August 10, 2006

Art And Soul

Filed under: Most Read,opinions,This Gets To Me — Kaveeta Oberoi Kaul @ 1:22 pm
Tags: ,

Art it seems has prostituted itself . Cinema has for long now, ascribed to the reasoning and rationale that ‘only two things sell in india, Sex and Shah Rukh Khan’. Having thus absolved themselves of responsibility of turning heroines into item numbers, and using profane sexual innuendoes to keep the box office registers clicking, they were resigned to the phenomenon of altered metaphors in cinematic language having taken centrestage. After all, they averred, art and commerce had to go hand in hand for either to survive.

As is wont to occur, this trend spread eagled itself into other artistic spheres. Recently, two wannabe ‘artists’ held an exhibition of their paintings and named it, hold your breath, ‘Tits, clits n Elephant dick’.. and mind you this was not the irreverent Salvador Dali known for his outrageous declarations as much as his artistic creations, but two conservative, middle class, vernacular educated team of Sanjeev Khandekar and Vaishali Narkar.

They were more comfortable speaking Marathi and Hindi, by their own submission, having been brought up in Sangli. Then why this monstrosity? Shock Value? Both had this to say:

Yes the shock was necessary,” she says. “We are all living with masks. This is a protest against hypocrisy and urban decay.” Khandekar has certainly made a career out of protest and provocation. Last year, in a show at Pandole gallery, again intriguingly entitled ‘La Peau de Chagrin’ from a novel by Balzac, he used an installation of a human body infested with 15,000 insects, including maggots. In his 2005 ‘All I Wanna do’, the 47-year-old artist had installations of 150 human organs (10 intestines, 15 livers etc) strung out like lamps. “People were disconcerted by the image of the digestive system hanging in the air, and by the fact I had reduced them to beings who merely eat and shit,” says Khandekar

“One reassuring thing about modern art is things cant be as bad as they are painted”..Thank God for small mercies!

Where and how does art figure in either their declarations or choice of paintings is subjective. What is pertinent is the short cut to fame that seems to have been adopted as the New Age Mantra. To make something out of nothing and sell it as everything, is an art by itself presumably.

For some, it is ones work that creats its own energy of acceptance or dismissal, fame or obscurity. To be sincere to its primary dictates is the means to the end. For others, art is a medium to catapult one self into the league of the famous and outrageous. Art then defies all..even their own inner need for true expression.

Its a free world.. ideally. Each one of us opts to express ourselves in a manner which satisfies the innermost craving of our soul on the one hand, simultaneously, we are moved by that which caters to the cry of our hearts. So who finally chooses what to expostulate and patronise is a matter of personal prerogatives. And I daresay, tell-tale.

Time is of great import here. If those that stand the test of time are indeed worthy of their lot, then it is time which will soon proclaim what denotes creativity and connotes undying success. Till such time, let those to who the peripheries of materialism dictate all, rule the roost.

” Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life”..Pablo Picasso. Wonder what would have been his reaction to this ‘art’ , soul and everyday life!


  1. Sab chalta hai.

    Comment by anonymous — August 10, 2006 @ 4:25 pm | Reply

  2. its quality that will outlive all..these are fads which are like a flash in the pan.Whether it is films, or singers, painters or artists as a block, only the BEST will survive..that is true..time is of the essence..btw that goes for love too..true love survives..I HOPE

    Comment by Sanjay — August 10, 2006 @ 7:50 pm | Reply

  3. but what was the connection between the title and their paintings???I think its cheap, gimmicky..and the guy is 45 says the link..gosh

    Comment by Puja — August 10, 2006 @ 9:34 pm | Reply

  4. the moral policing guys, went and brouht the police..a case was filed and a ruckus created. .dont like it dont see it .. simple.If the work is outstandin it will speak for itself.

    Comment by neha — August 12, 2006 @ 10:20 am | Reply

  5. Hi folks..sorry for the delay in writing back. My laptops been soooo misbehaving.Therefore could read but not write. It has gotten back to some semblance of working..though not totally.A virus, I believe.

    Nyways…Yes from reports one does hear of a lady who has gone whole hog and created quite a stir at the exhibition. That was unneeded and an infringement on the creative liberty of an individual. We may disagree but cannot impede his journey.

    Comment by kaveetaakaul — August 12, 2006 @ 11:34 am | Reply

  6. I think one guys, U should have seen the exhibition. I liked it.The statement ciculated by him is following,after readin and seeing the display, it seems its serious.

