Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Amidst the noise and racket about struggle

Malavika Rajnarayan's Guest Post

In the course of a casual conversation the question arose as to why it is often musicians, theatre artists and writers who are more easily noticed, or are in the news in relation to political content in their work. One of the most obvious reasons that initially occurred to me was the location of the art-work/ performance and thereby its accessibility, or the lack of it. Reading, listening and watching (though, mostly moving images) have all taken higher preference over looking at a picture book, for instance.

Artists choose different modes to present their work, which then determines its potential to be received, read and perceived. All through history, there have been communities, guilds, ateliers, groups, collectives and collaborations that have served artists significantly by bringing together similar minds to voice their political concerns through individual and shared spaces of thought and delivery. These have invariably set the context and tempered the pulse of reasoning, questioning, dissent, political critique and activism in both overt and subtle ways. While it may be a generalised assumption that more obvious activist genres like street-theatre and public performances by artists/ political activists do tend to draw larger and wider viewership, the attention span of the audience does not seem to sustain itself for longer periods of time, despite the increased access to information and media. To examine further, the disparity in viewership across different sections of society and varying geographical and cultural territories often diffuses the impact of sharp political critique in visual art.  Ironically, sensational videos and visuals presented as factual/ illusionary documents, providing little or no scope for sensitive but objective contemplation, tend to hog more attention than the poignancy of subtle evocation.

A majority of the population is deficient in visual art education; the huge lack of awareness about the potential of visual art has resulted in an inability to include it extensively within spaces of political, social, popular or even casual discourse. It is equally a matter of concern that a country that boasts of millennia of cultural diversity, with art traditions that have evolved over generations of personal and collective endeavour, is now facing a time when we haven't the political will or enthusiasm to even preserve objects and artifacts from our ancestral heritage, let alone carry the art forward. Institutions for conservation are few and museums often house more neglect than care, but for a few exceptions. The culture of visiting art galleries and museums is limited to a very tiny percentage of people, which is often inclusive of the community of artists.

The other point that occurs to my mind is that of art-making and the dialogue an artist has with oneself, in the process of formulating and using a personalised language. The core of one's politics- whether it stems from the personal or it extends to the larger social ambit- contributes to shaping language and expanding its tropes as philosophies evolve. It is an endless process of regeneration, of refinement and an effort to optimise articulation. The artist is consistently engaged in tweaking the language, just a little more at every stage, in the hope of presenting their ideas with greater clarity and resonance.

Patua painters and Kantha embroidery artists used the space of their art for critical commentaries of their contemporary social and political mechanisms. Subjects ranging from domestive violence to political scandals were woven into the narratives they painted and embroidered. And yet, we would find it hard today, to imagine visuals of their art go viral on social media as did the news of Pussy Riot's controversial performance of protest in a Russian church in 2012, and the subsequent arrest of its band members. Does this expose an overall desensitization towards the nuances of dissent? Or is it in the nature of performance to capture an audience more effectively? Or is it only when the establishment recognises dissent and chooses to censor creative expression that the rest of the world takes notice. 

I am compelled to think of an oblique but relevant analogy of transistor radios of yesteryears. Listening to any programme required a good deal of auditory sensitivity and motor skills in fine-tuning the bandwidth's reception to its precise frequency for achieving maximum clarity. It didn't end there though,  because the transmission would sometimes  fluctuate;  it required us to be constantly alert lest we miss a second of the broadcast... to noise.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Analogue; possibilities of resistance

As our taste became increasing fascinated flat polished surfaces, the cosmopolitan flatness of glass and steel; labor and the local became the biggest casualties.  The politics of digital aesthetics was such that 'contemporary' visual culture witnessed an absolute marginalization of local and labour (paralled by the dominance of global and mechanical) . Within the conventional Contemporary Indian Art production, the emphasis on manual/physical labour comes became a kind of noise, a disturbance which allegedly took away value the digital/conceptual art itself. This type of art which has come to dictate the art market for a long time emerged simultaneously with the global capitalism which swept the world two decades ago. 

