Some emotions will slowly slip through,
The inexorable cracks of time.
If we slice through, we’ll discover how we lived our life.
Posted byAtul Sabnis
Posted onNovember 26, 2013
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The dried words crackle and crumble
in the famine of thought
Organic reflections transmit emptiness
as transactional assessments overflow.
Loss! Loss! Loss! Cries the mind
of that which is quantifiable
That which uncountable
is lost without a whisper.
As artistic deficit stacks up high
no coins remain even
To pay the Jungian fine for
“the divine gift of creative fire”.
Last month, a twitter conversation ensued regarding playlists in music. I tweeted about how I am in love with a particular playlist I had created. The Dharma Bum replied that he never understood the concept of a playlist and the Skeptic Geek replied that a playlist is cheating in music. I like my playlists. Something had to be done.
My portable music player (I avoid saying iPod for fear of being branded an Apple FanBoy) has many songs, and podcasts and university lectures. It does make sense to organise all the audio files. The Geek and the Bum would agree with this, no doubt, because our conversation was about playlists in music.
My music is also quite well organised. There’s genres, artists, periods, dates, and favourites. A playlist, for me, is the mood. Imagine driving along the curves of a serene mountain road on your way to Malvan, listening to Find My Way Back To My Heart by Alison Krauss & Union Station and Boom! The next song that plays is Chikni Chameli by Shreya Ghoshal from the new Agneepath. You are likely to cause an accident by the degree of disorientation that would occur. Or imagine a long-awaited Friday evening that starts with Locomotora Borracha by Ondatrópica (to which I was introduced yesterday by the finest Balancing Act in the blog world) and have since acquired), gets you into the right spirit and is suddenly followed by Yeh Aansoo Mere Dil Ki Zubaan Hai by Mohammad Rafi from Hamrahi. That would ruin the spirit and sober you right away. These are just a couple of examples; for fun you can create your own and imagine how you would feel, if songs had a mind of their own and played at their will rather than owing allegiance to what you felt like listening to. Also, don’t get me wrong about the songs. All these songs are in specific playlists on my portable music player. I like all of them. Just not one after the other.
In any case, playlists cannot be cheating. A playlist is a specific collection of music. If you store music (as against listening only to the radio) you already have a playlist. It’s a huge playlist, but a playlist nonetheless. Come to think of it, radio programmes are also a playlist. That’s why they have names.
Playlists are good. They make sense. Except for certain factory-designed playlists like “Top 25 Most Played.” I am completely amused by that playlist. It’s a self-fulfilling playlist of sorts. If that was the playlist that you most used, you’d never listen to any music on your portable music player.
Playlists are good.
All artists reflect the ideas of their times, but it is given to some artists to reflect the intellectual romance of their time… The romance of an idea, made visible, becomes in a way a critique of the idea, a revelation of its fragile human basis, and therefore of its contingency, even its absurdity.
~ Adam Gopnik, Quoted in The Ongoing Moment, by Geoff Dyer
I am avoiding typing a thousand words, I thought this would suffice. I’ve heard, it’s worth it.
One of the things that an iPhone does not do well, amongst other things, is alerts. The context of the ambient sound in which the alert sounds were supposed to alert the owner of the phone is definitely not a road-facing flat in a busy suburb in Mumbai. That is why I saw Sagar’s Facebook message only when I picked up the phone to calculate the required run-rate at the India-Sri Lanka semi-final at Cardiff.
“Please give me your phone number, it has been a while, I want to catch up,” it said.
I wondered what it could be about – well, whatever it is, it will be my first call with someone in Seoul. With the flood of positive-thinking picture-messages that one sees on Facebook, it is difficult to be negative; you tend to find the good in everything. Of course, it is always a pleasure to have a conversation with Sagar, but an international call is not the best for a conversation; it is good for a quick chat, but a conversation?
He called about ten minutes after I had sent my phone number. The rain was lashing hard and the game was paused for the call.
We lost a few minutes in the ‘how are you doing’ phase. I usually am at a loss when people ask me what’s going on. More often than not, there isn’t much going on, though we are so busy doing things. Doing things to move ahead, running fast, yet remaining in the same place. Those, are not the things worth ‘reporting’.
It would be impossible to have a chat with Sagar and not talk about photography. After a few “updates”, needless to say, we spoke about photography. There’s an interesting experimental project he had undertaken on the Photography MOOC that we are on. The experiment wasn’t moving forward as much as he had expected it to. I was disappointed too, but not surprised. An international experiment which involved sending paper-based photographs around, using traditional mail, would have challenges in these digital decades.
The first camera I ever used was a Hanimex 110 Tele TF. It belonged to my father, and he allowed me to use it on occasion. Later, seeing that I used the camera so often, he got me a second-hand Agfa Click III. Photographs taken by that camera could not be distributed, they had to be shared, if at all. Each share meant a trip to the studio and buying a print. As you can imagine, it was a little more difficult than clicking on the share button and auto-post it to all your networks. Also, given that you had only 24 exposures in a 110 film roll, you were very judicious about every photograph you took. Feet, food and foolish faces were not photographed. The film roll, developing and printing was charged to your pocket-money and your patience.
