Whenever I have to be interviewed regarding my work I go through withdrawal symptoms….and wish I could be the proverbial turtle that can pull back my head into my shell and let the world not see me. The reason is because I can close my eyes and know (on most occasions, the questions that will come my way. Feminism as a politics of choice isn't always understood and so besides the more superficial enquiries regarding the obvious, I am left to find insightful ways by which to negotiate how to share the territory that defines my ideas and produces my art despite questions that are repetitive and pretty inconsequential.
In recent times I can recall very few conversations where I felt I was being engaged in a discourse on my art where I personally could establish a connect for myself, and more importantly, where the parameters of discourse were not narrow or predictable but originated from informed curiosities of the interviewer. One such conversation was with Prajit Dutta of Aicon Gallery in New York at whose gallery my exhibition The Rituals of Memory:Personal Folklores & Other Tales was presented early this year. The conversation was over two occasions - one in my drawing room in Baroda and the other the day before the opening of my show in New York. Perhaps because his childhood was in India within an environment of art influences and then later that he steeped himself in a learning process of European and Western art, literature and music by choice, that he is able therefore to come into a conversation with empathy. This factor alone offers a bridge that bypasses the tedious tendencies of pegging conversations with artists on their bio-data information alone.
Diwan Manna an artist himself, who was in charge of the Chandigarh Lalit Kala did a magnificent job of getting very substantial interviews of artists recorded. He would assign people he trusted to conduct the interview and would personally be present to oversee that the interview was conducted with intellectual integrity. In the interview that was conducted with me Ms. Parul kept her questions simple and brief which allowed me a space within which I could include and articulate areas of information that could build up a coherent overview of my art as well as my personal journey as a woman.
Bhavana Kakar of Gallery Latitude 28 who also brings out the magazine TAKE on art has been conducting seminars and workshops on writing. She has conceived and curated The Book Ensemble which will be a two-part program - a workshop for young writers and a seminar on the 18th and 19th of December at Sanskriti Kendre in Delhi, that focuses on (and I quote) …the endurance and material legacy of the book, including the ways in which it continues to influence contemporary processes of knowledge, community and history. I am personally delighted that Bhavana has so consistently constructed forums of discourse that are multidisciplinary in nature, and which cater to factors of communication being addressed.
Today the press-of-the-button culture of the internet as the means of information leaves many believing that facts can substitute knowledge. The subtle difference isn’t perceivable and we have a vast section of society today whose brains function only by the click of their index finger, and not from the journey of discoveries through serious research. Am I being too harsh? No I don’t think so at all. The time needed to be spent in acquiring knowledge isn’t what many desire to invest in, and so the short cut to merely gaining facts for immediate consumption only to then purge it from their mental system once it has served its instantaneous need, is what we have as the general practice in the blueprint of learning these days.
Writing is a practice I encourage all to pursue. Not for any other reason except that it allows us to learn more about ourselves through the areas of concerns we address. I write because it teaches me to “hear” myself. I grew up with many oral traditions of learning. To hear a well researched lecture or to sit in the company of people who are erudite is an experience of imbibing that is precious. Listening at night to the stories recounted by the women in my mothers family as I dozed off to sleep still bears its imprint in my psyche.
When my adopted granddaughter Aditi was very young, I would make her write stories, essays and letters. This simple exercise of the play with imagination brings forth a sifting of real life experiences that translate either into factual anecdotes or fictionalized narratives derived from reality, and forms a mirror to the world we live in for us to look at. At 18 today Aditi still holds value to those months of bring her writing to me and for the discussions that we had about why knowledge empowers us, even when one is at the tender age of 6,7,8 or 9.
It takes very little to make the effort to empower oneself with knowledge that stays with us for a life time. What it requires however is for us to have the humility to recognize that we have so much more to learn than we have already imbibed.
*Photograph of my granddaughter Aditi Kim Karolil in conversation with me at Sakshi Gallery Mumbai