Labour was sought to be omitted from the art and a clean, sterile, sophisticated, digitised practice which only projected the concept was developed. It is to the extent that the old media art practices refer to and embody forms of temporality, knowledge and subjectivity, which do not easily enter the concept of abstract labour of new media.
Contemporary art’s investment in labour, analogue* and old media assumes various forms and it is symptomatic of changes in the economy rather than expressive of a broader left consciousness in the arts. In other words, the rise of labour as a sign-reference in recent art does not amount to a political project, even if it indicates a departure from the staples of postmodernism and, in some quarters, the desire to provide an alternative to capitalist economic relations.

*please note, in this post and for our our show analouge is not technology, it is used in terms of taste and aesthetics. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Excuse me,

Excuse me,
Is it hand-painted ? What is the edition number ?
Is it hand-painted ? What is the edition number ?
Is it hand-painted ? What is the edition number ?
Is it hand-painted ? What is the edition number ?
 Is it hand-painted ? What is the edition number ?
Is it hand-painted ? What is the edition number ?
Is it hand-painted ? What is the edition number ?
Is it hand-painted ? What is the edition number ?
Is it hand-painted ? What is the edition number ?

Pictured: Hand-painted 20/rs note cards from the Udaipur tourist bazaar featuring camel (love/sex), horse (power) and elephant (luck). Andy Warhol serigraphs and reproductions (signed and unsigned) found offered for sale via the Web.  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Most Incredible Rise of Blitzvin of Batanrush

Story by Waswo X. Waswo with illustrations by Amit Biswas

Blitzvin had been interested in art since her childhood. When young, she had whiled away hours drawing her native town of Batanrush...its little houses with smokestacks and its aging, half-dead trees. She hadn't been the greatest of drawers, but she persisted. Blitzvin was not particularly good in school; in fact, Blitzvin was not particularly good at anything. She lagged in science and math, but her teachers encouraged her with art. It was, after all, one of the few things the poor girl was mildly proficient at.

It took all of Blitzvin's talents of persuasion to convince her aging mother (a widow on a pension) to send her away to Bolthank Semi-Accredited University (BSU) in the nearby town of Bolthank. Indeed, it took a bit of crying, a long talk to her mother by her 10th Standard teacher Miss Batsvin, and Blitzvin's solemn promise to do her best to make something out of her fascination with art. "Mother, if nothing else I will come home with a degree that is easy to get. Do you think I can do any better? Maybe a degree in art from BSU will allow me to one day become a window decorator at the Bolthank Mega-Mall. Think of how proud you will be!" Her mother had eventually relented and young Blitzvin eagerly packed her bags for the big town of Bolthank.

At Bolthank Semi-Accredited University the eager young Blitzvin discovered a new world. The Department of Applied and Imaginative Arts was amazingly free thinking. Waves of new ideas rushed into her like the crisp cool air of the Bolthank breeze. Blitzvin soon discovered a love for art history. She actually began to read one or two books (she had never before read books that had not been assigned), and one day she woke up for the very first time with a dream of becoming a real artist. Being an artist was no longer just an escape from the rigours of school trigonometry, physics, and calculus. Being an artist, the young girl suddenly realized, was a sort of divine calling. She, the humble young girl from Batanrush, knew she must heed that call.

Blitzvin applied all of her energy to learning the history of art. Unfortunately, her own skills did not match the craftsmanship evident in the works of the "old masters" that she was now coming to know through books. She worked harder and harder at perfecting her skills of observation, composition, and draughtsmanship, but it just didn't seem she had the innate ability. One day when Blitzvin was particularly depressed about this fact she noticed the ever-so-handsome Blivner Bochner, an Advanced Student, looking over her shoulder. Blitzvin was mortified that he was seeing her unfinished sketches! But Blivner just smiled and put his hand upon her shoulder. "Why do you work so hard at these sketches Blitzvin?" he had asked. "Do you really think you will learn to work like the old masters? Even our teachers cannot work like that. Don't you know what you are doing is completely unnecessary? It is your ideas that count! Concentrate on your ideas! That is all that is important!"