“It’s possible that people have not clearly understood your experiment,” I said, “it is difficult for people to think of photographs as print products, perhaps that’s the reason?”
“Well, I have received only one response,” Sagar said, with a hint of sorrow. It was going to be difficult to get this experiment in place and into a gallery, we both sensed that.
“I read your post,” he said, changing the subject.
I had written, quite casually, in a recent post that I had stopped taking photographs. He was the first one to comment, and had said that he had seen it coming. Many of my friends were aghast, some were amused, and the rest confused. I had smartly titled the post as “It’s Not About Photographs” – but it didn’t seem to give an indication of what I really meant. To be fair, I had not made my thought abundantly clear in what another friend referred to as a potpourri post. On a music player, the stop and pause button actually serve the same purpose, but they have very different connotations. But starting the post with a sentence like, ‘I have paused taking photographs,’ would not make sense.
“Yes, I have stopped,” I said. I knew however, that I’d have to qualify this simple yet apparently mysterious statement, “I am just taking time off, you know, like a gap year, or something like that. There was a time when I took photographs of everything that I thought was worth a photograph. I suddenly had many photographs of many things. And though they were nice and were appreciated, there was something missing.”
“I think I know what you mean,” he said, resonating his comment on my post, urging me to continue.
“I found certain themes in my work and started to work on those for a while. It was quite exciting, even though I was retrofitting some photos into themes, it helped clarify my own thinking about the photographs. Once again, I seemed to be using the Hanimex or the Agfa. I didn’t feel the need to take a few hundred photographs to get one fabulous photograph. It was going good for a while, and again, I feel that earlier sense of emptiness. This is very difficult to explain; one would call it the artist’s dilemma – when the artist questions his or her own work. I have refrained calling myself an artist for long, but I’ll use that word because I cannot think of a better one, now. I don’t know if it makes sense, but my photographs don’t seem to move forward. Or in any other direction, for that matter. They are stuck.”
“So, you are saying you are bored?”
“I am not sure if bored would qualify as the right feeling. I still like to look at things, feel them – but I do not feel like picking up the camera and capturing that moment. Sometimes, I wonder if the word capture has got something to do with it,” I added as a joke, but wondering if I meant it.
“It is a block,” he said, but it seemed like a question.
“I think I need to know something more about the photograph than what I know. Maybe I need to think see things that relate to what I feel. Or perhaps – and this seems more likely – maybe I need to feel about what I take photographs about. That is some gap, and the camera is slipping deeper in that gap, away from my reach.”
There was a long pause in the conversation. That’s one of the reasons you should not have one on an international line.
“Well, I’ll take photographs, you know,” I said, more defensively than I would have liked, the silence from Sagar was awkward, “maybe I am just making a very big deal out of it, and I just need more opportunities to get out and take photos. I haven’t travelled in a while. Maybe it is as simple as that.”
“Yes, that could be a reason,” he agreed from three and a half hours away.
“Well, when you are here next month, maybe we should go out for a shoot, a good 24 hrs. Just us, find out,” I offered.
“I agree, let’s do that,” he said.
A fictional version of a conversation that I had with Sagar Kolte fellow blogger and photographer, a dear friend and a philosopher-mathematician. The conversation happened more-or-less in the same manner as you have read, with small changes, adapted for this post. The photograph in the post is taken, aptly, from one of my portfolio series – “Keep the Faith.”
My best friend and wife (I’m talking of the same person, here), is participating in the Rare Acts of Political Engagement, (R. A. P. E.) show, to be held in New Delhi from the 10 – 30 of April at Art Bull Gallery.
The show is curated by the well-known Johnny ML.
Art Bull, Art Gallery & Auction House
F-213 C, First Floor SIS House
Lado Sarai, New Delhi – 110030
Phone: +91-11-6568 3083
You are all invited!
My best friend is participating in the United Art Fair. Do meet her there. Use the links below to share the word. And thank you, for art’s sake!
It’s 23rd July. I update my Facebook status: A beautiful post finds a place in my head. Now to find the time.
Three people like the status; the post itself does not form, for a long and indeterminate while.
I am thinking of friends. Actually, I am thinking of their absence. The fact that I am thinking of their absence illuminates their presence. They are here, in my head or heart or whatever component, physical or spiritual – that makes them present before me. The make-believe is exhausting. I give up.
This post is not that beautiful post that found a place in my head that I mentioned on Facebook.
This is a different post. It is, I think, still a beautiful post.
Of the many men who have contributed in creating the most definitive art are the ones who never signed their work. There must have been one, of many like him, that contributed to the construction of the wondrous fort of Sindhudurg. Of the men and the women who worked tirelessly at this engineering feat not a single one is mentioned anywhere. Not one of them felt the need to carve his or her name for posterity.
