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© Courtesy of Ashna Gallery

110030 New Delhi
September 1st, 2010 - September 3rd, 2010

+91-011 - 64644390
11 am to 7 pm


Micro Worlds of Aesthetic Resistance

Five artists, with various stylistic approaches but having a keen  interest in the contemporary human beings’ materialistic and existential issues, come together in a project where they explore the aspects of survival against the backdrop of the socio-economic and cultural anchoring of people and see how their survival is made  possible by creating micro narratives out of their own significant  and insignificant lives. The artists are Binoy Varghese, Geroge Martin, Gopinath, Murali Cheeroth and Vivek Vilasini. Though the  styles differ considerably, as in an aesthetic bouquet, when put  together, they establish the areas of convergence of their concerned  themes, which could create a macro narrative, in a way justifying
the title of the show, ‘Surviving Sagas’.

Post-modern interventions in the production of aesthetics challenge  the manufacturing of macro-narratives, which according to the post- modern theorists like Frederic Jameson, mar the possibility of viewing the micro-worlds as the field of meaningful resistance  against the grand power structure established by the modern theoretical as well as materialistic positions in both the palpable and abstract fields of life. Hence, creating a micro-narrative,  which asks for interested engagements from the viewer while disputing the so called universal qualities of art/aesthetics, pre- supposes a viewer, who is sympathetic to the cause forwarded by the artist, therefore joins hands with the artist in his/her  endeavor to  resist the neo-colonial and neo-imperialistic hegemonies in all the  walks of life, including the aesthetic one.

Approaching this notion of producing micro-narratives however, had  its own pit falls as we analyze the history of post-modernism and  its effects in the recent past. Once the post/late capitalist logic of steamrolling the differences amongst the world population through cultural and economic habits, has been established, for the artists  and all those creative people who work towards bringing up a new world of resistance through pacifistic means and through aesthetical modes, it has become increasingly difficult to carry out their  performances in the public realm meaningfully for the simple reason  that their acts are absorbed by the capitalist logic, blunting all  its possibilities to raise issues. Hence, I would say that each  creative effort of an artist to generate a micro narrative is in  itself a challenging mission and keeping and protecting the freshness of the new narrative intact is an extremely difficult task.

Seen against this context, a viewer has a very special  responsibility to stand along with the artist and interpret his  works in the right light, not letting its strength to taper away by  falling prey to the allurement of the capitalistic logic. Here, we  have to enter in an agreement with the capitalist logic to challenge  it from within because in the production, dissemination and consumption circuit of aesthetics, contesting the predominant logic  (of capitalism) can happen only from within and proving the might is  completely a prerogative of the artist. We see the artist and also  the person/s who presents the artist, negotiate this ambivalent  situation, and create niches for critical viewing. It is only from  this field of negotiation, a micro-narrative can take birth capable  of killing the ‘benevolent demon’ of capitalist logic.

The world of Binoy Varghese is full of such micro-narratives of  those people, who have been disposed and dispossessed by a system of  knowledge and power. Binoy captures the faces of so many children in various garbs and places them against the most beautiful foliages  and flowers. With a lot of happiness and verve these figures look at  the viewer as if they were caught in a bubble of eternal innocence. Positing, someone into the state of eternal innocence is an exercise  of ideological power that often we see both in the public and  domestic realms. Children, women, ill and old people are treated as very innocent beings that are incapable of dealing with a big bad  world.

The ideology of power, social hierarchy and knowledge works through  imposing ‘innocence’ on to people thereby stripping them off of  their own dignity. This is a ploy of the system to treat the people as numbers and figures that don’t have particular emotional status.  Binoy’s idea is to ‘re-present’ this innocence and engage the viewer  to decode the secrets of their innocence. Binoy has been employing this method of representation for a long time and he uses this special way of juxtaposing the image of an innocent child against a  backdrop, which is not so ‘natural’ to him/her. Though this  juxtaposition of dissimilar worlds, Binoy at once triggers the idea  of another world, a much smaller world, which is very peculiar to  these kids of attributed innocence.

