Art as we know it – not!
We need to be dispassionate to understand art
SYED MUJTABA RIZVI
People at the University of Kashmir witnessed on Monday April 9th, an art activity, what I may best describe, based on the reaction of the people as: completely alien to them. The open space performance art, which may vaguely be referred to as ‘mixology,’ involves social interaction with the process, performance and the performers. The conceptual art form was introduced by a renowned Delhi based Kashmiri artist along with 10 eminent artists from Germany.
Before I move on to ‘critique’, let me describe the ‘performance’ as closely as I can. After a presentation of their works in other parts of the world the audience was invited to follow the performers into the open space outside the Allama Iqbal Library. The slowly moving ‘procession’ was led by the Delhi based Kashmiri artist, dressed in a typical Kashmiri Attire carrying a ‘kangir’ (Traditional Kashmiri fire pot) containing ‘bakir kheain’ (locally made crisp flaky-bread) which he broke into pieces on the way and gave away to the crowd to eat and nibbled on some himself. One of the German artists held a huge ball wrapped in newspapers, while another artist from the faculty of Music and Fine Arts left a trial of paint along the path they moved on. The drama increased and the crowd grew, more and more people joined in and as the performers reached their ‘allotted open space of performance,’ the trail quickly changed into a work of art on the floor and the artists body, the ball was thrown onto that painting and the painter and rolled over the floor. Unable to control my artistic instincts I too kicked the ball, thus initiating the ‘social interaction’ everyone else then joined in to kick the ball and care a damn about the painting on the floor. The ball changed its colour and the painting its form.
Then, something was happening everywhere. Another artist from the Faculty of Music and Fine Arts made an installation out of empty cartons; two performers stared intensely into each other’s eyes while with a strange energy they wrote and scribbled something onto a discarded door – which I tried to disturb by snatching the marker from one of the performers; someone displayed a book containing prints of her photography and documentation of conflict; another artist then erased everything that the earlier performers had created on the door; someone came in dressed as what I could hear many referring to as ‘Bizarre.’ Overall, most of the people were confused if they should join in or just watch, but everyone sure seemed involved enough - watching the space and the mood change due to the events through time.
An integral part of art apart from creative expression, as I see it, is its progressive vision and challenging conceptions and its ability to create an experience that liberates a person from experience itself. Art is a responsibility - irresponsibility and lack of vision and expression may throw it into the category of vandalism – of not just structures but thoughts as well. The entire idea and concept behind the performance is not concretely clear in my mind so as to explain it in a sentence or two or a paragraph. When I asked the performers, they too say its ‘explanation’ is something that ‘unfolds on its own’ slowly and that they cannot ‘say’ it in words like a theory; in fact, the performance was so spontaneous that one of the most difficult tasks while obtaining the permission from the university officials was to explain to them: what the performers will do. Based on my experience of organising events, the ‘International art event’ was poorly organised. For example, the group had no permissions or collaborations at KU or pre-booked accommodation while the artists had already stamped their visas and booked their tickets all the way to Kashmir. For a ‘social art form’ the performers really did not take the society into factual consideration, and even the pre-performance workshop did not make it clear to the audience as to what they are going to do and how they can interact, the group was probably too optimistic and the ‘social’ aspect of the performance was an almost failure. It did draw a large crowd but then anything “strange” happening on the streets does. There was no pre-planned schedule of performances – when and where? Their schedule was more like “Pekiw wethiw, wechow kyah karow, Khodah kare sahlei” (Let’s move, we’ll see what we’ll do, God will make it easy)
However, the entire drama, intentionally or unintentionally, raised some serious morally compelling questions and did send out a statement. I would like to ask the clean shaven boy in T’s and Jeans speaking in English and Urdu, who threatened of a protest because “all of this is not a part of our culture,” as to what is a part of our culture? In fact, I would like to ask all such people the same question. Why are we altering OUR time and space in colours and processes of so called modernity? How can we be ashamed of such a performance and at the same time be ashamed of wearing a ‘Phiran’ or our traditional cap, teaich to workplace. Why are the words of our creative expression being altered and foreign languages fed into the minds of our children? Why don’t we ever protest for these things? Who has inherited the intellect, Ikhlaaq of our saints and scholars? How exactly are we challenging conceptions? If this “performance” is not acceptable in our society where is the indigenous, progressive, original, aesthetically evolved, challenging fraternity of artists of our society? Who has created waves in the art world after Shabir Santosh? If we claim to be an Muslim society, what is our contribution to calligraphy, architecture or literature? If we are fighting for our aspirations, how are we reaching out to the world? What forms of creative expression do we resort to? What is our culture that the world knows of and that we practice? What part of our culture will the German artists take back from here?
Author is Managing Director, Kashmir Art Quest.
Reach him at email@example.com
Lastupdate on : Mon, 4 Jun 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 4 Jun 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 5 Jun 2012 00:00:00 IST
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