    Two years back I had written the first draft of a long poem running into several pages. It was written in Marathi but was titled ‘Tits n Clits n Elephant Dick’. The poem was an attempt to revisit the old radical demand of freedom from bourgeois marriage. The context was the new age of global capital, virtual realities, and real time explorations of fantasies on-line.
    It also had several references to the famous relationship that has been a source of fancy and fantasy to many, between Sartre and de Beauvoir. And therefore, it had references to necessary love and contingent love made in a satirical way.
    The poem was a story of a couple married legally, where the husband who has returned from a long business tour finds his wife pregnant and gets annoyed. The wife claims that she has conceived from him and as proof of her purity shows him her mail inbox. The mailbox is full of her husband’s letters, husband’s spam and online game invitations from him; similar to those that are online like, second life, naughty America, and sciolotron etc. In the process of online avatars and gaming both mix their real Real to virtual Real and the result is Real pregnancy.
    The title came partly from a so called feminist ‘comix’ called ‘tits n clits’ and partly from spam mail which keep pouring the inbox with all such junk.
    Unfortunately, I lost the first draft of the poem and then conceptualized an installation based on those thoughts. A poem is one plane of expression, visual art is another. The installation is not an illustration, it is a separate new act.

    Online existence has become a daily routine to most of us. Those who are not there are planning to be there. Real Time is the name of the new game, besides online gaming that has become a compulsive act for many. In our ‘society of spectacle’, what we experience as everyday reality, more and more takes the form of the lie made real, says Slavoj Zizek. Therefore, computer gaming enables a neurotic weakling to adopt the screen persona of a macho aggressor, beating up and shooting down others and violently enjoying women or men. Does the weakling take refuge in cyberspace in order to escape from her dull, routine and impotent reality? What do the games tell us when they explode in our face? As usual, there are two opposite views. However, many believe that the games impact real life. In recent discussions on adult gaming the advocates of games maintained that the right to fulfill fantasies is a fundamental need, and a fantasy can be dark and black! Zizek has posed many questions in his recent article “Erma’s Injection”, he writes, what if in playing them, I articulate the perverse core of my personality, which because of ethico-social constraints, I am not able to act out in real life? Isn’t my virtual persona in a way ‘more real than reality’? Isn’t it precisely because I am aware that this is ‘just a game’ that in it I can do what I would never be able to in the real life? In this precise sense, as Lacan puts it, ‘The truth has the structure of a fiction; what appears in the guise of dreaming or even day dreaming, is some times the truth on whose repression social reality itself is founded.’
    Why do we dream? Freud says the ultimate function of the dream is to enable the dreamer to stay asleep. And what is sleep? Neurology has analyzed it now in much more detail than what Freud and others had for their interpretations. One of the functions is undisputed; it revives and rejuvenates by reorganizing and forgetting the unwanted memories. The old saying says night heals; it helps to lead real life.
    Many dreams do not heal, they do haunt and day dreaming can become an obsession. Gaming is much more complicated than dreaming or day dreaming. Game is not a dream, game is a tool to reach out to the dream. It is a conscious act, a deliberate decision of the mind and brain and more alarming is that they are played in real life by number of people simultaneously.
    A game called ‘sociolotron’ allows raping and murdering in their virtual underworld, they clarify that consent for rape has been taken….and hence it is not a crime. How can one consent for rape? Or for murder!?
    Almost a century ago, Freud subsumed psychoanalysis in the category of what he called three ‘narcissistic illnesses’, he explained the leading role of the unconscious in acts of mind and showed that the ego is not master even in its own house! Today science has taken this conclusion farther by proving that mind is a machine that processes the data and our sense of freedom and autonomy is an illusion. Dreams essentially are biological or what they call ‘chemical’, like any other metabolic activity within the Alhambra of the body. (the new quantum leaps have further added that all acts are pre designed ….however that is a separate issue and I will deal with it separately) .
    My attempt therefore is to understand the molecule of fiction that houses the truth in the presence of global capital and in its monolithic proportions of Stalinist architecture. Does dream open up fiction? Do games that people play are an act of articulating fiction? What does this fiction mean to me as an artist? More important to me is an inquiry into the process that has substituted games for the dreams, a process where commerce takes over biology, finance and markets pumping the adrenaline of spiritual ambiance and the violent miasmatic secretions of enjoyment thereby. This Installation for me is like entering into a coiling miasma or like jumping into an awakened volcano which keeps vomiting fire.
    The new games with better consoles and state of the art technology are almost live experiences; they help to mix real with unreal to produce a new culture and language. The facility to play online with others makes the game a collective social and or political activity. The town hall meetings, the bed room conversations, the trading of virtual currency or BDSM strong rooms… all of these non-reals come back haunting in real life, like ghosts of future. The intoxicating experience of virtual, from sex to spirituality and from religion to political ideology is naked and yet mysterious, it comes without the burden of history or presence of moral or social commitments; therefore it is light and weightless. The history of civilization is a story of sexual repression of Man, wrote Freud. Computer games and online shopping lure is a process of unleashing all that was put under lock and key. Interestingly, in many of these games, since the identities are unknown and altered, one never knows who is doing what and with whom, leading to incestuous relationships. Many of the pictures posted on web look eschatological, apocalyptic and hideous. They charm and lure. Online strip-off and moans accompany the movement of the mouse on the victim’s body. Violent and erinyous BDSM experiments are brutally vibrant.
    Marx wrote, ‘in history, as in nature, decay is the laboratory of life’; to me, online games and even spam is a laboratory, which emits fumes of fury for breathing out a new life.
    It is an accepted fact that sex produces life and sexual fantasy runs the force of life. Virtual sex does not reproduce in real however, virtual conceptions and births and virtual deaths are no more a fantasy. Many of the game operators provide for such events and allow you to assume the vacant and spiritual position of God himself. What does all this mean?