This establishment of a micro-world is done deliberately by the  artist in order to give the images or the subject who lends his/her  image to the artist, a world of their own where they achieve their  dignity and status. As a humanitarian artist, Binoy forwards a  subtle critique on the system that produces such dispossessed  children. These children from nowhere or from somewhere become  characters in the micro-worlds created by Binoy Varghese. Of late,  the artist has been attending to the issues of religious dispossession that has become a common characteristic of our much  acclaimed democratic society. The burqa clad women and children are  the people who are chased out of their own realms of existence or  are treated like criminals. This is an imposition of a new knowledge  system within the society by the forces in power (world wide power)  in order exclude certain discourses on human existence; either the
powers exclude these religious symbolisms from within discourse or  they discriminate people using the same symbolism. Binoy stands up  for their dignity by repeatedly painting their small little worlds.

If the world of imposed innocence is Binoy’s concern, George Martin  approaches the same world, which is capable of discriminating people  as per religion, caste, creed, fashion, language and so on. However,  Martin engagement with the outer world of reality does not happen  through the portraiture of people as they are or as they caught in  certain symbolic situations. On the contrary, Martin looks the world  around him through a filter of unreality, which could split, sever  and dismember the palpable reality into pieces where the represented ones become patterns and they demand viewers’ complete devotion for  cohesive reading.

Martin, as an artist has always been interested in tracing the  political, cultural and existential structures that are operational  in our society, secretly and overtly exercising power on people. In  Martin’s world, which in all sense is a coagulation of several micro  worlds, exists people, animals, architecture, vehicles and urban  streets as phantoms that detach themselves from the reality. These  phantoms repeatedly remind the viewer of their own physical  existence within the society. By not giving a particular identity to  the people and by creating several grids between the people  represented and the actual people who views the work, Martin  deliberately collapses two worlds into one. Any keen observer could  see how Martin has been moving from a world  which had more  figurative representations (in his paintings) to a world which is increasingly becoming abstract.

Colors and the kind of abstract possibilities explored by Martin in  his paintings function as a filter as well as grid in order to  create a sense of distance. Martin makes an emotional distance from  the subjects that he treats though he attaches the personal/  emotional value to the final outcome of the painting. Each grid  contains an element or a set of elements that constitute the whole  and it is interesting to view these grids as a independent micro  worlds in themselves, asking for engaged viewing from the people  around. There is a celebratory aspect in Martin’s paintings. But  this aspect of celebration comes from his deep interest in post- modern ideas of celebrating multiplicities; he aspires for a world  of multiple cultures and cultural attitudes, which are not  steamrolled by the hegemonic forces.

In Gopinath we see a beautiful convergence of existential angst of  contemporary man as well as his alerted political awareness. His  sculptures emulate small little worlds where human beings build up their dream existences. Gopinath has a special way of emulating the  classical sculptures in a contemporary medium of fiberglass and  giving a meaningful twist by incorporating abstract and surreal figurative values to them. In this show, Gopinath thinks more towards generating a discourse based on the intellectual existence  vis-à-vis his responses to the world ridden with violence and strife.

In the sculpture titled ‘Inherent Conversations’, Gopinath creates a  scene of meeting. The vacant stools show the expectation of  dialogue, which could be fulfilled only by the ones who could occupy  those chairs. And the man, who comes out of the block of his own  body, tries to concentrate on the central image of a golden egg, a  symbol of eternal intelligence and spiritual power. In this presence  and absence of people, who are supposed to activate a discourse make  the enigma of the scene deeper. In a very subtle way, Gopinath hints  at the world forums (this could be one way of reading it) where the human issues are discussed to the advantage of the powerful and the  influential.

In another sculpture Gopinath overlaps two realms of human  existence; one religious and the other political. By creating the  form of Nandi, the bull who is a vehicle of Lord Shiva, who according to Hindu mythology is the God of Destruction/tremendous  power, as a big storage of swords, Gopinath interconnects the  discourse on religion and the political violence generated out of  it. In this powerful symbol of Nandi and swords, Gopinath at once  recalls the recent incidents of violence and terror in the religion-  political history of India. The moment those incidents are evoked  with the same power amongst the minds of the viewers the artistic critique also becomes palpable for them. Gopinath, however does not  deliberately create micro worlds of existence, instead he creates  the micro worlds of power and terror.

