the critic’s subjectivity should be formed out of all these in order to gain sufficient objectivity in discerning the good-bad, genuine-fake identities of the (abstract) art.

(Painting by VS Gaitonde)

The mere posturing of the artists who say that they are at par with the masters of the international abstract art (they are international abstract art because they are discussed in the mainstream art discourse including the economic discourse) only because their formal values are not different the established ones. It is where the critic’s informed subjectivity should intervene. If it is all about formalism, then there could be a comparison between the formalism of the genuine one and a posturing. While the genuine ones give out a sense of harmony, rhythm, balance and all that settle the mind of the onlooker and send him or her to a kind of contemplation not necessarily about the work of art in question but about anything related to that, and bring in a sort of deep silence, then we can say that the formalism is successful. This argument could be contested by showing Marc Rothko on the one side and Jackson Pollock on the other. While Rothko’s paintings give this deep meditative feel, Pollock’s may send the viewer to some sort of chaotic dance. Here the critic could employ his/her interdisciplinary approach and understand why Pollock was doing like this and Rothko was doing like that. In short, what I say is that the critic should employ the subjective understanding to discern a fake from the genuine. Faking a contemplative depth is what most of the imposters do for creating their abstract art. They do not look for the intrinsic values that I have explained above but try for the production of a formal look. And their only escape route is that no abstract could be copied as it is because very subjective formalisms cannot be copied in its lawless randomness or carefully calculated texturing.

(Painting by Shilpa Nikam)

Most of the times, abstract artists are made famous not because their works have intrinsic qualities but they are clubbed into a sort of contemporary tradition. We have several masters who have done good abstract works. At the same time once their time is up we come to see his or her disciples coming up as the next generation abstract artists with some variations in existing formalism of the master and getting established by virtue of being the students of the departed master or just by mere association. There are abstract artists who rule the market only because certain school has produced them. The market and its players produce the value by creating narratives around them and their schools, and bring them to the auction market and fetch huge amounts of money. This in turn gives an impetus to many more so called ‘modern artists’ to come up with abstract art. Often the abstract art is projected in the market thanks to extrinsic reasons that do not have anything to do with aesthetics that these artists intend to produce. We cannot wish away this abstract lobby and also the coterie that supports it. Hence, the onus of identifying a genuine abstract work of art falls on to the shoulders of the critic him/herself with those subjective and objective tools that I have mentioned at the outset of this article.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Is Abstract Art on a Come Back Trail?

(Painting by Wassily Kandinsky)

Upon observing the stylistic features followed and practiced by many a student and young artist in the colleges and in the private studios in India, my student at the MSU, Baroda, Oorja Garg asks me why many are inclining towards an ‘abstract’ style these days. She wonders whether this is a global trend based on market success. As a part of the question she also clarifies that she does not have any problem with the ‘abstract style’ as such but somehow she fears that this trending could be a result of a lack of mastery over figurative painting. I think the question deserves a detailed answer, hence this blog.

Abstract Art, according to me is the art of the essential or rather the art of the essence. Abstraction has been understood all over the world in two specific ways; first of all, abstraction is a way of idealizing an artistic subject/object, eliminating/erasing the specific characteristics/particularities so that an ‘ideal’ art object/form is created which could be understood universally within the given context and frame of reference. Early Buddhist and Hindu sculptures that are generally hailed as Indian Sculptures belong to this genre of abstraction. Bringing out the essentials and idealizing them for the sake of universal relevance and prevalence anticipates, as already said, universal nature of the art object. This universalism overwrites the art object’s regional or local characteristics, at the same time leaving the entry points open so that the observer could make intellectual inroads in comprehending them fully.

(Painting by Paul Cezanne)

The second kind of abstraction is the one that we often connect with ‘modern art’. If traditional abstraction was the artists’ effort to idealize the subject/object, modern abstraction was a deliberate rejection of the figurative art that had just preceded it. Wassily Kandinsky, the Russian artist who could be called the father of Modern Abstract art chose to ‘deconstruct’ the figurative art that he, his contemporaries and his predecessors were practicing in the late 19th century and the early 20th century. The cataclysmic global occurrences that had resulted into the Russian Revolution and the First World War should be one of the reasons for the collapse of the integrated and unified image of the divine/human beings both in social and artistic spheres, which TS Eliot, the British Poet had qualified in his path breaking poem, ‘The Wasteland’ as ‘a heap of broken images’.