Just a year later, when Blitzvin entered the Advanced Class, she realized how true these words were. To her surprise the students in her class were quite dismissive of what she felt were her best drawings and paintings. "That work is purely illustrative!" one had declared. Another, a smart young girl from the cosmopolitan town of Noychnya, had added, "You are just a craftsman! This is not art! Art must have ideas!" Thankfully, the handsome Blivner Bochner, who was by now an unofficial assistant to Professor Blatskya, came to her rescue. He grabbed what Blitzvin thought was one of her worst drawings. It was a drawing that was coffee-stained, and crumpled and torn because she had almost thrown it away! But handsome Blivner held it aloft for the rest of the class to see. "Look at this work!" Blivner Bochner had declared. "It tells a story of anguish and heartbreak! Look how shaky and imprecise is the line! This work speaks of frailty and nervousness in the face of great tragedy. The tragedy of small-town Blotsvia!" Blitzvin had blushed with embarrassment, but she also realized her classmates were cooing with approval. "Yes," chimed in the cosmopolitan girl from Noychnya, "That is her best work. Perhaps this girl from Batanrush will yet become an artist!"

As the months proceeded in the Advanced Class at BSU young Blitzvin learned so very much. She learned that art was concept and not skill, idea and not work. Students who insisted on trying to paint like the old masters she once had so diligently studied were derided as derivative, nostalgic, and obsessed with "mere craft". For her Examination Exhibition Blitzvin carefully selected the simplest of her drawings, and the least worked of her paintings. She concocted elaborate stories about their meanings. She not only passed her final exam, she won a prize! She graduated with pride.

It was at this time that a letter arrived from Blivner Bochner. He had graduated the year before, and now worked as Assistant-to-the-Chief-Assistant at the Government Hall of Prestigious Exhibitions in Noychnya. To Blitzvin's delight the handsome young Blivner remembered her! In his letter he explained that he had a "certain relationship" with the Honourable Director of the GHPE, and that it was within his power to secure her an exhibition at this venerable Blotsvian institution! Poor Blitzvin shook with delight and fear! She wiped a tear from her eye. Such opportunities came to few!

But what to show?! She hadn't enough work, and still had lingering doubts over her own abilities. Then she remembered her photography! She had rolls and rolls of film, taken with an old Blotsvian MegaFlex camera! Blitzvin knew photography was becoming a rage in Blotsvian art circles. She dashed off with a handful of film to the local processing lab and handed over five rolls. "Blow them up as big as you can!" she had ordered. She was disappointed to learn that the biggest the local lab could print was 70 x 100 Blotsvian Inches. But it would have to do.

When the colour photographs were delivered to her door a few days later she eagerly went through them one by one. She carefully discarded those images that looked too pretty. She had learnt by now that an artist needed to always avoid the beautiful. "These twenty will be just right", she thought, "There is nothing illustrative or pretty about a one of them!" Blitzvin carefully packed the selected photographs and sent them off via courier to Noychnya. She spent the next few days writing a lengthy "artist statement" explaining the depth and layers of meaning in her selected work. Reading all of those art history books and contemporary art journals was proving helpful after all!

But something happened, as something always does, especially in a place like Blotsvia. Blitzvin had made the mistake of labelling her parcel HANDLE WITH EXTREME CARE and FRAGILE ART ENCLOSED. It was, of course, intercepted by the Provincial Inter-Provincial Customs Authority (PIPCA) at the border of the Province of Noychnya. It was late during the night shift when the officiating customs regulator opened the parcel. The word ART had caught his attention, and he dreamed of finding a magnificent oil painting with which he could adorn his home. "Lost in Transit" was always such a convenient explanation! In fact he had a rubber stamp that said just that! But to his dismay he had found Blitzvin's profoundly unbeautiful photographs.

That night the men at the PIPCA of Noychnya made the most rude and uneducated remarks about poor Blitzvin's art! They handled the photographs with complete disrespect, grimacing with disbelief at how dull and lifeless they were, and wrinkling their noses as they asked each other, "This is what someone calls ART"? As the night wore on the officers of PIPCA (and their subordinates and sub-subordinates) passed more and more good Blotsvian Blanko Blanko beer around, swilled good Blotsvian Fermented Bleacheno, and made more and more fun of Blitzvin's fuzzy photographs. The more they drank the more amusing they found her "art". They were by now carelessly throwing the pictures upon the floor, and peons came by who threw them into dustbins. It was not until late the next morning that the PIPCA officers sobered up and felt some remorse. A few of the more dutiful men thought to uncrumple the now totally destroyed photographs. "Let us pack them again and send them on their way," suggested one of the sub-subordinates. "No real harm done," offered another. When Blivner Bochner opened Blitzvin's parcel the following afternoon, in the prestigious secondary offices of the Government Hall of Prestigious Exhibitions (GHPE), he let out a little gasp and shuddered with disbelief.