The brave Marathas built this fort.
Every identity was engulfed in the single identity, in that one single statement. We know of the architect, for that is documented somewhere. We know of the administrator, for that is documented somewhere.
Not a single person who contributed to the erection of this fort is known; documented - to be precise. Not one of them ever felt the need to document his contribution. Where art has now succumbed to the identity and the pathos of an artist, this is a glaring example of art for art’s sake. A fort? As art? You would be right to question the construction of a fort as art. I will not argue on that.
If forts don’t convince you enough, consider Madhubani paintings or Warli art (Not the one that your cousin sells commercially; the ones that were the original)
A few hundred years later, young men in gaudy shirts hopeful of participating in popular love or similar such, exhibiting a deep identity crisis, have a compulsion to use chalk or whatever means to carve or inscribe their identity on the stones that an unidentified artist slaved to compose a masterpiece.
While the ones who built the masterpiece never felt a need for recognition, those that visit have a craving to inscribe their identity on a heritage that they are wretched derivatives of. Fie on those wretched souls!
Graffiti psychology has been studied enough, so I shall not even begin to make an attempt to discuss that further. Feel free to Google.
My best friend and I have a talk about this. She says that I have made a wonderful statement in saying, “Those that built it did not feel the need to express a personal identity; those that visit someone else’s creation feel the need to display their inadequate identities.”
We – and no surprises here – move to a discussion on contemporary art. I do not know for a fact, where the concept of a signature on a piece of art came from. The need to sign art is a need to express a human equivalent of the God-complex. “I created this”. In contemporary times, to my mind, it is like proprietary software vs. opens-source software. Signed and unsigned. Belongs and doesn’t belong. Those that want to posses art are not much different and the symbiotic relationship between the artist and the audience is perpetuated through the signature. You possess a traditional unsigned Warli and I possess a Souza. Of a few square feet of canvas, my pride is often reduced to the few square inches on the bottom right of the canvas.
Not so long ago, my father used own a seal. A red sealing wax bar, burnt – their crimson simmering droplets on the lip of the envelope and ‘sealed’ with a calligraphic press of his initials. Nothing is more personal than that. Nothing more one-to-one. Only the recipient can see what’s inside the envelope. History is witness of seals. The question therefore is; if signed art is as personal? Unlike the geometric casts of tribal women of Warli, whose representation is available to all of us? Is signed contemporary art available to the privileged few? Not really – we know that. They openly exhibit their expression with gay wanton yet sign it for an unknown exclusivity.
This post has no conclusion.
That post about friends; I don’t think it will ever get published.
There isn’t much in this world, nowadays, that inspires.
I believe that I would have remained a “tourist photographer” if I wasn’t ever exposed to a few folks who have a very different, thoughtful, and a philosophical approach to photography. My photos would primarily be of centred objects, documentary proof of my presence and flat superimpositions of family and friends against touristy backdrops. Not that there is anything disparaging about such photographs, but I believe I wouldn’t have liked what I did, after a while.
I feel blessed to have discovered Candida Höfer, and of course all the students of the Bernd and Hilla Becher school. She is an oasis of inspiration in an otherwise monotonous desert. Candida Höfer continues to inspire me, after all these years.
She must have been eleven or twelve years old. Cyan-ish salwar and a short, but bright red Kurta. She carried an uneven pole to help her balance on the tightrope walk. I watched for a while, as I was leaving.
One of the great events that Mumbai is proud of, is the annual arts festival held at Kalaghoda, every year. My best friend is an artist, so we usually make it a point to visit the festival at least once while it is on. It is an amazing smorgasbord of art. Very smart and creative people from various places come there, every year. These are sensitive, aware, and emotional artists. The Kalaghoda Art Festival (KAF) features “burning” issues – environment, child-abuse, over-consumption, religion, support for local artisans, fusion music and the like.
Her father wore a bright blue lungi and kept an even beat going. I imagined, it helped her focus, in the din that this city is. I almost imagined her telling herself, just one more step, and then, again, just one more step. The rhythm of dad’s even beta resonated well with the girls chant, I thought. I played it in a few regional languages I know. It seemed to be in sync.
It is quite endearing to see artists represent their emotions of the socio-political issues that affect them. Large, scalar installations that demand of us, to make discrete sense of the abstractions of an already discrete problem. I am amused, sometimes, but I maintain the perspective. The taller and garishly-attention-seeking these installations are, I see lesser of art and I see more of personal, shrieking statements seeking recognition.
She and her father aren’t allowed in the conclave that exhibits registered and learned artists. Socially-acceptable art requires a certificate: institutional or commercial. Unfortunately they have neither. To my mind, every person in this city would be more appreciative of her tightrope walk: she epitomises the struggle of every man and woman in this city. In a single action she makes their abstract life discrete; in a single action from one end of the rope to the other she presents a performing art. Yet they are all blind to this abstraction.