Breaking of up of images was already started since Impressionism. When Cezanne deliberated that he could conceive the objects into geometrical forms, he was in a way paving the way for further breakdown of figurative art. This collapse of the unified image of the triumphant human being (this being was ironically promoted heavily by the Russian authorities since the Revolution) had manifested in the Cubist experiments of Picasso and Braque. By the time we reach Duchamp, the collapse of the human image (therefore the collapse of all kinds of European aesthetical ideals prevalent since the Classical Greco-Roman period to the Neo-Classical period, finding its peak in the Renaissance period) take a different turn and he after his cubistic interventions replaces the possible human presence with industrially made and replicable objects. Kandinsky’s abstraction runs parallel to this though he stresses not on the collapse of the human image but art’s ability to move from the mundane and attain the abstraction of music.

(Sculpture by Henri Moore)

So, we see two different kinds of abstraction already established by the early 20th century. In the first one, once again for clarity, we see the essence of figuration manifesting as abstraction. Here we do not find any denial of figuration. In the second kind of abstraction, it comes as a rebellion against the dominant figurative art. Sooner than later, right from the Cubistic experience we come to know that abstraction is not just denial of figuration but a search for the possibility of making art through non-figurative modes, which interestingly could be looking for the essence or embedded qualities. Early 20th century sculptures by artists like Henry Moore, Constantine Brancusi, Barbara Hepworth, Alexander Calder, David Smith, Alberto Giocometti and many more present the possibility of a non-figurative art strictly still retaining the essence of the figurative art. While in painting, this search for essence could have been an avoidable feature because the two dimensional surface had given the artists more freedom than the sculptors who had to deal with volume and a seeming ‘figuration’ was essential to even emphasis the desired abstraction. But painters like Kasimir Malevich and Piet Mondrian could absolutely do away with the illusionary third dimension of the painting which the masters of the yester years had striven hard to achieve.

In this sense abstract art was a pivotal intellectual movement in the beginning of the 20th century, which necessitated different critical approaches in order to historicize their relevance. With no materialistic terms to qualify such an art (when one discards the materiality of the object forms and shapes naturally the language that critically explains such art forms too undergoes changes), it was important for the critics to talk more in esoteric and spiritual terms, which was an entirely novel parlance in the art historical discourses for over four hundred years. With no materiality, a mental existence had to be attributed to this newly established abstract or non-figurative art, which naturally led to the borrowing of terms and concepts of spiritual/yogic/meditative/Zen practices from the Oriental countries including India. Throughout the first half of the 20th century, with the ‘modern art’ discourse ruling art history, there have been efforts to ‘deconstruct’ human form in various ways and one could say that even Surrealism, apparently a strongly figurative art movement, made efforts to dissolve human figure and anything around it. Surrealism drew its sustenance from dream realities and the human sub-conscious realm which naturally would hold non-materialistic images or images altered by mental interventions.

(Painting by Jackson Pollock)

Seen against this backdrop, the first half of the 20th century witnessed an implosion of conflict of the abstract art with its own foundational philosophies. Abstract Art had to depend on the mental plane and the other non-materialistic arts like music still it needed a virtual linguistic structure which could be manifested only by concrete articulation and this conflict (conflict arose between the erasure of figures and the essential nature of verbal language with concrete images) took abstract art into different directions and one of the streams often found its escape route in definitely figurative art but through heavy distortions as in the case of Expressionism which brought back the artists like El Greco into discourse. Once again it took another World War, the Second in order to bring abstract art to the fore.

Post World War II America was once again facing a collapse in philosophy and economics. The collapse in faith caused by unprecedented wastage of human lives in the war/s made the artists to look Eastwards for solace and Zen practices, its meditation techniques, its universal philosophy of considering everything as the part of the whole, and the intuitive knowledge gave the artists a lot of hope and sustenance. The Eastern Zen philosophy does not differentiate between thoughts and deeds; it is one and the same. Deeds are the manifestations of thoughts. Jackson Pollock’s Action Painting has to be seen against this historical backdrop. Critics like Clement Greenberg and Harold Roschenberg were working overtime to attribute spiritual tendencies to this art. America was on its way to become an economic power despite its humungous economic failure post-War years. The US promoted World Trade Fairs to gain global economic supremacy and along with trade products, they promoted the Action Painting and other contemporary abstract art which came to be known by an umbrella terms International Abstract Expressionism.

