Artist; the Public Intellectual
A collateral of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016
Curator: Tanya Abraham
On 30 March 1959, the 14th Dalai Lama escaped from Tibet into exile in India. Since then, over a hundred-and-twenty thousand Tibetan refugees have followed their leader into exile, fleeing their homeland in an effort to practice and conserve the Tibetan way of life. The ongoing project INTO EXILE reflects upon this deeply problematic situation, especially the eradication and sacrifice of habitats, lifestyles and cultures to inevitable transformations in systems of government and leveling of social structures that became a phenomenon of the modern world. Largely developed from stories of exiled Tibetans, this project dwells on memory as a repository and re-creation of a culture, and the struggle to hold on to a cultural identity that is today severely threatened by two generations of Tibetans in exile who have never been inside Tibet. Free Tibet was comprised of four provinces – Amdo, Kham, U-Tsang and Ngari. “The Library of Exile” is an ongoing effort to collect four sets of stories of exile from each of the four provinces of Tibet. Due to the presence of a large Tibetan resettlement programme at Bylakuppe near Mysore, and also due to the inherent nomadic instincts that the Tibetan people possess, Tibetan refugees travel to Goa and, more recently, south to Kerala in the winter months to sell their wares as the tourist traffic in India shifts from the hills to the plains. Fort Kochi and Ernakulam have about 5-6 settled Tibetan families, running small businesses. The Kochi chapter of “The Library of Exile” has been developed from collecting their stories first-hand. The Library of Exile” is for your access – please feel free to open the manuscript boxes and read the stories of a people in exile whose country functions out of a faraway hilltop called McLeodgunj in Himachal Pradesh in North India.
New Delhi, India
Can I call you back?
‘Can I call you back?’ is a project based on women in Kerala.
It is an attempt to start a conversation regarding many aspects of womanhood and how as a society we accept, reject, accommodate and resist the ideas of freedom from a feminist perspective.There have been bold and visionary women in Kerala’s history. As a patriarchal society we appreciate this boldness of a woman only if her works contributes to the male dominating social system. A voice threatening the existing order is always dealt with as an act of the devil that dents the age-old social fabric. Even though the attitude towards women has changed much the last twenty years in Kerala, feminist movements are still viewed with suspicion. The system of power rules in a very subtle and controlled manner, which projects a modern progressive society on one hand, but on the other hand it hides its violence against women in every possible way. When a society camouflages itself as a progressive one when the women in that system are suffering from gender discrimination, we need to analyse seriously the notion of ‘modernity’ and its various interpretations. This project is an attempt to record testimonies of the ‘self ‘ and the ‘other’ in the context of women. Participants share their views through conversations and personal stories
New York, USA
Directly referencing “material culture”, Folded Language examines the language of pattern-migration as manifested in contemporary saris. From a political perspective, the migration of pattern also acts as a metaphor for current economic/political migration in the Southeast Asian/Sub-continent region, blending the traditional, historical and contemporary. For centuries, India exported dazzling textile patterns and colors to the world. Today, textile production occurs in China, Bangladesh and numerous other regions, spurring economic and worker migration. Environmentally, synthetic materials replace traditional cottons; pattern influences now go 2-ways: sari patterns embrace “imported” cultural, sometimes political designs such as a yellow smiling “Happy Face”, Apple computer logos, or digitally-generated tessellations. Folded Language embraces historical and contemporary aspects of Kochi’s trade, colonialism and commerce in which pattern, as a force, is both exploited and celebrated. My paintings are created with cut-up and re-assembled mixed-fibre saris, “everyday” contemporary saris of average Indian women. Different sari patterns were isolated then stitched together to create new, large-scale paintings.This project engaged the Kochi community: local textile and sari merchants, tailors,
The box of documents | Kadalassuppeti
The big silence in my father’s family about life in Kochi and the fact that both my grandparents passed away before I was born, led me to an obsessive research for this missing chapter in history. Born and raised in Mesilat Zion, a village near by Jerusalem of Kerala Jews community, I felt that even though some aspects of this community heritage were kept, many things vanished in traumatic circumstances. Coming back to Kochi, with a suitcase full of documents and artifacts, all related to the Jewish presence in Kerala, is both symbolic and deliberate.The installation space and workshops that it will be installed in is an effort of the reconstruction of this vanished presence and rare cultural dialogue after many years. The project combines different aspects of my artistic development and process. It’s my own artistic practice in painting, drawing and printmaking, the cultural and social research of my own community, and my experience in art education that becomes one whole art-work for the very first time. The final outcome of the project is yet to be determined, since it involves both the Kochi community and the Jewish-Kerala community in Israel; their expression and art works, and texts will hopefully function as a new layer in the elaborate tapestry that forms the project as a living, breathing, perpetual creation.
Artist; the Public Intellectual
Someone who travels easily in the world of ideas, fairly large political and social concepts, and is able to convey the importance and complexity of those ideas in an accessible language.
If the gap between artists and public are bridged through education, through tools that propagate study on the role of artists as Public Intellectuals, the meaning and need for art take a completely new perspective. It, then, tends to rest in a realm where thought is challenged, questions asked, and social and political matters raised as a need for public welfare. Artists are individuals who have the capacity, skill, and power to bring forth ideas and perspectives that pertain to the emotional, intellectual, physical and material wellbeing of the public. It is, thus, true that few catch the complexity of the role-played by artists in societies across the world and the possible pedagogical role of art. Unfortunately, it is also questioned if artists themselves are able to articulate the roles they might play, the fathoming of the power they possess to project specific thoughts and connect communities irrespective of distinct cultural and economic separations.
Through this project, I have attempted to portray the artist as a “free entity” who is able to penetrate the density of things; the many layers of historical, social and political conditioning that can be peeled away or exposed (through art), to reveal the rawness associated with it. The construction of the artist- individual in this sphere is a vital aspect to the manner in which the public is able to view things. Once this position is carved out in a vehement and distinct way, the position artists play as intellectuals aimed at public good becomes relevant.