There are two worlds in every man’s life; a world of reality and a world of internal reality. Whether you call it a dream life or spiritual life, it is in this internal world a thinking human being negotiates the realities of an external world. Hence, this internal  existence functions as a benchmark to assess the reality. In Murali Cheeroth’s works what you witness is the manifestation of such  internal worlds, which the artist very skillfully presents with all  the paraphernalia of the outer world of reality. Murali subscribes  to the images from daily life, as seen in city squares and  construction sites. For him, city is like a language with an ever changing structure. The flux of structure is always tested against  the imaginary structures that the artist creates within his inner  world. Hence, the architectural images and the images of construction sites that we see in his works are not the images from an actual world. They are constructed realities within the artist’s  mind, the seat of his inner world.

Seen against an industrial landscape, Murali introduces an interface  between two mechanisms; one the brutal force of an earthmover that  helps in clearing the spaces for further constructions and the dead  weight of a disused car, almost hung in the middle of the air. The combination of these two images, one right from the reality and the  other from the past (a rusting good old Ambassador car), while  transmitted through the world of Murali’s imagination helps in creating a new world of relationship; a micro world where the  machines speak to each other. In this dialogue between machines,  Murali excludes the human presence in order to create an allegory of  sorts, which is away from the traditional allegories and is closest  to the contemporary visual language of spectacular-ness.

This world of spectacle that Murali deliberately creates moves  between the real ‘real’ and the imagined ‘real’. Discounting people  from the scenario of a spectacular drama is an artistic ploy that  Murali uses to collapse the boundaries of two worlds. Unlike the  other artists, Murali makes the micro world similar to the macro  ones that flaunt power and arrogance. He likes in confrontation  through subtle means of camouflaging. By creating a world that looks  almost similar to the hegemonic world, Murali incepts the idea of  resistance within the system of powers. The lonely deer that strays  into a suburban landscape becomes a powerful imagery as seen  contrasted with the image of the radar that captures the frequencies  of dreams.

Vivek Vilasini approaches the notion of creating micro-worlds as a  form of cultural resistance through the revocation of old scripts on  his painterly surface. These surfaces with fluorescent paints  literally re-script the divested scripts from the language of  Malayalam. Vivek calls it as the ‘Glyphs in Tales’. These letters  are the results of certain innovative minds who dared the hegemonic  scriptural practices in the realm of publishing both in book form  and in web form. The script that the artist uses comes from the font set named Rachana, which literally meaning ‘writing’. By placing the  script of a local language, which has lesser possibilities to capture the attention of the world, as a cultural symbol in order to oppose the hegemonic texts and their veracity, Vivek imparts the  idea of a micro structure that could challenge the predominant knowledge systems and historiography through the production of  alternative knowledge systems and historiography through the  implementation of a revised font set for the desk top as well as web  publishing.

By investing the scripts with a new power and presence, Vivek makes  them the participants in a pageant or carnival where multicultural  ideas are propagated in multi-linguistic modes. This is a world that  Vivek aspires to establish where parallel histories, subversive  histories and the fringe histories get a say against and in relation with the hegemonic acts of making scriptures and cannons for the contemporary life. If you look at Vivek’s digital images, you would  find the linkages between his varied visual practices. He creates the tableaux of dominant images from art history by incorporating a new set of actors in completely local garbs. The same attitude is visible in the production of micro worlds using script as bricks and  mortar.

Glyphs of Tales, have both the narrative and iconic implications. As they are tales, they tell the story of the same letters that had gone through dark ages of neglect and disinvestment of power. And  also as they are tales they tell the story of their reentry into a system of knowledge through subversive and popular acts. They at once function as graffiti and symbols. They invite the viewer to make an entry into the topography of dead languages or dying languages and explore the possibilities that too die along. These  micro worlds are magnificent as they are colorful and show the aspect of a pageantry where the rules are overstepped and accepted  codes of decency are violated. And Vivek believes that when such
intentional aesthetical violations are done, a new world of possibilities is created.


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