(Painting by Biren De)

World speaks the master’s language. As an emerging Super Power, the US could influence the world not only with its industrial prowess but also with the soft power called culture and the package included the Abstract Expressionism movement. If you look at the former colonial countries which had been just trying to stand on their feet after the war and the independence resulted by it, this art language was the most trending kind and the ongoing national debate between indigenous modern and the global modernism, it was easy for the latter to win as the post-War scenario had opened up a new internationalism, and the artists as cultural van guards went all out for this new internationalism; and obviously abstract expressionism was the choice. As we know by our art historical experience, not many had fallen for Pollock though he was aesthetically and philosophically influential. He along with Yves Klein had even inspired the latter Performance artists! But the artists all over the world started looking for something that reflected the international abstraction which could make them at once national and international.

Paul Klee, the abstract and semi-figurative artist comes handy at this juncture. For many who were striving for a visual language which should have abstraction but less American, Klee became a savior. He could provide the regionalism and the abstraction at once; those were abstract works in the non-figurative sense and essentially provincial and subjective in content. Also came artists like Barnett Newman, William De Kooning and so on handy for the Indian artists. However, there was always this question of national/regional against the international. For the nationalists, going for the Hindu abstraction was much easier and jumping over the latter part of Buddhist and Hindu art, they went for the Vedic symbolism of yoga. Hence in North India we find artists like Biren De and G.R.Santosh deriving their visual language from Yogic and the later Tantric symbolism. I would however call these experiments bit crude and superficial, as the perfection of this visual language with more scientific and emotional spirit could be seen in the works of S.H.Raza. J.Swaminathan, moved towards a pop-kind of abstraction as he evolved through his early experiments with the indigenous tribal art of India.

(Painting by KCS Panicker)

The real international abstraction however was started in India by KCS Panicker, who headed the Madras College of Art after DP Roy Chowdhury’s tenure as the Principal of it. History says that KCS Panicker is influence by Paul Klee. There are evidences that Panicker during his traveling abroad had seen the works of the international abstract artists. This had triggered Panicker’s imagination and without depending completely on the early Hindu or Vedic symbolism to create abstract art, he created a semi-cryptogrammic and semi-figurative style which was meditative and at the same time action oriented. This was/is a perfect abstract language which in fact had created many fine abstract artists in India like Akkitham Narayanan, Paris Viswanathan, KV Haridasan, Reddappa Naidu, J.Sultan Ali and so on. There was a different modern international abstract art school developed in the west side of India which also came as a rebellion against the strongly academic figurative art of the JJ School. Prabhakar Kolte is one of the exponents of this abstract school. Also we saw fine abstract artists like V.S.Gaitonde, Prabhakar Barwe, Mehli Gobhai, Bose Krishnamachari and so on. By the time, the color field abstraction created by Mark Rothko had earned mythical and religious status. Also in due course of time the Western Art had gone through a sea change taking it to strong naturalism and realism once again.

(Painting by SH Raza)

The Indian artists mentioned in this article had their reasons to be abstract artists. However, by 1980s with the advent and flourish of the strongly figurative movement called Baroda Narrative movement, once again it became imperative for a non-figurative rebellion against it as the figurative movement had ‘man’ as the central figure of the events narrated visually. While the West-Indian abstraction was in its peak, there came the post-Swaminathan abstraction from Bhopal’s Bharat Bhavan and the artists related to this establishment. Their torch bearer SH Raza had already earned success locally and internationally with a sort of convincing abstraction which had all the indigenous, national and international elements. Many artists in Bhopal took the route of Raza in essence but they all had to create different kinds of abstract styles to keep themselves afloat in the art market. A series of experiments with surfaces, forms and textures followed almost establishing a false notion that non-figurative art is ‘the’ modern art and figurative art was simply the ‘revival’ of old schools and masters. This historical falsehood spread like a virus and many thought experimenting with texture and colors was all about abstract art therefore making of modern art.

