One of the artists in residence at The Collective Studio talked to me over lunch today about the sense of dislocate she felt when viewing video art. We talked about many things from this space of dilemma and I shared with her how perhaps it may be very simple issues that hold the key to opening up that space of connection, where understanding is not hampered by preconceptions.
In 1982 (all those many years ago, when I first experienced art practises outside of India, and not from art books alone!) I encountered performance art and computer graphics, both of which were alien in their formal presentations at that time for me. The mindset of learning tends to wire our comprehension to seek for meanings in the form of identifiable constructs that reflect experiences we can relate with. If we believe this is not possible we shut ourselves out with assumptions that offer escape.
The connection people have with more traditional art practises like painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, ceramics etc. is that you can come into a viewing space which does not have a start or a finish or a sequence on a loop. This offer a viewer the space of assessment and perhaps more interestingly, of control.
The necessity that prompts new materials and new media to hold visual communication is a history too many are not that clued in with in India, resulting in a kind of fill-in-the-blanks that leads to second guessing instead of informed experience.
An invitation to the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum as an artist in residence some years ago provided me valuable time to look through their vast compilation of video art and performance. It was hugely informative. It allowed me time to research a visual communication that I was curious about and which challenged me to make further enquiries to formulate my responses.
We do have some fine video art and performance in Asia. However there are those also who believe being avant-garde is doing anything nonsensical; and we are then paraded before substandard rubbish that gets labelled as experimental art! Such posturing is both embarrassing and boring and I have grown weary to the point of now just being plain rude when subjected to bad art....period! But what gets to me is that niggling question of simple logic: why can't such artists train their aesthetics and inform their intellectual facilities to produce significance and standard within their work.
I remember with great hilarity a Bombay curator who put a work of Surendran's upside down in a show as a deliberate "experiment" some years ago! Well Surendran in his usual cryptic way when asked for his permission stated that he had not conceived the work to be exhibited upside down. However if her concept for the curation demanded this idea, he informed this young lady that the responsibility of her concept would therefore have to be validated by her alone. What the result became was a farce! Then interestingly when I visited the show (quite by accident) I was verbal in my critique of it resulting in pretty pouts and frowns of sadness!!!! Oh for crying out aloud do grow up and entertain discourses that aren't always flattering!
Which brings me to the issue of badly written curatorial notes. In the recent years most every concept note is meandering and full of jargon that beats the drums of pomposity and does little else. Those that I receive I plough through with the patience of Job, ending up grumpy and irritated by the drivel of it all. I fail to understand why things supposed to be serious, that are related to art, cannot be stated with the required directness. Is it because in doing so we will expose the emptiness of the idea itself? Well maybe some reflection may be in order.
The desire of communication drives us to deliver through these many different ways. What we need to do is to learn to empower ourselves with the knowledge to give and receive with greater honesty.