Friday, November 16, 2018

In the era of trans-disciplinary and Interdisciplinary art and design practice :A prelude to art and design confusion

In our new age trans-disciplinary and interdisciplinary art and design practices, it wouldn’t be of much difficulty to find those who are confused with the issue of how to  differentiate art from design and design from art. Interestingly this issue is not about the practical difficulty exist in conceptual understanding in design, rather one can put this as an issue of theoretical clarity in postmodern academic thinking. Many times in my career I have heard parents of prospective students ask me this question about difference between art and design, so that they can decide the future career of their children. Every time without a direct answer, I skirt my answer in an ambiguous explanation on creative practice.
Design :
Instead of trying to define what is design, let me try to find out design through its location in our contemporary art and design world. Perhaps this will help us to frame a context on which we can derive a better perspective.
In simple terms, design as profession try to set an existing system, idea, object or a policy to make it resilient by offering solutions, corrections, modifications or finding substitutes. In other words it tries to make things functional or its operation sustainable within a given situation, condition or context.
Where as the post 20th century art on the contrary has becomes an act of adventure, where a system, idea, object or a practice can be subverted, denied or stretched beyond the definitions of any laid down parameters and the act of creation can be independent of context, situation or condition. As Marcel du champ puts it in absolute clarity about twentieth century art “ I have no problem and I have no solution”, art unlike design need not be a practice of resilience to address an existing system, object or a policy framework. Art as a process, approach and method can find its own procedures that are independent of a preexisting narrative. In other words when design tries to make a system resilient, art on the contrary liberates itself from need for dependancy by being adventurous. Today this difference between resilience and adventure is far too complicated that no one can confuse them as one , similar or one that are complimentary in nature. Resilience and adventure or conformity and rebellion are poles apart in their existence. So do the Design and art.
The confusion of art and design as one as the same or one for the same has often emerged from our confusion about craft. Craft is practice or subject that is systemic, procedural and cultural or traditional in nature. In that sense craft like design is a resilient practice that uses skill sets to achieve traditional or cultural conformity. But on the other side, craft practice is also an aesthetic outcome where artistic skill sets are applied and where materiality is often experimented with adventure. In that sense, definitions of art are also applicable on craft. Elaborately speaking craft as a form derive its merit from both ‘resilience’ nature of design and ‘adventurous’ nature of art. This complicated formulation of craft creates lots of confusion in the minds of art and design students and practitioners. One important factor that we shouldn’t overlook about craft is, may be it is practice of resilience on one end of its spectrum and adventurous on the other end but it also has a predominant traditional and ritualistic phase to it. In that sense craft has a completely different ecological identity from design and art. Unfortunately in our contemporary art design vocabulary, craft is many times used as a metaphor for creativity or skill set in human endeavours owing to its historical moorings in western guilds and art and craft movement. To understand it better one only has look at the twentieth century art’s craving to escape the knuckles of craft and the eagerness of Design for industrial finish in craft .
In totality if one has to define the art, design and craft on a creative practice bandwidth, it would most probably be as under
Design as the resilience of human beings to sustain their functional fundamentals within their socio/cultural-political and economic constraints, art as the eternal need for adventure , liberation and rebellion from those resilient functional constraints and craft as the bridge between these extreme positions, a middle path of synthesising human adventure with its roots. One should never confuse any of them as the same or try to supplement one with the other. In history, Art and Design always remained contrary to each other in their approach, method and process and they will remain it that way. If anyone one wants to marry them both in their practice, they will have to remain in craft. Kindly remember craft is neither a complete design practice or a complete art practice.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Charaka festival

Charaka festival in Bengal, thookkam festival in Tamil nadu and Kerala, Sidi in Karnatak are all same. The ritualistic performance where people are suspended from a height on a moving tree trunk by piercing their body and its myth associated with Kali, Devi, Murugan and also its association with child birth is an interesting connection. How did this tantrik practice that became a ritual associated with hinduism spread from Bengal, Karnataka, Tamilnadu and Kerala (excluding Orrissa and Andhra Belt) is an interesting story.


On the way back from Belur mutt, the monumental reminder of Indian Hindu renaissance under Swami Vivekananda who along with Rajaram mohan rai's Brahmo samaj and Theosophical society has turned the table of Hinduism from Kolkata, we took a small boat to cross Ganga to Dakshineshwar temple famous for the stories of Sri Rama Krishna Paramahamsa. Ganga was near still and the boat was slow. Finally when it took the turn from left side to right side suddenly the boatman stopped the boat. We all were wondering what had happend. On enquiry, he said 'johro" and I could not understand what does that mean until I saw the tide violently hitting the Dakshineshwar side of the river. millions of tons of water started gushing in and hitting the banks. Unless and until one witness the sight, one wouldn't believe the violence Ganga unleashes on banks. The old ladies in our boat were praying to "Maa Ganga".Within few minutes Ganga became a chaotic place shaking our boat left and right. After ten minutes of chaos, when the river became manageable the boatman safely took us to Dakshineshwar. This is an experience one will seldom forget in one's life time. Between these two temples, its two men: Vivekananda & Sri ramakrishna paramahamsa and the Ganga, one point of time Kolkata got a new Identity, the symbols one will find everywhere you go in the city - in cars, houses, hotels, public spaces, restaurants, under the bridges and in food carts.

