I will be attending the Art Summit in Delhi next week, and though I go carrying the optimism that it will have the potential of interaction that can evoke new energies , I am slightly sceptical about the seminars that have been organised. Don't get me wrong. I love the frame work of attending forums where ideas and specialised research is shared, but what I am beginning to tire of is the lack of imagination to the content of them for quite a while. These programs need to be made more dynamic and less cliquish; where ideas beyond the agendas of installations and video art, performance and new media representations are examined. I have great respect for many of my young colleagues, in particular Ranjit Hoskote, who contribute their advice to these events, but if one is to take an impartial view of the governing ideas that fashion the content of these seminars lately, it all is much of the sameness that gets re-hashed, well intentioned as it maybe.
Art history is never without disagreement and diverse opinions relating to what maybe considered to be poignant or relevant to the contemporary issues of any society. But if we examine Indian contemporary art and if we trace the discourses built around it over the last decade, the emphasis and focus to a type of representation can be easily recognised; and it is that I believe we need to examine as a flawed perception.
The parameters that define these discussions often appear to be small and rigidly specific to the interests of only a few. A nation as vast as India is not merely confined to centres such as Mumbai and Delhi alone. There are crucial issues such as the divide between tribal art and urban art practices which still remain unresolved and need our attention, and which in fact reveals the politics of caste hierarchies that still prevail in our country as an accepted norm. It seems paradoxical that we are concerned with an equality on a world stage, yet are unable to offer a situation where tribal art is given the same status as contemporary art is within our own nation. I am often amused that Sacchi & Sacchi and the likes of such western art collectors are the names we want to flaunt today, and that the western auction house mandate becomes the stamp of aesthetic approval for the art of our country for us. In fact I am beginning to view the term "global" (in the manner in which it has been used, contextualized and often seen as a a criteria to assess viewership in Indian contemporary art) to have become a sell out of sorts , that carries with it attitudes of a colonial hangover that speaks of our inability to shake off our need for the sahib to like us! What a waste of our own journey and the amazing legacy left to us by artists such as Binode Bihari Mukherjee and Ramanujam. But it appears that the manna still lies for us on the shores of other lands!
The only museum whose efforts of collecting Asian art that I greatly admire is the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, yet do we really endeavour to collaborate with them at all in a way that supports this focus on the region from our part? On the other hand, the Australian identification with Asian art is for me often questionable as to what end it is meant to really serve other than appease themselves of their own political misdeeds with the indigenous people of their land.
Icon making is a transparent business. I like the honesty of an artist like Krishnamachari Bose who swaggers and makes no pretenses of his agenda to build himself up as a celebrity personality. More power to him. But for those artists, curators and especially art writers who posture too often as the voice of contemporary Indian art, please do stop and pause to consider. There is a vast and vibrant pluralistic stage of events out there. Take off your blinkers and get real. It's time to grow up and be mature about representations in art. The stringency to call attention to specific agendas is a dangerous game to play and is equal to the same horrors of fascist attitudes, only the packaging is different.