(Painting by J Swaminathan)

Today, if abstract art is on a coming back trail, then its reasons should be found in two different areas; first of all it could be a reaction against the mediatic realism art or photorealism art which had almost gobbled up rest of the artistic experiments from mid 1990s to around 2014. Mediatic Realism flourished in India as the most happening art and also it argued its own case that the artists who practiced mediatic realism would not let ‘painterly’ practices to die out. So it was not just an artistic style but a historical struggle against a new enemy in the forms of installation art, video art, conceptual art, performance art and ephemeral art. As the style was palatable to all with easily comprehensible images it could stay there for almost two decades. Today, mediatic realism is considered to be a done to death style. In this context, abstract art comes back as a painterly art because it is at once a rebellion and a TINA factor (there is no alternative). It is a TINA factor phenomenon because paintings can be, fundamentally speaking, either figurative or abstract. To create figuration and abstraction one could use any methods and materials. While figurative art needs craft and skill, absolute discipline and training besides constant practice, abstract art needs only cleverness and the ability to stick to experimenting with surface and texture, and once achieved a certain recognizable style the ability to stick to it. The fall out is that this has brought many false prophets into abstract art. Many self-schooled artists today paint abstract art because it is easy and it is modern as well as international! If more youngsters are practicing abstract art, seen against the historical backdrop, they must be fed up with the strict figuration that has been ruling the art scene. The market, which means the collectors’ consortiums, that decides the value of art must be now taking a fancy on the abstract art, therefore it must be trending the market. It is bound to happen and along with that many genuine abstract artists you will have countless imposters.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Crash: 9/11 and its Aftermath by Akshay Kumar Seebaluck in Khairagarh

(Akshay Kumar Seebaluck, Mauritius artist/MFA Painting student at Khairagarh)

Akshay Kumar Seebaluck, a final year MFA Painting student from Mauritius at the Indira Kala Sangeet Viswa Vidyalaya aka Khairagarh University uses his art to respond to the contemporary as well as historical events. In his studio at the Painting Department there is a painting in a corner, which he proudly shows to everyone saying that he has done that work keeping the deluge that had devastated Kerala in the month of August 2018. Unlike his other paintings, this one dedicated to Kerala is predominantly black interspersed with dark olive green with white strips of paint oozing down, indicating the cascading of water from the high dam shutters. He hardly uses black and dark green in his other paintings; Khairagarh being a place full of lush greenery, any artist should be carried away by the force of such emerald green. But Akshay mixes a lot of greys and whites to his green in order to tone it down to reflect a serene state of everything including the daily routine of the people in Khairagarh, their attitude towards education (which is seen in the number of schools here) and the calm flow of life in general. His human figures are not the rotund kind but the stick ones that get stuck in the viewers’ mind. There are a lot of verbal graffiti that in a closer reader reveal the queries that the artist himself carries around in his mind. He remains silent while his paintings speak for him through the visuals and the textual interpolations.

(Akshay's painting for Kerala)

The work dedicated to Kerala by Akshay is not shown to many. Nor does he intend to do so. Upon asking why he does so he says that he likes to respond rather than react but it is not necessary that his responses are dealt with immediate. He is not led by any collective guilt but he is always goaded by the ideal that an artist has a social responsibility and he is supposed to act upon it or deliver it in the most feasible and possible ways. Hence, Akshay, coming from Mauritius, a place far away from Kerala, feels the responsibility of being one with the people who have been suffering. He suffers silently along with them and his suffering is seen in the painting. Typical to his style, a closer look reveals that in this painting too he has employed verbal graffiti of which the one strikes at my mind is the question on the top right of the painting: Has the Dam waters caused the deluge? This has been a question raised by many an environmentalist in Kerala and they dubbed the flood as a man made one rather than a natural calamity. While debates are on and the artists in Kerala are still responding to the situation quite emotionally and often sentimentally, Akshay’s work stands out elsewhere, far away from the public glare and attention, in the corner of a sweltering studio but still evoking the questions being asked currently not only in Kerala but also anywhere in the world where dams have been posing critical danger to the hapless human masses.