Tomorrow’s blog and news had flowery reviews of the installation art about child abuse. I read it. I smiled. I put the paper away here and closed a tab there.
She asked of me, who had apparently noticed the presence of master art in her performance that was bereft of any intention except one – to survive for tonight’s dinner – what did you do? I told her, I am no different. I took your photograph, I also wrote a post (for what it is worth, it was about you). Beyond that, I did not do anything. Success, to me, unlike you is not about “just one more step” – my success is measured in the like count and positive graph on page view statistics.
Unfortunately, for both of us, I have become one of those that I criticise.
PS: Please resist the temptation for Mumbai-bashing.
So, I was asked, how I was doing. Recent radical changes have got people worried about me. And every time I am asked how I am, I feel I should be worried too. I am just taking things a bit easy for a while, but most folks, knowing me the way they know me, are worried. It’s always nice to know that people care. Deep down, you feel very happy about the life within you and around you.
We talked of being confused and that’s when I said – I have no idea what to do with my photographs. I joined Flickr in May 2005 and have uploaded consistently since then. This April, I chose not to renew my Pro account on Flickr. Since then, I have uploaded to about nine different photo sharing sites; tried all of them. One of the advantages of being confused – is that you discover a lot of new things. Not one came close to what I was looking for. The big problem of social sharing is that you are a part of multiple networks, and have made friends and acquaintances in different networks. So, when you choose to upload your photos in one location, there’s a good chance that many, in other networks will not be able to see your work. Yes, most networks will allow you to publish to other networks, but more often than not – it’s quite clumsy. (We’ll just mark WordPress.com as an exception here).
The other thing about Flickr, was that it has not changed much in the last five-odd years since I have been a member. There is also some high-handedness in ‘curating’ photographs, as I have seen happening with a few Flickr members. I’ll admit, my photographs were never ‘force-curated.’ And for various reasons, my photos were getting good exposure. My favourite feature on Flickr, was the stats. It’s always nice to know which of your photographs are popular – and for what reason. But I was bored. Utterly. Five years is a very long time for a network not to do anything interesting.
In the meanwhile, I tried 500px, which has very good presentation. I felt however, it is too early and too basic, but I might reconsider it in a year or so; I don’t mind paying the slightly costly $50, when uploading/sharing becomes easier. There was always Facebook – but the photos were exposed to a limited audience (yes, I know I can make them public and share them outside of Facebook). Then, I looked at Saatchi Online – which is good for selling your work – and has a decent presentation too. Of course, I have been trying Google+, which has a cool presentation, but that’s about it. With very few ‘friends’ wanting to make the switch to G+, it didn’t make sense for me. However, G+ has been able to garner a very vibrant photographer community. That makes you wonder.
I finally have now decided to move my portfolio to a Facebook Page @ If I Could See Better.
It is nowhere close to what I would look for in a photo-sharing site, for instance, the presentation style is not the best of what is available out there (Facebook is surely capable of much more), geo-tagging is manual and there is no smart way for uploading (have to go through a file uploader – no native app).
Yet, it’s a nice place to have a single location to keep all your photos, build a community around them, share to Facebook and Twitter, and get stats about your work. So, till such time something really smart comes up, a Facebook Page it is.
I’ve just started, so in time, you will see more, soon.
[...] the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author.
There was a recent tag on Facebook (whatever happened to those wonderful tags on blogs?) about authors who have influenced you. Multiple people tagged me, and I’d like to say that I was forced to do the tag – reluctantly. I have done a few tags on my blog, and I must say – I have enjoyed most of them. I can’t say the same for this one.
Having said that, I am not cursing whoever started the tag. It was done in the spirit of social Facebooking. We all love being a part of a social movement, while being stationary at our desks. There is some futile fun in that, I confess.
The problem with ill-defined tags is that they coerce you into finishing them.
I have been influenced by everything that I have read – and given the times that we live in – influenced by everything that is published – beyond words – audio, video and imagery. I have been influenced with a significant body of work; I doubt, however, if I have been influenced by an author. The one work that has influenced this thinking had this to say:
The explanation of a work is always sought in the man or woman who produced it, as if it were always in the end, through the more or less transparent allegory of the fiction, the voice of a single person, the author “confiding” in us.
I have worked with a group of people who may never be able to articulate this philosophy, but adhere to it as if their life depends on it. No one adds the signature.
I have been further been blessed that I live with my artist friend, who helps me cement this thinking with her ever-growing work – always challenging me to seek an artist in a work. The signature of an artist, I have called it once. Society almost demands the definition of an artwork that is defined by the artist’s profile. My primary personal influences, for example have been the Panchtantra and Hitopadesh. Let’s violate the primary premise of this post, and quote Roland Barthesfor the third time:
Thus is revealed the total existence of writing: a text is made of multiple writings, drawn from many cultures and entering into mutual relations of dialogue, parody, contestation, but there is one place where this multiplicity is focused and that place is the reader, not, as was hitherto said, the author.