The opening was of course a gala affair, as only Noychyna knows how to give gala affairs. Glasses tickled with the best Blotsvian Chenko Chenko that Blotsvian Bulliwarks can buy. Raw Blotsvian Botuui Fish was served on dainty skewers. Everyone waited for the entrance of the amazing young artist from Batanrush. Poor Blitzvin entered this scene with no knowledge of what had befallen her works in the office of the PIPCA of Noychnya! When she entered the grand exhibition hall of the GHPE she stood momentarily aghast. Her works were displayed in ruins! Yes, they had been properly mounted under glass, but it was obvious that they had been destroyed! The photographs were bent, torn, fingerprinted, coffee-stained, and dribbled with what looked like the gravy of Blotsvian Beanoguk! A scream of horror and outrage was about to escape her lips when Madame Vlitinknya, Noychyna's most esteemed art critic, swept up to her side and made a gracious bow. "Your works are superb! I have never seen an artist so question the sterile 'factuality' of photography! I know exactly what concerns you and you have addressed the problem with aplomb! You have mixed the mere image of mundane existence with the gritty reality of mundane existence! You have captured life as we suffer it in Blotsvia! My hearty congratulations my dear!"

As Blitzvin was recuperating from both her initial shock, and the effulgent praise from Noychnya's most respected critic, the handsome Blivner Blochner strode up smiling confidently. "I knew you had talent...but I never expected that first crumpled drawing I saw of yours was the beginning of your style! I am being credited with discovering you my dear! I have been promoted from Assistant-to-the-Chief-Assistant to Assistant-in-Chief," and then he muttered in confidence, "I think I am on my way to the top!"

It was only three months later that Blitzvin was being scheduled for a solo exhibition at the Galleries Blitin & Blotin in the capital city of Blotzinkin. Little was it known that one of the proprietors of Blitin & Blotin was in fact Madame Vlitinkya's half-sister Mildred. Madame Vlitinkya and Mildred Blotin worked in tandem, so exhibitions at the Galleries Blitin & Blotin were guaranteed good reviews. Before the proposed exhibition (Blitzvin: New Work) the two women had sequestered Blitzvin and given her council. "We want canvases! Your photographs went over just fine at the GHPE in Noychyna, but did you sell any? This is Blotzinkin, the very capital of Blotsvia! The collectors will demand canvases!"

"But I don't know how to paint! At least not well!" protested the stunned young Blitzvin. "People will see that I have no skill!"

"Nonsense!" Blotin and Vlitinkya had replied. "We will have someone paint them for you! Blotsvian craftsmen are very cheap! Just give us some more of those precious and inspired photographs, and we will have them painted on canvas for you! You are a genius my dear! Real artists are too busy conceptualizing to paint their own canvases! Everyone knows that! Well...not everyone." The two gave each other a wink and a laugh. They were obviously referring to Blitin, who was wealthy enough to be a partner in the gallery, but took little actual interest in its day-to-day routine (his main function was to buy a work from each and every show "Blitin & Blotin" mounted, thus securing the first "sale"). Bliztvin was confused, but did not want to disappoint. She knew she was on the way to becoming a real artist! Her mother would be proud! A day later she returned with the prints derived from five more rolls of MegaFlex film.

Three months later twenty large canvases were delivered to her doorstep (the gallery had provided her with a small studio space in a not-so-fashionable part of town). She unrolled the glossy new paintings, signed them, and then set about crumbling them, tearing them, pouring Blanko Blanko beers upon them, burning them with cigarettes, and, new in her repertoire, smearing tomato sauce in a few strategic areas. "There," she said to herself, "They are finished! And my work really is superb! It really is! After all, these were my ideas! My vision! And it is I who have made them come into physical form!" Unbeknownst to dear Blitzvin, the advocates at Galleries Blitin & Blotin were kept constantly busy threatening the "makers" (as they termed the mere craftsmen) to uphold the secrecy and non-disclosure clauses in their contracts.

