Are we so sure of the contemporary Indian art scene? And if someone searches for Indian contemporary art or contemporary Indian art in the internet what kind of a result is he expected to get? I give you five case scenarios and let me tell you it is not to make any artist look lesser than anyone else. As Google is the most preferred search engine, I ran a search, ‘Indian Contemporary Art’ and this is the result that I got.
Then I ran another search, ‘Contemporary Indian Art’ and this was the result that the site provided.
Then I looked for ‘Modern Indian Art’. Lo, I had this page before me.
Then I went all out for ‘Indian Modern Art’. Hmm, I was not getting what I was looking for.
The last search was ‘Indian Modern Contemporary Art’. I couldn’t have expected anything lesser or better.
Once again, let me state it categorically that I do not want to make condescending comment on any of the artists who are represented here with their works. They are not directly responsible for the search results. But one thing is sure that if the spiders of the net crawl around and gather so many virtual pages out of the billions in the quantum memory of the internet, then these findings should be seriously taken as Indian contemporary art in India and elsewhere. That means, what we the ‘intellectuals’ or the ‘people of high art’ see as contemporary Indian art is just a minority when compared to the vast amount of the visual material available as Indian contemporary art in the virtual space.
What exactly is the reason for this? One could accuse my search being too broad and if I had given specific search words definitely I would have landed on the ‘right’ kind of image. Okay, I accept that argument for the time being. But let me present another case scenario. I do not know anything about say, Bhutan. I run a search, ‘Bhutan’ to begin with and I have nothing but the pages thrown on my face by the Google search engine. Then I go for Bhutanese contemporary art and again, Google gives me Bhutanese ‘contemporary art’. After this exercise with the search for Indian contemporary art, how can I believe that I get the ‘right kind of Bhutanese art’? Still, I have to believe that it is what Bhutanese art is. Why, because I do not have any specifics. And if I need specifics, I should start with a contemporary art library where Bhutanese contemporary art is seriously discussed or I should approach a professor who is well versed in Bhutanese art or an art consultant who is dealing with Bhutanese contemporary art. If that is the case what is Google doing here?
Should I say that Google is a stupid search engine because I know that it is not the ‘right’ kind of contemporary art that I know as the mainstream, intellectual and intelligent art? Or should I say that the key words that fed into the mouth of Google were not right enough? If so how would I reach the right words? I have already mentioned the difficulties regarding knowing the right kind of search words. So a person going by this kind of search is obviously going to land in the wrong places and there would be chances totally misunderstanding the Indian contemporary art scenario. I am not talking about the people who ‘know’ what it is but the large population in the world that ‘does not know’ what Indian contemporary art is. If cursory interest is the trigger for a search then it is always the general search words not the specific ones. Then you would say that you should click on the ‘All’ button than the ‘Images’ button. Okay, accepted, but what about someone who is an artist who does not want to read but want to see only. There are millions of the people who use internet who prefer to see than to read. So how could we tell them to hit the button ‘All’. Then you will zero in on the common intelligence called common sense or discretion. Arrey bhai, if your common sense is directing you only to the images what are you going to do?
We have to accept the fact that there is a huge disparity between what is ‘projected’ as contemporary art and what is ‘proliferated’ as contemporary art. We become a poor minority that understands what is projected. But the majority is that set of people that understand what is proliferated. If Google is to be trusted, then we could easily say that in India and elsewhere modern art is proliferated and understood as we have seen in the images shown above. Obviously not as the ones that we see and try to understand if we give ‘specific key words’. We in India should really be surprised to see this finding because we believe that we are in the making of a contemporary visual culture for the world as a part of one of the surging South East Asian art markets. However, what we see here are derivatives of the western modern adequately tinged with the Indian modern. And if there are more numbers of such images in the internet, then it translates easily into their huge presence in the art market. What does it mean? It means nothing but there is a parallel market that does not care about that art market which is driven by the so called intellectuals and auction results. The artists in this stream may not be reaping high dividends and profits nor are they becoming stars and celebrities. But there is a market where they are stars and at times they may be faceless artists who just produce works according to demand. Believe in it or not, such a market is strong. Do we need to say that it corrupts the minds of the people? I have to say it does but I do not stop it at that. I reiterate that it such art corrupts the minds of the people, then definitely our intellectual, political, rich and mainstream art fails absolutely to resist such degenerate art from proliferating. It happens because the mainstream art has become exclusivist and elitist. It does not touch the hearts and minds of the people. Even if it does, the hearts and minds for its touching are carefully chosen in the sanitized spaces of aesthetical appreciation. Rest of the aam janta is excluded from it. That’s how we have such ridiculous shows about the pathetic conditions of Indian farmers and get opened with wine and cheese parties.