I ordered a multilayered pudding
I am a chronicler of the mind. More of a plumber or a physician than a painter. Plumbing the depths, prising out and erasing memory capsules, fixing the leaks, and relishing the taste of freedom, love, creativity, god particle…call it by whatever name, seems to be the goal. I am here, for, by, and in the process that some call life and some call art. Painting and writing are my tools. Within a painting, colours, lines, composition, beauty, anything is sacrificed in exchange for the naked truth. I have no other plans.
That was in 2012. When I wrote that I wondered if I would have to eat my words. It’s 2016. Not yet. It feels all the more relevant today.
This tool called art which inevitably becomes an extension of your being is fascinating only because it reveals the hitherto unknown within an individual. A journey through a Pandora’s Box that frees one from nagging, lurking shadows and leaves behind a handful of light. If it were not capable of that, I would not waste my time because tomorrow I might as well be dead. First comes man, then his art. And it’s best for man to indulge in his own inborn baggage of madness with his own skewed vision than probe someone else’s loony bin. He must also be prepared to leave his tools behind when the time comes, when there’s no need. Often the harsh stadium lights are blinding and if you listen, you hear the rasping breath of art as it is reduced to a mere spectacle, a queer product of the frenzied intercourse of dredged out concepts and words- sustainable, professional, collaborative, interventions- residues of old Management theories and practices? The carrot and stick tactic always works. You’re lured into Artistic strategies. Not Art works. Not Art that works. Hail the art of boxing the other in, diluting the others culture as a strategized goal towards production and control, in the name of ethics and goodness. (Project community and environment building, and delivering compassion) goodness gracious me! Hail the art of data and documents, manipulation and quantification!?
This skewed mindset deviously percolates into our culture and art, and words like ‘Sustainable’ and ‘Communities’ becomes a sacred goal. Of course it is. It’s nature’s way. Intrinsic, and the only way. To be a part of the Systemic network. So what’s new? As an artist one always knew and understands that development should be sustainable. But when this rightful practice morphs like an amoeba into Sustainable Art! One must not forget to cringe. The engagement with art itself sustains the being. It is self-sustaining whoever walks its path. And it is a walking and a talking and a being. The question that arises is, is this new age mantra, and is this corporate version of art which tends to forget the ‘core business’ of Art sustainable? (The corporate heads seem to have forgotten Peter Senge and his ‘Living Company.’ who looked at a company as a living organic system where people were valued, not as machines. Not driven by a singular goal of greed. They have also forgotten his call to approach life and work, as artists approach their art works.) The fault lies in the artists who have forgotten themselves.
Thank god the Kochi Muziriz biennale is home to a rare, precious sight. Unkempt, dilapidated walls coalescing with sophisticated art objects. Two contrasting realities coming together. It’s up to the viewer to read what lies in between and fill in those gaps. All wisdom, all that delightful Rasa lies in the gap, and as an artist I would remember not to forget that.
Human beings and also artists, as they like to call themselves, have been interactive communities, with sustainable behaviours and much more perhaps when they were tuned into words like ‘Rasa and Dhvani. Bhava and Auchitya. Guna and Dosha. Long forgotten words. Antah karana and Manana- (The art of experiencing and observing oneself and contemplation) Oft repeated but crucial engagements on the pathway, its value cannot be over emphasized. The new crop of words are old wine in new bottles. Over intellectualization and conceptualization strips art of its Rasa. Its body, emotions and connections that we ought to feel. Technology is always awesome and man likes to be awestruck. But can it not be used, instead of being used by it? Why let it become a compulsion that renders your art labored, contrived and pretentious.
Our story telling traditions were always ‘interactive’. Encouraging the audience to intervene and a new story is woven into the old. Has that not been always a part of our tradition? Our stories were not stagnant. They evolved, adapted, were inclusive and had no religion or strategy. There was no phobic need to ‘civilize’ the other, to annihilate cultures different from one’s own and to distort, dilute and digest the other. Rajeev Malhotra’s ‘Being Different’ is an eye opener. Every state with its own culture, religion, politics, language, rituals, ceremonies, stories, how was it possible for us to experience and to be anything less than plural?
Take the word ‘history.’ Only, we called it Itihaasa, Puraana kathakal. A glimpse of the truth through myths, history and those nuggets of parables. Quite unlike ‘History’ and its phobic rigidity. As an artist I would not waste time in wading around the convoluted coils of who did what to whom and why. Its knowledge shall remain as a background hum. While engaged in a meditative process called art one just might experience a zero tolerance for historicity. I do not know why but the visual art seems to be the worst affected by corporate games. The swing has always been part of our history, our journeys. From putting art on a pedestal to making it pedestrian. From object to subject. Concept to precept. From body to mind, experience to belief, society to individual, global to local. Amidst all this where is your history?
Somewhere in between lies the easily forgotten inner landscape of higher states of consciousness- of mergers and unions achieved by a sadhana. Embedded cultural experiences wrought in the fire of observations, and experiments conducted in the petri dish of the self itself. This alchemy takes time because we are born Ashtavakras. With disjointed bodies and minds. And for such normal, dismembered beings as ourselves, the lightening or the remembering, and the ascension of delight takes time, it dawns upon us. Slowly. Surely this sort of an alive knowing is more valuable than a blind conceptual trail.
If you must order a multilayered pudding, why dangle from the overly sweetish outer layer. Why not taste the wholeness in between the layers too.
To find a form that accommodates the mess has become the role of the artist- Samuel Beckett