It was not long after Blitzvin's sold-out Blitin & Blotin show that her career accelerated with breakneck speed. The location of the gallery in Blotsvia's capital city ensured a steady stream of foreign visitors. Assorted international collectors, official dignitaries, ambassadors and cultural attaches were frequent guests, as were curators from prestigious international museums. The rising young art star of Blotsvia, always snobbishly referred to as just "Bliztvin" (as if anyone ought to know that name) or "Blitzvin of Batanrush" (for those deemed less cognisant), was beginning to exhibit worldwide. And the graph of her auction sales was zooming off the charts. In fact, the pressures of the many scheduled shows were so great poor Blitzvin was finding it hard to keep up. It seemed that each and every gallery expected new work. It seemed that each and every gallery expected both something "new" but also something identifiable with her "brand" (she liked to think it a style!). In spite of the addition of umpteen new assistants, Blitzvin slaved for hours in her studio (which was actually much more like an office), making Skype calls to curators, writing ever more convoluted artist statements, drinking Chinko Chinko straight from the bottle as she smoked good Blotsvian cigarettes...and struggling to keep up with the hard work of "ideation" as she now haughtily referred to her primary talent.

Blitzvin was no longer the innocent young girl from Batanrush. She had become a sensation, and she relished it. The day she bumped into Blivner Bochner, at an opening in the Galleries Bliton & Blotin, she had actually cold-shouldered him. How could she give a mere "Assistant-in-Chief" at the GHPE (in lowly Noychnya!) a warm welcome, especially in front of the likes of the Director of the National Museum of Periphersthan! Why, it might give the impression that she actually associated with such common people! Yes, her work might speak of the mundane lives of common Blotsvians, but she of course had risen above that! In fact, she had just received an invitation for a solo exhibition at the Centre Pompusque in Partisthan! It was inconceivable that people think she was charmed by the likes of a poor, pathetic peon like Blivner!

But the Pompusque! What an honour and what a responsibility! What was she to show? This was the most momentous challenge the talented Blotsvian artist had ever faced. In the dark of the night she took her private car and her private driver and made the long journey back to BSU in Bolthank. There she arranged a clandestine meeting with Professor Blatskya. "I need your help!" She frankly declared. "You are so well versed in art history and contemporary art practices! But you stay isolated and don't actually know anyone in the "scene"! I want you to conceptualize my exhibition at the Pompusque! This is beyond my capacities for ideation! You will, of course, have to sign a contract of secrecy and non-disclosure." Professor Blatskya was at first taken aback. But he slowly grinned and spoke in a meaningful voice, "You have learned so well my dear. Who would have thought you were to become my best student? I have admired your progress in the world of art from afar. Your talents at painting are beyond my own! It would be an honour to assist you." Blitzvin breathed a silent sigh of relief. She had feared this encounter, but now she felt comfortable. She wondered if Professor Blatskya knew that she did not paint her own paintings. Did he truly admire her work? Later that night, as she turned for the door, the Professor had thrown out one last question, "How much will I be getting paid?" Blitzvin turned, unshaken, "You need to negotiate that with my handlers. Please call the gallery tomorrow, and make sure you speak only with Blotin."

Little did Blitzvin of Batanrush know that her much anticipated exhibition at the Pompusque had been approved only after great debate. The Grand Committee of Grand Committees (that decided such things) was not at all unanimous. There had been voices of objection. It was once shouted, "This is not the kind of show that brings in the revenues we require! And you know it!" At another time a voice was heard to exclaim, "Everyone is interested in Ponksvian art this year! What are we doing filling our schedule with this Blotsvian?" But wiser voices had prevailed. "The Centre Pompusque has never in its history presented a solo exhibition by a Blotsvian artist. What is more, Blitzvin of Batanrush is a woman! And you know how those damn feminists have been breathing down our necks!"

The evening of the vernissage for Blitzvin: An Ever-Emerging Retrospective in the hallowed halls of the Centre Pompusque, in the Partisthan capital of Posh, Blitzvin strolled confidently into the crowd of socialites wearing a perfectly stunning coffee-and-beer-stained creation by the Blotsvian designer Bruffecto. Yes, her style and her ideation were being copied, stolen, counterfeited and commercialized. Blitzvin t-shirts stacked the shelves of the Pompusque's gift shop. Blitzvin was being seriously discussed in the art history courses of Partisthan art academies. And she loved it! She swirled amid the cameras and the crushing journalists and strode boldly into the thick of the glitterati. A toast was proposed by the Director of the Pompusque: "To Blitzvin of Batanrush! Not only does she represent the best that Blotsvian Art has to offer! She represents the best of art today!"