For a person who
reads many books used to read many books and is potentially dyslexic, It has been a difficult journey for me to remember authors. Where some body of work has left a lasting remark, I have usually remembered the body of work, rather than the author. I will never be able to quote it verbatim, but I will never forget the message. It is usually the same with music. I remember songs – I can never identify the composer, sometimes not even the singer. This means that I have survived numerous guilt-trips of you-love-this-song-but-you-don’t-know-the-singer-or-the-music-director? kind of accusations. I have persevered many such exclamations, often with difficulty. It took me some time to realise that I am not a Fact-roid. It has taken me a bit longer to come to terms with that. I haven’t crossed page 16 of any book by Umberto Eco. Gabriel Garcia Marquez has been endured with no avail. I have finished four Dan Brown books in less than four days (There was a discount offer from Tesco, so I bought all four). Applied Discrete Structures For Computer Science, believe it or not, is my favourite book.
Two, otherwise innocent, comments on the Facebook tag triggered this post. My list appealed to a few and a few others had questions about a few authors that did not make the list.
Scroll back to the top. and then come back here.
Are we who we are because what we read or because of who we read?
Someday, we will have to wonder what the “Like” button across social media, did to us.
Recently, I was reading a post regarding comments on our blogs. It was a post titled, Are You Making It Hard for People to Comment? by Joanna Paterson on the Confident Writing blog. Some interesting points there, if you wonder why the interaction on the blog isn’t what you expect. If not, don’t bother.
I had a thought about it. I wrote:
I am not sure about this, but I wonder whether all the “sharing links” and the “liking links” are equal culprits. If the end of the post is pretty busy with sharing buttons, folks would rather share (or just *like* the post) rather than adding a comment.
The reader acknowledges your post, but does not leave a footprint on the blog.
Recently, I have been adding quite a few photos on Facebook, and while I am glad that people “Like” my photos, I do get irritated by the constant notifications of people who like stuff that I post. When you think hard about it, a like doesn’t mean much! I am searching for a way that Facebook doesn’t notify me of the likes. Hopefully, I’ll find it.
And even if I cannot do that on Facebook, I am definitely doing it on my blog. The ratings, the shares, the like buttons – will all go away. One thing about blogging that I have enjoyed for a long time, is the interaction — the conversation (though, nothing beats a talk over a coffee or a beer). I have little, but I hope this will rekindle some conversation on my blog. Of course, this doesn’t stop the reader from sharing my posts.
I think, the like and share buttons have become replacements for good expression. They have also become the means of being lazy without sounding so. Clicking these buttons allows us to make our presence felt. But it ends there. And like Amit says, it has become “too commonplace” — too commonplace to mean anything meaningful.
It has stayed with me for a while now. So much that it easily leaked out of my mind on to paper. Apologies for the quality of the image – was taken from a mobile camera. I’ll post a better version soon.
This one post is difficult to write: The only way I can write it is — to deny content, in the post.
This peasant of a post has only context to offer.
The emotions that wrap around you at a time when you are most vulnerable are the very emotions that cannot be expressed. If you bring your rational head above the water, you could find a few words, scourge the thesaurus, and express in words what that emotion really makes you feel.
This one, isn’t one of that.
Perhaps because it is the confluence of a million smiles and tears. And every intersection of a smile and a tear has a unique meaning, a unique context. It is almost a complete life.
Therefore I confine this one to the only higher abstraction that it is capable of.
With numerical markers like dates, numbers, counts, measurements, and time that unfortunately marks such moments. Unfortunate, because these moments within them hold a cauldron of boiling emotions that cannot be numerically expressed. Our education, comprehension and understanding however has been reduced to a numbskull slave of demanding science and unforgiving mathematics, rather than an a forgiving and an encompassing art.
I agree with you; this is yet another incomplete post!
598 posts since December 2003. 599, if you include this one. That’s just one blog (Nah, it’s not an anniversary, but while you are thinking about it, I am 101 behind, for my upcoming 7th Anniversary).
A new-found friend has been devouring posts from Gaizabonts for a while now. She referred to a concept (in her own words) in one of my posts.
These are places where keyword search doesn’t work.
I have no idea which post she is referring to. But if she says I have said it, chances are that I have. I wonder, does an artist (am using a license beyond a poetic one, to proclaim I am one) have a responsibility to remember all that he has created? So if a musical not wafted from the fourth floor at 2AM, does a musician always know it is his composition? Can a painter remember every artwork she ever created? Can a photographer recognise all his photos, even if they have been photoshopped to death?
As a writer person who writes, I cannot recollect everything I wrote; there may be certain phrases, sentences, even passages I will remember — for specific reasons — but the whole body of creation?
Point to Ponder.
PS: I converse with her, and find out that the post she was referring to was Gender Mathematics
PPS: The image is a reference to the context of her post. But, I guess, it has context to this post too.
PPPS: How can you help me write 101 posts before December 28th, this year?