tsomgo lake

Every river and every lake in this country has a legend to talk about and often it will be mired in myth. Tsomgo Lake in east Sikkim is no different. One night the old lady from village where the lake situated today had premonition. She had a dream. In that dream a beautiful lady came to tell her that her village will get submerged in water. No one believed her and she went away alone sad with her yak. The next day the village got submerged in water and everyone in the village lost their life. There after this lake of dead people became a place of worship for local people.
The lake changes its colour from morning to evening and season to season with the change of sun light. Earlier it seems Buddhists used to predict future looking at the colour of the lake. At thirteen and half feet above sea level this lake and the surrounding mountains becomes a memorable story. Within an hour or so we spent time there in chilling cold and ice, we saw it changing colour from black to green and dark blue.

Who is Vajrakilaya?

"The yidam we know as Glorious Vajrakumara, or Vajrakilaya, is the extremely wrathful form of Vajrasattva. This means that Vajrasattva is Vajrakilaya’s peaceful manifestation. Other manifestations of Vajrasattva are the semi-wrathful form known as Dorje Namjom (Vajra Vidharana) and the wrathful form known as Vajrapani.
Vajrakilaya is the physical manifestation of the power of the enlightened activity of all the sugatas of the three times. All enlightened activity gathered into one form is the deity Vajrakilaya. Therefore enlightened activity is the essence of Vajrakilaya."
....Lerab Ling, 20 August 1997
Second paragraph is interesting if one recall the legend of Kali and Durga. Copy of Vajrakilaya in Rumtek monastery painted on its wall

Sanatan Mehta

First thing he did was showing his water colour paintings on Rajkot architecture. After some time he went away on his old Raleigh cycle. He was Sanatan mehta, an architect graduated from MSU who later on worked in Europe for many years. He walked into my class many times during those years and we used to have conversation on art and architecture. People said he was not mentally normal and they also said he came back from Europe mentally disturbed. Perhaps his reclusive nature and love for architecture and water colour painting must have made him look different for others. Every time he completed a painting of a building in Rajkot, he used to show me those paintings. He loved Rajkot and its architecture and he wanted to spent time painting them. Couple of years later after we met, he died of cardiac arrest. Sanatan Mehta was a wonderful artist. Today when I was clearing my old papers and this calendar brought out by one of the art lover in Rajkot came into my hand. Given below are some of his brilliant paintings of architecture.
Water colour on paper.

Industry of power

Post industrial revolution, industrialists needed politician to survive their business and during war time politician needed businessmen of their choice to run their war machinery. After war, as the industrialists became rich, they needed politician of their choice to sustain their business and force other countries to open up for their business. They became corporates and together with politician they divided the world into two poles and called it cold war era. They called themselves capitalists and communists. In communists countries, they became one and the same -they called their business government run industries or public sector. They got carried away with the profit and their greed made them to ignore people and finally in their excesses they collapsed - the communist corporates- the government. On the other side, at capitalists side, they slowly made the politician depended on them as they and not the government produced profit and they had the much needed money. Politician needed money and using politician's vulnerability, corporate made the choices and decided the kind of support they extended to politician. They demanded their pound of flesh. Slowly like in communist countries, they started becoming one and same but with a difference- in capitalist countries it is not the politician who became businessmen but it is the businessmen who became politician. They slowly started flexing their muscle and subverting every system that are important to the society. They took over media and decided what is news and who has to be news maker, they took over education and decided what is intelligence and who has to be the intellectual, they took over art and culture institutions and establishments and decided what is art and culture and who has to lead them and they took over the sports and entertainment and decided what is joy and who should have/ lead them. Where ever they saw the possibility of social unrest, their bedfellow, religion and its heads became handy for them to be utilised. They used the power of belief to divide and break the unity in the society with faith and tradition. People remained divided and in the division groups become profitable and for the profit they violently protected their exclusivity that is important to their identity and group. Slowly the divided people became dispensable or of no relevance or consequence. Whatever the governments in communist countries had practiced, in capitalist countries the corporates applied the same in their fiefdom that is called democratic countries. They didn't need politician anymore. Corporates are now the government. Business runs the government.
If it sounds like we are talking about our country, don't be confused. Certainly we are talking about our country or for that matter every country around the world.
Unfortunately what these corporates who are doubling up as governments are now forgetting, whenever politician had become businessman or businessmen became politician and started ignoring people, their system had collapsed. The countries had collapse. Former communist countries are its living example. Present day european economic crisis is the example. Middle east mess is the example. US tragedy in making is the example. Most importantly our own country is the living statement.
The end of capitalism and end of this genre of politician is imminent.