    Shopping is primary property of our new world; shopping sex therefore is its ultimate representation. Its commerce and biology, thorny and horny. Dirty and beautiful, real and unreal or new real.
    I find it particularly interesting because it is a site that has all potential to generate some new myths for our new life. Myths, like objects of art, help to live our complex life, like gadgets do to minimize drudgery.
    Take an example of elephant dick, it is an age old desire that a human (men and women…being phallic and having phallic) has to have a huge phallus, its simulacrum is worshiped and a world of mythology is built around it. Quacks and doctors have made huge money on building the desire throughout the history of mankind. Games and the virtual world have now come forth to meet the demand. May be, the biotech world of tomorrow will step in to help further. I understand that dentists in future will be rendered jobless because bio-technology will help humans grow new teeth! Libidinal world is our predicament and those who rule that world, know it better.

    Libidinal world places its importance on size, it believes that size only matters. Big is now beautiful; bigger muscle, bigger breasts, bigger thighs, bigger lips…., that one gets now by ordering it. Gymnasiums and pharmacies, malls and markets, corporates and spiritual enclaves, everyone is busy supplying them. Small is vanished from the scene, in the wake of technology embracing nanos and super small versions of gadgets. Fruits and vegetables have changed their natural colours to metallic new shades, their sizes are much bigger than what they were ten years back and the crops are huge and predictable.
    Landscape has changed, the metaphors and language that surrealist and abstractionists had employed a few decades ago sound meaningless today.
    Steven Mithen has written a spectacular account of the origins of music, language and body in his recent book called ‘The Singing Neanderthals’ where he talks about the first musical composition ‘Hmm…’.To me, it sounds like Indian ‘Om’ or the origin of a real number in mathematics. Absurd and yet real. It is an unseen, unheard and unwritten fossil that may be coded on some strand of our primitive chromosome, ‘selfishly’ traveled all along the history of human kind and orphaned suddenly. The changed world does not have place for this symbolic fossil of human culture; graveyards and museums are full of all such indispensable entities. The fossil ‘Hmm’ and all its historical debts, liabilities and assets are the background motifs of the works that are on display, the Tantra forms and the adoptions therefore constitute the backgrounders and screen savers for my works. They are sometimes adoptions like our new age remix music and most of the times they are the bridges to extend backwards in an attempt to kiss the urchins of ‘Hmm…’ and therefore some of the canvasses may be found tatterdemalion or even ragged with.

    I have mentioned in the beginning of this write up, a poem that I lost a couple of years back. The woman in the poem who is pregnant thinks that it is from her husband, her husband thinks it is from someone else and what really has happened is the exchange between real and unreal virtual world. The virtual has impregnated the real. Our time, I feel, is pregnant like the woman in the poem. The show is a pass time, while waiting outside the labor ward, why not entertain each other?


    The installation has number of paintings.The water colours use Rodin’ s famous erotic drawings reorganized. The canvases use the images from ‘Pirelli’ calendars of celebrity nudes and the glass and other mediums show images of virtual game heroes and heroines. The wall paper/skin has the text and a few images from telephone sex advertisements; a new feature of our life.
    This write up is not an essay or justification, the purpose is to introduce the viewer to the concepts that he may find unfamiliar sometimes and make his journey easy. Two of my poems translated in English are also available for those who intend to know more.