Bliztvin stood with her glass held high in the air. Her head swirled. It seemed the entire room was beginning to circle around. She was vaguely aware of the fact that she had not yet seen her own paintings. She had not yet read her own artist statement! She wanted to! But there were too many admirers! She felt herself growing faint. She was longing for something...but she didn't know what. And then she realized just what it was! She was so thirsty for a good cold Blotsvian Blanko Blanko! And a heaping bowl of Blotsvian Beanoguk! But the room continued to swirl, and she knew she couldn't find those things in Partisthan.

copyright 2012 by Waswo X. Waswo

Monday, July 15, 2013

The tracings of the hand...

When Rahul first approached me with the concept for this show, I immediately felt excited about it.  Accepting to be part of a show for me is about whether I view the collaboration with the curator and the gallerist as holding a space that engages with dialogues that can thread together common interests, even if with differing perceptions related to these areas of contemplation that we circle to focus upon. 

I love the rough and tumble of discussions on art that throw together passions that come from the raw energies of belief.  Relevant critical  discourse finds its formation often by the process of evaluating  the intentions that come from studio practices; where ideologies and concepts define content, where subject matter  decides the medium, and where visual language is arrived at from a conscious attempt to formulate a cohesive articulation - thereby validating the premises/territory of the individual artist.

The presence of the tracing of the hand with all its imperfections is the element of my own imprint within my work.  The presence of many ways.

Photography was part of my early years of college........extensively used in those initial years and remaining always a language tool crucial to my interests as an artist. However I chose to completely stop using a camera in 1982.  I learnt and shared many things through the arguments  with photographer friends and my numerous visits to photo galleries in New York in the '90's;  and it is here where I made my first departures away from the influences of a genre of photography that I had grown up with : the black and white ethnographic documentary photography. I picked up a professional camera again only in 2010, after a gap of twenty-six years. 

Personal histories of people fascinate me. Flea markets where old photographs of families lie in discarded heaps, hold a haunting space of shared nostalgia for things related to intimacies and loss that are not viewed as significant in the larger schema of hierarchies. My own history defies being comfortably labeled,  and it is such territories within a cultural landscape of India which is increasingly rigid in its desire to neatly label and bracket via survey censuses that prompt me to  engage in these negotiations with my work. 

I am looking forward to this show engaging us in discussions that hold investigations and enquiries that are pertinent to the curatorial peg that this show is hinged on. 

Feminism and the Post-Digital

The liberal world view and ethics which are integral to Digital aesthetics, has lead to a marginalization of the Radical Feminist Movement. Neo liberal is the soci-cultural voice of the post industrialist (late capitalist) society. In this socio-economic context choice has largely been advertised as consumerist choice. 

This notion of choice (i am free if i am free to buy anything i Desire), has lead to an entire generation of urban educated upper class women who refuse to call them selves feminists. "I am not a feminist" is the catch phase which i find very disturbing.  however, it does betray the neo liberal tendency to refute any location, or a particular stance in one's Desire to be a part of a globallised cosmopolitan oneness. 

after long struggles when feminism itself had just come to a point which could understand women across the world as a marginalized class, neo liberalism made the notion of class itself unfashionable. 

The larger system of colonisation of the women's mind and body has continued, yet we see that there is little sign of grassroots mobilisation, limited engagement with the changing role of women in and out of work, in society and in the household,  hardly any activism on marital rape and so much more.

I am wondering that now that the ethical structure of neo liberalism is being challenged, can we imagine a new feminism in a post-digital age?.

Please refer to the exhibition concept note @

Sunday, July 14, 2013

exhibition note

The Possibility of Being
Post digital* directions in contemporary image making.

The Possibility of Being is a curatorial engagement with five artist immersed in image making with a constant dialogue with Painting and Drawing both in terms of medium and practice.   The curation is dedicated to (re) exploring linkages between the image, the socio-political and painterly practices as we come to the end of an era which was (is being) called Contemporary.

