A communication tool since centuries, visual and performing arts has developed a very nice vocabulary of its own. Earlier it was the need to document and narrate stories that developed the art of painting which continues even today with varied forms. But now with the digital age that we live in, where cameras and phones can capture everything at the click of a button, the purpose of documentation is slowly getting erased. The visual vocabulary is looking at other mediums like the videos, installations and experiences, which are becoming more of a norm in the current scenario. The line between performance and the visual arts is slowly erasing. Interaction with architecture, science and engineering is being welcomed.
These days graphic presentation of data and its analysis converted to a pictorial script are the new examples of visual art! Tania Goel makes her own pigments and presents the data in a very nice visual imagery.
Art is moving out of the museum and the gallery space believes Ai wei wei. His most controversial project in New York is of 300 installations around the city, based around the concept of fences and borders, talks of the refugees’ issues and the hatred between people.
The biennales and festivals are bringing art into public forum giving an opportunity to the public to interact and interpret their way. Kochi Biennale is an apt example of involving the public in the arts space.
Talking of installations and performances, the artists create works from everyday objects, paper, metal, and paintings to photography, video and audio, to virtual reality and even live performances. Their focus is on the impact it has on the audience’s senses. When we talk of performances, the grandmother of performances, Marina Abramovic’s first bold performance’ Rhythm 0’ yet resonates in our minds.
Artists have been using ephemeral materials such as food, bodily fluids, and contemporary, yet constantly changing technological devices previously not intended for artistic use for ephemeral art. How do museums respond to it? What are curators and conservators to do when faced with a work that is meant to decay and deteriorate, or that has been destined to be consumed and constantly remade? Are the questions of today!
The socially and politically conscious works of artists like Sharmila Samant and Tushar Joag involves the public and the community closely. Tushar Joag’s Bombay Dowry is a political satire on the land mafias which he closely compares to the historical act of Bombay being ‘gifted’ by the Portuguese as dowry to Charles II of England when he got married to Catherine de Braganza.
Rajyashri Goody, the mixed-media artist uses found objects, thread, cloth and even people’s personal belongings, assembling them in a critical commentary on India’s segregation of people in society – the caste system and untouchability. Her installation ‘Skyscape’ involved 500 pairs of slippers and shoes, strung together and hung from the ceiling depicting a dark, looming cloud of discrimination. They were a metaphor for the untouchables’- the lowest of the lows coming from below the feet. Viewers were invited to step into this room. They responded in varied ways, but the overall feeling of suffocation, gloom, of being made to feel unclean was common. This was precisely the artist’s intention. Social activism is a clear theme in their work along with the exploration of identities and creating a sense of self among middle-class urban youth in today’s world.
All these changes are reflecting in the performing world too. Form the elaborate sets we have come to a lot of abstraction. Scripts are more inclusive and talk of LGBTQ and the socially oppressed communities. Theatres without words, out of the proscenium, old classics being adopted in contemporary terms, interactive performances, videos, are the new ways of the theatre.
All this is meant to start a discourse, a dialogue, a question in the mind of the viewers. It may not lead to an immediate problem solving, but a definite way to think of the world in a different way! Change may happen over a period of time.
This series of lectures is looking at this change in the visual and the performing arts within and outside India, by eminent curators, visual artists, theatre practitioners, combining with films, workshops and seminars to open our minds and broaden our horizons to the current trends in this field, making our society a more responsible thinking society.