(Beginning of the installation -performance, 'Crash'

‘Crash’ is one such response by Akshay, which is at once an installation and a performance combined together in order to commemorate and also to raise a few disturbing questions on the seventeenth anniversary day of the notorious 9/11 that had not only collapsed the iconic world trade center’s twin towers in New York but also conveniently created a global ‘other’ in the persona of a Muslim terrorist. With the incident which actually changed the course of history into pre-9/11 and post 9/11 has raised so many disturbing questions regarding the fight against terrorism by the United States of America. Akshay is not a direct victim of this event. In fact except for those people who got inadvertently entangled with the event and the US citizens in general the general population of the world was more or less unaffected by the incident. But it took for them to realize that a little bit of post 9/11 would come to their lives in terms of so many global sanctions and restrictions, price hikes, stringent economic orders, political dominations and the growth of right wing politics, disaster capitalism and the proliferation of the weapon industry through maintaining small scale wars all over the world; and also by setting up the democratic governments against its own people. In this sense, the 9/11 incident is in our lives even today.

(Crash by Akshay Kumar Seebaluck)

Perhaps, after the first Gulf war in 1990-91, the 9/11 was an accidentally televised global spectacle which came to have far reaching visual and psychological consequences among the world populations as they partook in the event as shell shocked spectators. It was one incident that consolidated the human psyche against a global other and the scale of the attack on the twin towers was so massive that saving the attacker even by playing the Devil’s Advocate could have been a self-alienating attempt. But over a period of time people start probing into the veracity of the claims of the successive US Governments, the posing of their military-industry installations and also the aftermath of the chain of events that had created an unprecedented narrative in the global scenario. Akshay perhaps stand at the other end of this spectrum as a young artist who relives the 9/11 event as a part of history as well as a memory and contemporary folklore. However, he, detached from the event and distanced by times asks certain uncomfortable questions through the whole performance cum installation that was held in the Darbar Hall of Khairagarh University on the 9th September 2018 to which I played a curatorial consultant’s role.

(the Interactive part of 'Crash')

The project ‘Crash’ is developed out of two surrogate towers, symbolizing the twin towers that had come under the attack, made of canvas stretched over rectangular cuboids. The canvases are etched with the press cuttings culled carefully from the reporting of the event all over the world and Akshay cleverly and artistically create a submerged narrative of questions regarding the 9/11. The reports thus transferred on the canvases start as mere reportage and slowly they take the form of raising questions, probing into the details, victims’ narratives, experts’ observations, global economic and cultural fall out etc. The ‘twin towers’ are then interpolated by the stick figures as well as the textual graffiti created by Akshay himself, which are lit from inside so that in the darkness of the hall they appear like two large pieces of embers that refuse to die out. According to Akshay, this emblematic representation of the event is way of raising the question that never say die once again; has the War against Terror achieved anything? Where are we in terms of terror? Even if the artist does not ask the following questions directly, as witnesses we could ask ourselves; what happened to the relatives of the human beings who got involved accidently in the incident? Who are responsible for the wastage of a large number of human lives? What has the US Government achieved after creating the global other? Has the growth of the right wing all over the world ever since in any sense helped the positive human evolution. Questions are many and answer could be always in the negative or in a sort of vagueness.

(a view of 'Crash')

‘Crash’ started off as a performance where before a waiting audience comprising mainly of the students and faculty members two student collaborators enacted an orgy of/with flowers which slowly turned into a violent act of mutual annihilation. This act was followed by a group of actors masquerading as terrorists, with their faces covered and hands wielding fake Kalashnikovs took hostage of some students and proceeded into the Darbar Hall where the main installation, the twin towers were waiting. In total darkness the installation looked like a pair of burning eyes while the actors moved around with lit candles in one hand and flowers in the other. Six blank canvases were kept on either side of the towers which was supposed to be acted upon by the audience. In the orgy of responses it took no time to fill the canvases with the visual and textual graffiti which surprisingly corresponded with the surface of the towers created by Akshay himself. The performance and temporal installation was concluded as a group of students and faculty members moved towards the front gate of the University with candles and left them there along with flowers.

(the Culmination of 'Crash')

As some onlookers did not know what exactly was going on, one of them exclaimed, ‘has Diwali, the festival of lights, come so early this year?’ It could be jest partially and serious too. But the 9/11 was a spectacle that has meant to go wrong; but still it was a spectacle, a lesson for the Ravanas of the world, calling some Ravanas and some assuming the role of Rama. The performance was persuasive and the installation in the darkness was quite poignant enough to evoke the terror of the crash and also capable enough to evoke piety towards humanity in the minds of the onlookers.