Romancing the Idea

Relaxation Sold Here, Bhopal, MP, India. December 2010

Relaxation Sold Here, Bhopal, MP, India. December 2010

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

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Sign/Post

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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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That post about friends; I don’t think it will ever get published.

Of Two Storytellers

Harish Krishnan, recently posted The Story of ‘He’ and ‘She’. It’s a story composed of tweets on a Saturday evening. It is new-art, this form of story-telling; I enjoyed it! However, while he says that the story was written, “when the world around me was sleeping,” it’s not entirely true. I was reading this story while it was being told: live.

When you read his post, you will know what the story-teller was saying. Do you wonder, what was going on in the head of the listener? Here it is, the restless mind of one of the listener who thought of himself as a storyteller too:

It is fortuitous, that just after I read this most wondrous book about storytelling, this saga of storytelling happens to me.

How to Train an Ink Pen

A letter is due.

It has been for a long while now. It has been promised for a while. And it lives, with its honest intentions and desire to be alive. Yet, it does not “be-come.” The recipient of the letter is special. The letter, therefore deserves to be special. In this need of mapping, it lives a ghostly life. It exists, but it does not. It is true in spirit but it is unable to manifest itself on paper.

And paper it shall be. For this one letter is supposed to be tangible. The rough-smooth texture of paper, the blot of ink on it. When I write it, it has to drag at the tissue of the paper, as I pull ink through it – with curved lines that form the words.

The words that form the sentences.

The sentences that form the paragraphs.

The paragraphs that form the body.

The body that holds in itself the world of the emotions that I experience at this moment – that only you are privy to, my friend. How, shall I do that? How shall I make the dance happen? Because it is not just any letter that I want to write – it is a letter that I want to write to you.

My feelings have dried more than the ink in my pen. They are flakes I dare not touch for they will crumble. In their marginal existence – they carry a semblance of expression. Yet, today, I worked with the dried ink. The basin, water, and some help from me – and I have my Camlin screw-top working. I cleaned it well, water, cloth rags and all. I got out my letter-writing pad and I started writing.

Today is not the day – was the first thought that came to my mind. I was to pre-occupied with my ink-pen. Will it stay true like the other times I had written a letter to my friend? Will it participate in the symphony of my thoughts and the ink on paper? Will it move as effortlessly as my thoughts, once I get started? Does the pen remember how we used to write? Will it allow our usual flourish of the strokes and the tails of the letters? Strong stems and sharp corners? Sharp apices and beautiful bowls?

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After the training I realise that it is not just my pen that needs training.

Hearts and Bones

To love is not to look at one another: it is to look, together, in the same direction.

~ Antoine de Saint Exupéry

This quote is not new to Gaizabonts or the readers (if they have been following the blog for a while). It has made it’s appearance twice. Once with (the same) visual and once with words.

I learnt of this quote, way back in college, when we used to do really funny things like write down quotes that we liked, in a diary or a notebook. Like, on real paper and real ink. No, kids, we did not have Google notebook or Diigo those days. Life was a bit more linear and serial access then. Unlike the random access we have today. Interestingly, I was being taught the mathematics and algorithms-type of things that enable random access and other such things.

So, I liked it because I read it in some book (not on a web page) and wrote it down. Those days it appealed to me, but I confess it did not make much sense. Those days, I was in love with the concept of being in love, rather than being in love with somebody. But I did not know that, so I was searching for that somebody.

I took that quote a bit literally, then. Over the years, it started making a different meaning, each time I read it. Every time I was in love or thought I was in love. Very recently, this quote resurfaced in a conversation after a very long time. It played out in a photo I had taken, and the conversation grew from there. Very few people know this quote, and to find, amongst friends, those that have lived by it, is a rare blessing indeed.

I find comfort in philosophy. Direct meanings seldom make complete meaning for me. Direct meanings often have a way of deflecting attention from that which in inherent. And if we do not attempt to understand that which is inherent, we walk on a thin wire with the threat of landing on the uncushioned surface of superficiality. But philosophy does not come to me easily. I have to make an effort. And it has become better with practice, so much, that I often miss the obvious. Not quite smart, often.

The easiest way to communicate — is to face the other and express. More often than not, it is taken at face value, a meaning is presented and a meaning (usually the same) is received. And it works well in most situations — even when in love (or, perhaps — especially when in love). It is an altogether different experience though, when you make meaning together without having to look at each other and present and receive a meaning wrapped in words or gestures.  The “direction” is not towards a point in 3D where we focus our energies. It is not near or far. It is neither an object nor the infinite. To my mind, it is the same intersection of thought and emotion being experienced by both, at the same time, in the same manner, without having to ever utter, and more importantly — confirm it. It is a sense of unity, of being one. It is an exhilarating experience; and I feel privileged to know it.

Locked, intertwined, and meshed into a single lump of forever love.

Paul Simon, to the rescue, again:

You take two bodies and you twirl them into one
Their hearts and their bones
And they won’t come undone

That’s what happens, when we look in the same direction, together.