    Thanks, happy viewing.

    Notes: II
    Real Doll:
    Real doll is a life-size sex doll, a type of sex toy, imitating a human body for simulated sexual acts. Sold worldwide, these mannequins have durable PVC skeletons with steel joints and silicone flesh. Realdoll is designed to closely mimic the texture and weight of the human body with face or just a pelvic part with some openings like vagina, anus or mouth for copulation. The openings are sometimes vibrating and may be removable or interchangeable as owners of such dolls generally use them as sexual aids and copulate with them. Some owners however use the dolls as mere stand-ins for human models in photography or other art.

    Sociolotron, Naughty America and Second Life are famous online role playing games which thousands of people can play simultaneously. Creating a 3-D virtual world which is as real as possible in many details, these games enable the players to do things that he would probably never want to do in reality. Players here have to create their avatar which is a humanoid in shape initially but with a series of GUI controls can be modified to a large extent.
    Featuring strong adult content, language and graphics, these games contain violence, sex, drugs, prostitution, blackmail, unsafe sex, politically incorrect behavior, blasphemy and lots of other things which are not acceptable to many people outside this unreal world. One can indulge in romance or try out a few sex positions, stab someone or get killed, socialize or have property rights for his creations in the virtual world or trade in the thriving market economy. These games allow you to bring out your darker side.
    Linden Dollars:
    Second Life participants pay “Linden dollars,” the game’s currency, to rent or buy virtual homesteads so that they have a place to build and show off their creations. Players can also convert that play money into U.S. dollars, at about 300 to the real dollar, by using their credit card at online currency exchanges.
    Spam Mail
    Spam Mail is the abuse of internet system to send unsolicited, bulk messages. It involves sending identical mails to a large number of recipients. Unlike legitimate commercial e-mail, spam mails frequently contain various tricks to bypass e-mail filters. These mails are sent to inboxes with detrimental effects such as transmitting malicious programs or overfilling the mailbox. The worst spam mails create e-mail viruses that render an unprotected PC a ‘zombie computer’. This allows spammers to send high volumes of e-mail without being caught by their ISPs or being tracked down by antispammers; a low volume of spam is instead sent from many locations simultaneously.

    Tits n Clits Comix:
    In mid 1960s the male underground cartoonists understood little of the new woman’s liberation movement and reacted to what they perceived as a threat by drawing comix filled with graphic violence directed mostly at women. People — Especially women — who criticized this misogyny, were not welcomed into this alternative version of this boy’s club.

    It was then, that Lyn Chevely & Joyce Farmer, two single mother artists, founded Nanny Goat Productions to create their own women-based underground comix to counter this sexism. In 1975 they launched Tits ‘n Clits, a comix that dealt with real female sexuality. Apart from Tits ‘n Clits, they also produced a comic about abortion, ‘Abortion Eve’, in 1973.
    Wat say?Try n look for images on web, i could not find so far except a few from his earlier works.

    Comment by Rehana — August 13, 2006 @ 1:03 am | Reply

  7. I like the exhibition, it aws something new and bold. Path breaking.

    Comment by hema — August 13, 2006 @ 1:13 am | Reply

  8. The exhibition was superb. How many of you have actually seen the exhibition? It depicted reality. It depicted the dirt and the filth in the society. It’s aim was to show temptation, corruption, decay, danger, lust, animal instinct etc prevelent in the society. How today some advertisement to sell biscuits- has a woman showing some skin! Everything has been commodified. The people who get offended by seeing things in reality that are on their desktops are hippocrites!! The work was par excellence. I think anyone and everyone who went in with an open mind loved the exhibition. I also asked all my friends to see it and many of them found it incredible. The exhibition was meant to shock the hippocrites.
    It’s great to see artists in India depicting the ‘real’.

    Comment by Harshali — August 13, 2006 @ 12:37 pm | Reply

  9. The exhibition was great. WE went with college friends and simply enjoyed it! Why do the hippocrites get offended??
    It happened to Souza, Hussain and Padamsee, the society will always not accept anything new.

    Comment by Harsh — August 13, 2006 @ 12:43 pm | Reply

  10. Well, I have my own blog on this issue. The exhibition was brilliant. AS a student of journalism I thought that I should certainly write about it. None of us are so naive to get offended. WE are only hippocrites. The exhibition was too good. Read my blog.