Among the many developments that marks the term contemporary has been the dominating focus on content that prioritize socially and politically charged subject matters over stylistic experimentation and investigations over Form and Language. It is also marked by its affiliations to the idea of digital progress. As the digital (r)evolution settles down, we are in a position to understand that Digital is not just a technological shift, it is also an aesthetic trend. In an age where we are surrounded by digital technology, this splitting of the Digital allows us to explore beyond the aesthetic measures of purity, pristine images, perfect copies and powerful (spectacular) illusions.

Since the 1990’s postmodern culture and contemporary art was principally associated with photography, film, installation and text-based interventions. Painting lost its culturally privileged status and judged as an intrinsically conservative or reactionary aesthetic form. Post the onslaught of the digital (r)evolution, we reached a point where ‘Painting’ was declared dead as political and cultural agency; and it was only as a commodity that the relevancy of ‘Painting’ was acknowledged. This seeming fissure in history allows (forces) us to split Paintings in terms of medium and practice.  At the height of the digital age (As the neo liberal was defined and celebrated as the era of new media and the ‘futuristic’), we witnessed artists producing paintings that looked like digital prints (hyper realistic, no trace of artistic labour, smooth finished cosmopolitian flat surfaces). 

However, as we peaked inside the contemporary trend, silently inside artist studios we see a reassertion of analogue aesthetics. This return to analogue in a digital age has led to both painting and drawing have changing in terms of medium, concept, viewership and practice.

In a sense this curation becomes a project in cultural archaeology or ritual nostalgia. Slowly there is a growing recognition that painting practices continue to hold important contributing agency in shaping new cultural directions. These new directions in taste and cultural archaeological position disturb the meaning of ‘new media’ by opening doors for old media to stand as an vanguard act. That is why the Possibility of Being.For a post-1950s generation, such a ‘reconstruction’ of analogue aesthetics has lead recognition that painting practices today are contributing to new cultural directions.

Through the heights of the dominance of digital aesthetics in global taste, there have been artists who have worked within zones that transgress labour, concept and skill. Thus Painting (not as a medium but as practice) has emerged as an important platform for post-digital, post-conceptual art.

The 'durability' of post-conceptual art through the old media suggests that its practitioners have been re-fashioning and re-defining the medium with some of its earlier histories and aspirations in mind. Today, embedded in the practices of drawing and/or painting, we will find modernist understandings of medium, style, form and surface being re visited, but through the layers of post-modern theory and criticism. 

Two concerns that is integral to the curatorial thought.

  •  Contemporary art’s investment in labour, analogue and old media assumes various forms and it is symptomatic of changes in the economy and taste rather than expressive of a broader left consciousness in the arts. In other words, the rise of labour as a sign-reference in recent art does not (necessarily)amount to a political project, even if it indicates a departure from the staples of postmodernism and, in some quarters, the desire to provide an alternative to capitalist economic relations.

  • Within the conventional Contemporary Indian Art production, the emphasis on manual/physical labour comes up as a kind of noise, a disturbance which takes away from the digital/conceptual art itself. This type of art which has come to dictate the art market for a long time emerged simultaneously with the global capitalism which swept the world two decades ago. Labour was sought to be omitted from the art and a clean, sterile, sophisticated, digitised practice which only projected the concept was developed. It is to the extent that the old media art practices refer to and embody forms of temporality, knowledge and subjectivity, which do not easily enter the concept of abstract labour of new media.

The curatorial strands will be manifest in a show The Possibility of Being, bringing together Ashim Purokayasta, Jaganath Panda, Muktinath Mandal, Nataraj Sharma and Rekha Rodwittiya


*Post-digital is a term which has recently come into use in the discourse of digital artistic practice. This term points significantly to our rapidly changed and changing relationships with digital technologies and art forms. It points to an attitude that is more concerned with being human, than with being digital. If one examines the textual paradigm of consensus, one is faced with a choice: either the "post-digital" society has intrinsic meaning, or it is contextualised into a paradigm of consensus that includes art as a totality. Either way, Roy Ascott has clearly demonstrated that the distinction between the digital and the "post-digital" is part of the economy of reality.