Not many people understand the content on Gaizabonts — this blog. Yet another validation of the blog’s incomprehensibility was uttered a few days ago.
The stats and the interaction on this blog are proof enough, I really don’t need people to say it explicitly. (I am not asking that you do not say it, but saying that I already know it.) And importantly, I know that, that is the case. In recent times, Gaizabonts has been treading the abstract spaces a lot, when it does tread, i.e. It was a much laid back place in its early years.
The “I-don’t-understand-what-you-write” comment led to a more interesting conversation. The purposive ethos of an artist, I shall call it. It’s about the physical, cultural, and psychological constructs that surrounds and defines an artist. This ethos is not a descriptor of every artist — but the one that wants to be known as an artist, a stereotype wannabe, if you will.
There is the physical setting of ‘being’ an artist. In India, it would mean that you have an unkempt beard, wear a slightly soiled white kurta over torn jeans. Footwear should be as shabby as possible. Then there has to be that one eccentric accessory — beads, threads, chains, something of an adorned signature. A female artist would be similar, hopefully, without the beard. It’s a means of saying I am an artist without having to say, “I am an artist” There are exceptions to this, I’ll admit, that makes identifying artists difficult.
Then, there is the cultural construct within which an artist lives. This is very specific to the kind of art the artist is engaged in. There are references to inspiration that a layman is expected to miss. There are elements of technique that the viewer is supposed to be oblivious to. The dialogue and the conversation, the choice of abstract language to describe yet another abstraction create the cultural pedestal on which the artist stands. Barthesian irony abounds, when I see abstract art being described – especially with an abstract description.
Finally, there is the psychological setting: an artist demands the right time, the appropriate mood, and a permitting environment to create art. Awaiting divine osmosis of creativity. When translated, this means that an artist can work only when away from the dull clanging of the reality of life. Sounds from the kitchen, the doorbell ringing, family chatter in the other room. A quiet setting is helpful for almost any vocation, but the artist’s insistence on this setting makes it, almost, an artist’s prerogative. There is, it seems, a good reason why most people with day-jobs are not artists.
These constructs, to me, seem to fulfil a two-fold purpose.
The first is of assuming an identity that permits an entry into the tribe. Recognition and appreciation, for an artist are two very important motivating and defining factors. Money, as every such artist will tell, you is a distant second. The easiest way to become an artist is to wear the garb; emulate the tribe.
The second, for the lack of a better word, is an excuse not to work. I don’t mean not to work in a shunning-your-responsibilities kind of a way, but to allow time to go by, and wait for inspiration to come by — some kind of validation for laziness.
And now, read the entire post again. Remove the sharp references to the artist. Dull the message and sandpaper it to rounded edges of generalisation.
In some form or another, we are all artists.
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Sidenote: I read this piece in an essay, “Contemporary Indian Art: Souza as a Paradigm” by Srimati Lal
Today’s fervently active Indian Galley-climate — apart from showcasing some formidably gifted and skilled artists born after Independence such as Baiju Parthan, Anupam Sud, and Atul Dodiya — is also riddled with derivative installations and ‘trendy’ conceptual abstractions that seem to conveniently bypass the need for artistic draughtsmanship or direct, personal painterly skill, in favour of the mimesis of mechanical or technological applications that, more often than not, blindly mimic outdated and gimmicky Western experimentations such as ‘Happenings’. Indeed, such sensation-oriented ‘special-effects’ in Western art only point towards the sterile vapidity of a vocabulary that has exhausted itself. [...] no amount of ‘avant-garde’ gimmickry can replace the power of direct, personal artistic skill and emotion, sheer artistic draughtsmanship, the power of line and the magic of the human entity in art, coupled with the ideation of an authentic thought process.”
And I continue to look for words. (Scroll, to see the length of the post – long one!)
A quest that will forever be unfulfilled, not because I don’t have words, but because I have no idea which one makes sense, when it is most demanded.
owe |əʊ|verb [ trans. ] have an obligation to pay or repay (something, esp. money) in return for something received : they have denied they owe money to the company | [with two objs. ] I owe you 25 cents.
• owe something, esp. money, to (someone) : I owe you for the taxi.
• be under a moral obligation to give someone (gratitude, respect, etc.) : I owe it to him to explain what’s happened | [with two objs. ] I owe you an apology.
• ( owe something to) have something because of (someone or something) : he owed his success not to chance but to insight.
• be indebted to someone or something for (something) : I owe my life to you.
And I have Jack Johnson singing Belle/Banana Pancakes on my left. And a while ago I just finished watching Shikshanachya Aaicha Gho (SAG, hereafter). The first thing that pierced my head was that children, students, should not watch this film. This should have an A certificate. This is one Adult film, if I have seen one. Mahesh Manjrekar has a great capacity to touch you where it matters with most of his movies. The one thing that, I feel, he cannot control, is the Dus Kahaniayan syndrome. Somehow he feels compelled to tell a detailed story of every peripheral factor in the movie. Except for this fetish of his, I think he makes good movies. SAG, is one of them. I will not be reviewing that movie here, but will be talking about it. Obviously, I will talk about it, so risk the rest of the post at the cost of spoilers. But, be also aware, this post isn’t about the movie as such. Yet it will talk of SAG.
owing money : heavily indebted countries.
