Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Submit at the Summit!

Surendran and I flew over to Delhi for the Art Summit, and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed the entire event. Time being the major constraint, we did not attend any of the seminars even through I really wanted to go for those sessions in which Homi Bhabha was speaking. He's cute to look at and intelligent to boot; so hey, you get double on the price of your money, honey!! The buzz of the art fair was a good indication that "all is well" Amir Khan style (!) with the art world these days; and all the drama of the recession appears a thing of the past. Ministers and party presidents dropped by as gun totting commandos hovered looking like movie extras taking their cues for placement, for a Ram Gopal Varma film shooting!

Busy gallerists hob-nobbed with suitable-suitors looking for "good homes" for their Chintan babies! A golden bodied Ravindra Reddy sculpture stood frozen like a James Bond glamour girl, as hundreds of mobile phone camera's surreptitiously caught her nakedness like a secret tryst with their own fantasies in a public space! The tiffin-service boy of Artwood fame glistened at strategic corners and bad art slunk into other corners, as Absolut Vodka kept the VIP's spirits soaring whilst their bank balances did another balancing act of their own! Perhaps what may benefit the Art Summit next time round, is if a separate time-frame is kept exclusively just for the buyers and collectors. For people who may desire to buy art, my belief is that a more quiet space of navigating the process of acquisition, needs to be provided. Jostling with the janta and having the artists rubbing cheek to jowl with you, may not be the most appropriate setting for either the gallery or the client.

Flash bulbs popped at the Glam-Bam-Ma'am parade! Chic fashion did the rounds and saris were kept to the minimal, as svelte western styles seemed the preferred flavour of the day. With Delhi's fluctuating temperatures, I was as always, caught on the wrong foot with my own wardrobe; and ended up wanting to do my own striptease act each afternoon, as the temperature heated up!

From a personal perspective, from all the art that I saw, the highlight of this trip was really going to the Kiran Nader Museum at Saket. It's truly a WOW experience, and a lesson many Indian collectors should learn from. Beautifully curated, the show has stunning works of artists that spanned many decades. With the exception of two or three works, each piece of art is genuinely magnificent. The eye that has bought these works represents both exquisite aesthetic taste, as well as a deep and sustained comprehensive understanding of Indian art history. Congratulations Ms. Kiran Nader! You are my hero of the day!

What was also delightful to encounter were the many F.N Souza paintings that we saw. The man never seemed to ever be off the mark. A splendid painter, whose every line holds a masterly that is difficult to come by in today's age of cut-paste art and factory outlet production! The photographs of Richard Bartholomew were also a treat to see, once again.

At the end of it all I flew back home rather like a sleepy child coming home from a treat at the cinema. Multiple images colliding, and a thrill that ones own imagination walks within the spaces of new discoveries that lead to the celebration that such events stand for.

Photograph taken by me at the cathedral in Stanford in America

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Its a boys game when size matters!!!

Travelling to Delhi recently, I visited a number of exhibitions that provoked responses, thoughts and ideas that I have been mulling over. For quite a while I have been discussing with curators and artist colleagues, the need for us to assess the methods and rationale of our curatorial practices; as well as the directions we are pointing/placing ourselves towards/in, vis a vis attitudes and representations, both nationally and globally.

I must start off by saying that I am delighted that the Lalit Kala Akademi has thrown open its doors to entertaining private galleries using its premises. I completely endorse this and it brings great hope for new policies to revamp the institution of the Lalik Kala; and with it for us to upgrade our understanding of the co-existence of public and private sectors working together. Having said this I hope that our joy of this does not diminish the space of critical discourse; believing therefore that our gratitude to see change disallows us to further problematize where we need to.

Therefore from the logic of this position I will put forward observations from the exhibition Against All Odds, currently on view at the LKA in Delhi, which appear rather lacking in the standard of expectations one has of curatorial endeavours of investigation. The idea of archiving as a framework through which to address the intentions of this compilation of work, seems rather stretched in some instances; and the very idea itself appears rather borrowed. The apparent need to still clutch at the flag of "avante garde" and hold it hostage in meaning to become represented by materials and methodolgies of thought that subscribe to a very narrow interpretation of contextualized/historisized/political/gender issue/radical/mediative visual articulation, seems to in fact reinvent conservative attitudes unknowingly.