    Comment by Chetan — August 13, 2006 @ 12:46 pm | Reply

  11. For ur convenience….

    Comment by Chetan — August 13, 2006 @ 12:55 pm | Reply

  12. Lots of new article on this exhibition, today in Hindustan times, Chintan Upadhyaya writes the art of Sanjeev Khandekar displayed was extraordinary and In DNA Sadanand Menon compares the effort with Brit art exhibition sensation.

    Comment by hema — August 14, 2006 @ 11:25 pm | Reply

  13. i agree the exhibition may have been great. however, i’m not sure art per se is meant to shock or use vulgar devices for the same purpose. shocking someone by showing human nudity is easy. it is far tougher to do so in a subtle manner that conveys the artists message while still remaining in the bounds of decency. i’m not a prude or orthodox in any manner. the title shocked even me. check out

    Comment by Bigfatman — September 2, 2006 @ 2:35 pm | Reply

  14. Hi bfm,
    Checked out your site n read a few posts. ..seem in consonance..especially on this particular one.

    Sensationalising creativity is a poor substitute for organic energy arising out of art on display which may have struck a chord with the viewer as originally intended.

    Comment by kaveetaakaul — September 2, 2006 @ 9:46 pm | Reply

  15. Well guys.. I been following the story abt this one for long n I think people r getting carried away by the nudity, little realizing n understanding the thought behind it.

    Sexuality n nudity is only used as mediums or language by the artist. One can ask a question here, y these mediums only? Is it an attempt to create sensational publicity? To this I wld say, that psychology will substantiate that sexuality n nudity are the closest to ones natural self n expression. One does not attain sexuality on puberty; it is developed right from childhood n V all know that nudity is the most natural way of being. These have been suppressed in the evolution of civilization n now are triggered by commercialization as potent consumers n v all are falling prey to this, unconsciously.

    The online existence that the artist mentions is the virtual reality world, which today is more real than the real world and provides for a simple n customized existence where we can configure all our fantasies, away from the complexity of our so made real life.

    As any artist or philosopher shld, Khandekar through his works is also trying to alarm us, treat the schizophrenia, that v as a society r suffering of.

    I was fortunate to have seen the exhibition closely, thus understand some of its details. In my opinion, those who got offended, were primarily those who could not relate to the existence of the modern world n thus got muddled only in the apparent nudity. Amongst the offended ones, necessarily were those who could see themselves in the works, identify themselves but didn’t want to recognize or accept themselves there, the convenient ‘hypocrites’ of course. There were also people who left as the ‘awakened’ ones like me too.

    There s lot more to share on this, however, I guess this might be enough to provide a different dimension to your thoughts at least.

    The exhibition was apocalyptic. It was amongst the most important ones that India has had or will have.

    Comment by Shazia Khanam — September 14, 2006 @ 1:36 am | Reply

  16. So atleast the commenter above has got the spelling of hypocrite right.Puja had pointed out in another post that comment 8,9,10 were obviously penned by the same author..’hippocrites’ was a great clue..though I am sure ip addresses will confirm..Kaveeta should know.

    Why are a group of people hell bent on pushing the ‘art’ of the exhibition down our throats. Isnt any art a subjective opinion? Its acceptance is preferential..not forced.
    and now the argument of ‘getting carried away by the nudity’ bit. A press clipping describing the exhibition: “The exhibition features nude male and female mannequins, placed in painted and installed scenes of email inboxes full of penis-enlargement email and solicitations from prostitutes.One of the installations is a cubicle in which the visitor sees the reflection of his head above a full-size painting of a masturbating man. The two side walls of the cubicle are fitted with mirrors, which make the visitor’s reflection recede infinitely.'” If this is not getting carried away..what is?Ever heard of ‘obscenity?
    Then why censorship??. Each one can depict life and its private scenes to the public! Why should sex be a private matter? after all its natural and normal and ‘self expression’.. Feeble excuses Just excuses. A bunch of my friends went for it and came back disgusted.I gave up the idea after reading of its subject.
    Art is for aesthetics not to shock …for that horror films are available.
    And if I needed awakening i would go to an ‘art of living course’. Who needs a jarring display of sordidness to ‘alarm ‘ me into being an enlightened being? I wish these friends of the painter would stop making it less obvious who they were.I didnt like Fanaa, you did so whats the big deal here?

    Comment by sanjay — September 14, 2006 @ 11:02 am | Reply

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