• owing gratitude for a service or favor : I am indebted to her for her help in indexing my book.
I was looking for words. Before I saw the movie. After, I was exasperatedly looking for words. Because, as much as less you have them, they are the only ones capable of saying what you exactly want to say. I am a slave of words in that sense – because I prefer expressing as close as I can get to what I mean, think, and feel. I had no words. They refused to join my party. I offered them an Indian wine that’s winning awards, to no avail. I wondered why. Then I realised, I can be a slave to words, but words are slave to no one. They are open, free and available, but you have to deserve them; unless you deserve them, they don’t come to you.
something, typically money, that is owed or due : I paid off my debts | a way to reduce Third World debt.
• the state of owing money : the firm is heavily in debt.
• [usu. in sing. ] a feeling of gratitude for a service or favor : we owe them a debt of thanks.
be in someone’s debt owe gratitude to someone for a service or favor.
SAG is a good film – that could have been 30mins shorter than the editor imagined it to be worth. What’s it about? Good Q. I can’t really say. It comes across as a criticism of the (apparently harsh) education system that prevails in India. That (apparently) shouldn’t have been in parentheses. It does prevail; the education system. Yes, we have problems. Yes students commit suicides because they are under immense pressures. There must be however, something good about this education system. There must be some reason that the IITians and the IIMians (are they called that?) are successful in a walk of life that you can put a finger on. Three years ago I talked of a dance that wasn’t hugely entertaining. In my personal opinion, we have an education system that is unparalleled; the only thing we are missing is acknowledgement of aptitude.There are careers apart from engineering, medical and accounting & finance. And people can excel in fields other than these three contrived ones. Sports – Sachin Tendulkar. Social Services – Medha Patkar. Fashion – Manish Malhotra. Politics (Pick your name, or leave it blank, who cares?). Point is, if we choose to be successful, we can be.
gratitude |ˈgratɪtjuːd| noun
the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness : she expressed her gratitude to the committee for their support.
ORIGIN late Middle English : from Old French, or from medieval Latin gratitudo, from Latin gratus ‘pleasing, thankful.’
But coming back to SAG, to my mind, it has got nothing to do with the problems of education system that is prevalent in this country. We aren’t missing the content – we are missing the context. There is a repetitive dialogue in the movie about the multiplication of 17×7. It’s 119, by the way. Why is 17×7 important or not? What’s the context of the date of the first fort that C. Shivaji captured? Nothing really, if you are anyways going to leave the country and work for an Enron-like-company in the US. You would be better off knowing facts about the Civil War, if at all.
appreciation |əpriːʃɪˈeɪʃ(ə)n| |-sɪ-|
1 the recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something : I smiled in appreciation | she shows a fine appreciation of obscure thinkers.
• gratitude for something : they would be the first to show their appreciation.
• a piece of writing in which the qualities of a person or the person’s work are discussed and assessed.
• sensitive understanding of the aesthetic value of something : courses in music appreciation.
2 a full understanding of a situation : they have an appreciation of the needs of users | the bank’s lack of appreciation of their problems.
3 increase in monetary value : the appreciation of the franc against the dollar.
It’s always about context. Content, you see, is a eunuch, if not in context. Context gives content balls. So what’s the problem of knowing the ATP cycle by heart? I didn’t know why. Let us say I had a choice in choosing what I learnt. Here’s what I would choose: Process of making an FIR at a police station and the fact that an FIR is made in the local language, always; that when my car is dead and people are pushing it, I need to move it in the second gear; co-operative society laws; how to apply for a passport; content law, so that I wouldn’t buy a PS3 that discriminates against Indian buyers; and a million more things that make sense.
acknowledgment |əkˈnɒlɪdʒm(ə)nt| (also acknowledgement)
1 acceptance of the truth or existence of something : there was no acknowledgment of the family’s trauma.
2 the action of expressing or displaying gratitude or appreciation for something : he received an award in acknowledgment of his work.
• the action of showing that one has noticed someone or something : he touched his hat in acknowledgment of the salute.
• a letter confirming receipt of something : I received an acknowledgment of my application.
3 (usu. acknowledgments) an author’s or publisher’s statement of indebtedness to others, typically one printed at the beginning of a book.
But, really, lets come back to SAG. Mahesh Manjrekar wanted this to be a movie bout the ills of the education system that permeate and allegedly threaten our future. While he may have wanted to to also talk of the implications that these have on our society; he probably succeeded with an audience like me.
As people who learn – whatever – we have only one [insert the word that I am yet to find; which is close to but not "obligation"] to the system.
