Art & Artifice

Shibboleth - 10

Artistic devices enable an artist to express a feeling, an emotion. These devices are many; there’s extension, abstraction, and exaggeration, for example. Each serves a purpose. There are many more and how they are deployed depends on the artist and her craft and her medium. Needless to say — on her subject.

Our Prime Minister tweeted, a while ago:

What about artists? Do restrictions and limits apply to them? In my opinion, no. For, when you restrict or limit an artist, you automatically restrict art. In some form, the principles of free-market economics should apply; let the audience be the judge of a work and decide if it is art or not. And the degree of how good and how bad. Easier said than done, because we have an “uneducated” audience. I don’t mean the sliver of the fraction of the minority who have “studied” art. I mean all of us. Art education, is an oxymoron of sorts. Art is Experience, just like Education is Experience. And we lost out on that experience, when we outsourced the sensation to a select few. “Tell us what good art is; what we should see, what we should not.” That’s the first insult we hurled at Art. Art, for us, was not worth a direct experience. We were fine with seeing it through a stranger’s eyes: eyes, we had never seen. In selecting those select few, if we sought teachers, it still made some sense — having someone expand our horizons, without influencing. We got lazy, however, over time. We stopped learning, we stopped experiencing, and we stopped thinking. Those who were to be our teachers became intermediaries, and eventually the sole connection between the artist and her audience. We, the audience, lost our connection with art.

We are all in general agreement that politicians, bureaucrats, and corporations are not to trustworthy. But are we in general agreement why we don’t trust them? They convince of what’s good for us. And with their oratory skills they wipe away the slightest smear of doubt, just in case we were thinking for ourselves. Time passes. We get accustomed. Word power translates to -isms. We subscribe to these -isms. An educated woman sees through this artifice. An uneducated woman asks questions. The mal-educated woman chooses sides.

125659: Wall Grunge

Humanity will survive even if every politician, every bureaucrat, every corporation — and even if the last common woman is corrupt to the core; corruption is not just about bribery – it is a general state of decay; it’s a rot. Corruption is not always intentional. Ignorance and laziness have often given birth to corruption.
The day the artist mortgages her soul to these dark corrupt powers, that is the day we should call it a day. When she holds a tainted mirror of misfeasance and screams, “this be it!” — that be the day of our doom, if we were to know the nature of the mirror in which we see us.

I don’t expect honesty from an artist. I assume it. And without restrictions and limits, she should express it. Wherever and however on the spectrum of human emotions, she chooses to express herself. For, only when we see experience that which is unknown, we can become better humans. In this age of disruption, she has to (and can) do away with brokers who will interpret her art. She may well take help of those who present it, un-tinted and de-ismed, so that the audience can make meaning for themselves, and not live on borrowed ones.

But enough of the artist already. The audience has a more pressing responsibility to experience art with their own eyes and souls. Of the many social curses we live under, “I don’t understand art” is one of the worst. We take great pains to learn a new interface of a new mobile phone. Yet we dismiss art with ease of a flick of our fingers. Art, has no utility. And that is true. It is not about utility. For that, the utility, i.e., the corrupt corporations are churning gadgets.

Watching the evening sun rays seeping through her hair in Hyde Park’s evening breeze has no utility. It does not serve any purpose. What is the value of that sight? Is it useful? If it is, why is it important in our lives? But it is an experience, which enriches us. It changes us. It affects how we feel. Over time, we change; become different. Do I see her in a different light? Does she become different in that setting sun? Did we understand love? Did we experience love?

If we were to ever see an artist’s impression of what it means to be depressed, we’d understand it better. Maybe not, but at least experience a presentation. When we say, “Oh, my three-year-old could do that,” We are hurling two insults: one at the artist and another at our three-year old. Why do we cherish the abstraction of our three-year old, but not that of a thirty-year old artist?

In time we may choose experiences, but all art is experience. Including, identifying that a certain artist, critic, or curator is corrupt. But that will happen only if we have a body of knowledge. And we have to graduate in the University of Visiting Art Galleries, to access and own the body of knowledge. That knowledge then, will be ours — seen through our eyes, experienced through our souls. In the least, it won’t be outsourced.

We have to discover for ourselves what our experience will be. We can ask questions to comprehend better; our experience has to be purely our own. And there are no points for liking or disliking something. It is not a game. We are not competing against the artist. She is not competing with us; if at all – she is challenging us. Twenty different voices of one artwork is what makes it intriguing. And we are only to consume those twenty voices – not combat them. For, they are nineteen new experiences for us.

It is not about liking or agreeing with the other voices – it’s about exposure.

1587: A Window in my Wall

When I began this post, I spoke of artistic devices. There is one more device: distortion. It has a legal, purposeful place in art. But it is unwieldy. It requires amazing skill and experience to use this device well. From an audience’s perspective it requires the knowledge of the origin and the path of distortion. This is the one time, we cannot completely depend on the artist’s perspective. This is where our knowledge as an audience comes in to play. See, we are now participants.

Therefore, we are not to trust the corrupt legislative, executive, or the judiciary. We have to make our own meaning, and trust the artist, who shows us the mirror..


The artist is corrupt.

That’s the dawn of our doom.


4 thoughts on “Art & Artifice

  1. Hi Atul,
    We shouldn’t like or dislike? I agree that nobody should judge art. What the artist makes is what the artist feels and nobody should say if it’s good or not. But liking or disliking? Do you think it would be better if we say we don’t understand it? Or that something doesn’t “touch” us? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Isn’t ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ a value statement; a form of judgement? I agree with you, when you say, we perhaps should not be saying good or bad. But we can definitely like or dislike something. It’s a personal experience and a statement. Saying, I don’t understand, is almost like saying I don’t care. Yes, we may not understand, at first, truly. But we should make an effort to understand – in our own way. 🙂

      Do see 🙂


  2. as an artist, i concur that limitations are not worthy to be on the artist palet. for to limit an artist is to challenge them to go beyond it! artists change the world through breaking and tossing in the face something that appears to be missed..something that needs more thought …something beyond! Thank you for this!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are welcome 🙂 And thank you for the comment. If we give rules to an artist to follow, then we are confining our own perspectives. It’s like saying – I don’t want to *see* anything new; different. 🙂


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