Big, bigger, biggest should really be the title of this show! The laughter club of N.S Harsha actually brought tears of mortification to me! What sorrow that we loose our ability to comprehend how to negotiate the territory of communication as artists in a public domain, and stand accountable to its immense responsibility. Vivan Sunderam's work too felt so contrived.

On the other hand, Bose Krishnamachari's LAVA is one of my all time favourite works because it makes the across-over into a real existence, playing with the notions of archiving so very effortlessly; and the playfulness with a borrowed concept is not disguised but instead celebrated in its new avaatar of disemination with no apologies made.

Archana Hande and Nikhil Chopra's work has a been-there-done-it feel, and it leaves you with a sense of de ja vou that is really frustrating. Ideas of self identity and colonial angst have already been worked with extensively and their work looks imitative and repetitive. Reinventing the wheel?! Well what can one really say.

The one artist who should have rightfully been in this show was Nalini Malani. Where was she?!

I found the work of Vivek Vilasini the most compelling. A quiet arrangement of photographs of the brightly painted houses in Kerala, beautifully arranged at the corner of two walls. Understated, it provides a relief to the over pretentiousness of much of the work in this show.

I have always said that Arshiya Lokhandwala's gallery Lakeeren, that she operated from 1995 to 2003, was one of the most impactful spaces in India; and that her position as an cultural interventionist was greatly valued. I hope that she realigns herself to a space of faith within herself and is not guided by the dictates of other's, as it may appear to be this case, but reconnects to believe in her own vision and insightfulness. As an admirer of hers, I wish her lots of luck and await with anticipation for a more truthful and precious space of curatorial deliverance from her.
Photograph taken by me in the Stanford Museum USA

Monday, 3 January 2011

Let's revamp please...

I love irreverence when it is packaged well! Over the last year I have watched many talk shows on television, and I have always enjoyed Suhel Seth when I have caught him at his blustering best; putting forth arguments and views I generally agree with, with informed insight; but doing so with a passion of belief that is wrapped in wicked humour and delightful irreverence for the establishment. That he himself, with his head of attractively arranged grey curls (!) would most certainly be considered as being part of the establishment seems, to make little difference to this delightful gentleman; whose wardrobe is another factor that makes him number 1 on my favourite list of TV people for 2010!

It requires conviction to be yourself in spaces of public interaction, and at the same time to know that you hold responsibilities of caution and prudence that are necessary to exercise in such venues. It was interesting to catch the reversal of roles interview of Karan Thapper and Suhel Seth (devils Advocate on CNN IBN) as I channel surfed late last night. Apparently friends, they ribbed each other but yet laid on the platform a sequence of insights that allowed for an audience to feel one has looked under the skin of the other. If I was a CEO of a television network then I would certainly be queueing up outside Mr. Suhel Seth's residence to get him to sign on the dotted line, and host a talk show where political issues are discussed. He would bring a refreshing candour to the space of political debate in the media, because something tells me he cares little for false diplomacy and the games of playing it safe!

I think I would pair Niddhi Razdan and Suhel as co-hosts of a panel debate! She has an amazing elegance and straight forwardness to get to the point of an issue; and he has the mischief of the devil to provoke and bring responses and reactions by telling it as it is! Both articulate and informed people they would be dynamic as co-hosts. So let's liven up 2011 with less predictable anchored programmes, and bring in new faces and collaborations that hold credibility and new ideas. I for one, am beginning to fall asleep over what is being dished up on my idiot box these days. Rajdeep, Arnab, Pranoy.....are you listening?!

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Happy 2011!

We begin the new year of 2011 with the hope that our energies will be positive, purposeful and productive! Our home is made special by the contributions that each member of our collective brings into it through the values and beliefs that are shared; and we gain many valuable insights of life by the openness with which we embrace one another.
Happy New Year to every one and may peace and honesty guide our lives each day.