To the parent.
Not to teachers or to the system; but to the parent; if you haven’t realised it as yet; the tallest pillar of the education system in India, at least, is the parent. It doesn’t matter if you have become what your parent(s) wished you to be.
What matters is that they thought that you were the one who would change the world. It doesn’t quite matter if you aren’t the Einstein that they imagined. What matters is the height of their belief. What matters is that we have to achieve only a few inches of the height that they imagined. You see, I have come to believe that they only thought of the ultimate success that we could achieve. Unfortunately they could only think in the limited context that was available to them. It was our problem – that we were pulled into that narrow context. We may not be the doctor or the engineer or the IFS officer that they saw in us. But the day we forget and become blind to the star that they saw in us; we have committed injustice to the purest of dreams and sacrifices.
Have you reached here (in the post)? I commend you. This is the kind of post that never is read. Just like the dream of a parent. Never mind the profession your parent wanted to be in; deep down; only because your parent did not know better, all he (or she) wanted you to be is happy an successful.
1 a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements : the director had a lot of respect for Douglas as an actor.
• the state of being admired in such a way : his first chance in over fifteen years to regain respect in the business.
• due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others : respect for human rights.
• ( respects) a person’s polite greetings : give my respects to your parents.
2 a particular aspect, point, or detail : the government’s record in this respect is a mixed one.
Talk to them if they are alive or pay homage, if they aren’t. Tell them, that their dreams and yours have become one, and they are on their way. Tell them that their dreams and yours – have understood each other. The content of the dream isn’t important, the context is – and given that they were a generation before you; they will understand.
Some messages travel at the speed of light; and they traverse universes. Say it, today.
It was a lazy Saturday evening, a few years ago, when my father said, “God entered his being and made him write this, this is not a human act.” He was his usual relaxed Saturday-self, pacing slowly around the house listening to Geet Ramayan, written by G. D. Madgulkar, and composed and rendered by Sudhir Phadke.
I was old enough to understand that this was an exaggeration of sorts and I told him so. (Not that I was old enough, but that I understand he meant that this is a divine composition). He did not relent, he insisted that he meant it literally. I relented — the sceptic that I was. The message was important to take note of, I said to myself. Very soon, I was to be a convert to that sort thinking.
Years passed, and my love for Simon & Garfunkel and Paul Simon compositions grew and assumed a near-fanatico-religious status. My musical journey meandered through many valleys.
Yesterday, a smallish Twitter conversation ensued about the concept of divinity in music.
Amit links to his post about “Touch of Divinity” based on this couplet:
दिव्यत्वाची जेथे प्रचिती
तेथे कर माझे जुळती… [YouTube]
He has a different take than the intended meaning of this couplet and is a recommended read (actually, his entire blog is a recommended read, if you don’t already). For me, however, in context of our Twitter talk, this took on a different meaning. I accessed my Marathi encyclopaedia (also known as Mom), about the song and it’s meaning.
Music that make a direct connection to God (and where I use the word God in this post, I do not mean a religious connotation, to what I say here, I mean it as a divine entity – something beyond the known self) is always beautiful. It is beyond human composition. As Paul Simon says in an interview, echoing, what my father said a few years ago, you make a direct connection and you get it. It is your expression, but someone is helping you form it. Does that reduce an artist to just a medium of communication for God? I doubt. If that be true, then any one of could be the divine cellphone. There is more to being the divine cellphone — and I suspect it has to do with your need to express and an inherent skill to communicate.
I have been struggling with my own meaning of art and it’s relationship with artists, trying to understand what role does an artist play in the creation itself.
C. G. Jung defines two modes of artistic creation: psychological and visionary. For the visionary mode he says:
“The experience that furnishes the material for artistic expression is no longer familiar. It is something strange that derives its existence from the hinterland of man’s mind, as it it had emerged from the abyss of prehuman ages, or from a super-human world of contrasting light and darkness. It is a primordial experience which surpasses man’s understanding and to which in his weakness he may easily succumb.”
Is this how beauty comes to being?
संधीकाली या अशा, धुंदल्या दिशा दिशा, चांद येई अंबरी
चांद राती रम्य या, संगती सखी प्रिया, प्रीत होई बावरी.
For me, there can be never a better way to express love than this song. My apologies, I dare not translate it. This is a very refined song, an epitome of romantic expression. But refinement is not the characteristic of divine intervention — it can be crude — but it has to be heartfelt and pure, like A Beautiful Prayer.
Oddly enough, where divinity interferes, social morality isn’t a determining factor and even alcohol becomes the metaphor for expressing passion, as in Madhushala. Grossly misinterpreted, though, how does a human compose such a beautiful statement of passion drawing only available experiences from reality?
It may seem that the divine intervention takes away everything from the artist. It is not so. Divine intervention is not like lightening and does not strike randomly. It waits for the right person and the right time.
And if I am wrong, why is beauty and divine art so uncommon?
Notes & Links: