The New Media and the new void

The two dimensional frames and its rules of viewership are being dismantled. Matters of human inspiration are rebelling against the confines of canvas. Processes are becoming more important than the product. The laboratory of projects is preferred over the commodity of gallery objects. Collector is replaced by appreciative community. Something radical is happening in the materials and concepts that defined art for a long time.

Technological interventions in life of the last two decades are now spilled over to art. Stretching scale and scope of art to an extent that demands rewriting the rules of the game.

Like global consumer, spoilt for choices in the material world, artists are “cherry picking from all languages of art.” Medium is no more confined to paint, brush and canvas. And, the scale of work is limited, if at all, only by the constraints of imagination. Assistance of technology has made it possible to execute works on a scale that gives competition to nature. May it be the giant cloud sculpture by Anish Kapoor, or, a rocket made of steel utensils by Subodh Gupta, lines between technological intervention and art are getting blurred.

To address this fast changing scenario in the art world, The National Art Week of New Media was organised by Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi, in collaboration with Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi. Emerging concepts and new media in art were deliberated upon by top notch practitioners of new media like Bharti Kher, Sudarshan Shetty, Raqs Media Collective, Thukral and Tagra and Vibha Galhotra- each with a unique vocabulary of art. Eminent curator like Dr Alka Pande, art critics, Rahul Bhattacharya, Dr Rajesh Kumar Vyas and Dr Avadhesh Mishra were invited to present their points of view, followed by discussions with the audience.

Bharti Kher, who turns the unobtrusive bindi, a symbol of dislocation and transience into a text, and a narrative of its own, has established her credentials internationally as an artist of unique take on cultures. Now known for her signature bindi- the small dot worn on the forehead by Hindu women- her works reflect in depth reading of obscure myths, which carry a timeless, global appeal. Using Bindi as a central motif, as a language, she articulates and animates her themes; by making thousands of bindis swarm over sculptures, endowing them with a cryptic second skin. Also known for forging inventive hybrid creations that deliver a very forceful reinterpretation of the self, culture and a hybridisation of modernity and tradition, her hybridised sculptures of urban goddesses seem both fragile and powerful. Installed in their domestic space they are stranded with the burden they carry; branching out multiple horns from the head. “ I never make perfect looking figures or forms, they are perpetually in the process of creation,” she said, challenging the established norms of aesthetics in art. Hybridisation is not confined to the celestial or animal kingdom in her works, sculptures of trees, ‘Solarium Series’ (2007) and ‘The Waq Tree’ (2009), bear hundreds of shrunken animal heads as fruit, and none resemble existing animals.

If Bharti’s fantastical creations appear to be disturbingly human with their waxy, flesh-like material, Sudarshan Shetty’s works are identified by a hypnotic mechanical movement made on grand scale, challenging modes of viewer ship, often bordering bizarre. May it be the broken skeletal boat, juxtaposed with a cello bow, scissors floating in a bath tub, a scissor cutting across an automobile, or, a giant hammer smashing hundreds of glasses in The Party Is Elsewhere.

Then, there are also images of a bleeding TV, bleeding chairs, a heart placed outside body, large eye balls scanning the road, tongues wagging out of a gramophone, and use of sanitary pipes in a work titled Pure. Shetty makes profuse use of day- to- day objects; skeletons, blood and movements, which go against the norm of established art. For using ordinary objects like shoes, bags, goggles etc. he says, ” I find myself delving into the socially understated that ticks beneath the surface of all human interactions. I want to lure the viewer into this with deception-that of the products that we negotiate with on a daily basis.”

Young, new media artist duo from the North, Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra have broken the very myth about pursuit of art as an act of isolation by working in a symbiotic collaboration. The duo exhibit whimsical fascination with consumerism, by blurring the lines between fine art and pop culture. The globally popular artists use a rare mix of high culture and reflective, ironic kitsch to create a phantasmagorical world by mixing an exhaustive range of mediums like painting, sculpture, installation, video, graphic, music and fashion and product design. The duo have devised a new vocabulary of aesthetics. Though, they lend an Indian colour to the global phenomenon of fixation with consumerism; vividly colourful, playfully light in treatment of patterns of consumption and identity formation around brands. Bright coloured fantastic objects floating in sky like a dream boat, or, bikini clad female forms almost growing out of tress reflect dynamism and ambition of growing consumerist aspirations.

Morpheus (pigeon), captures the dreams and desires of a generation of Punjabi ‘homeboys’ seduced by the glossy worlds of fashion, celebrity, cinema and advertising, while also respecting social and family mores and expectations. These portraits are framed ostentatiously, as if featured proudly in a family home. The pigeons in each image refer to a Punjabi term for those who aim to emigrate, even illegally, though, their dreams may not always match the reality. The artist- duo attribute their un-Indian aesthetic to their observations and training as communication designers.

The presentations by new- media artists opened new vistas of questions among art lovers. On the fourth day radical and progressive group of artists of Raqs Media Collective-Jeebesh Bagchi and Monica Narula gave a stimulating presentation of kinetic contemplation from the world of inter- disciplinary research and space. The artists took the art lovers of the city on their catalytic artistic journey- showing them, how they negotiate urban spaces, from their home town Delhi to global circuits. How they explore these spaces from complex histories to unpack series of imaginative questions about identity and location, and the ambivalence towards modernity and a left over sense of history, which is neither residual nor nostalgic.

The trio ( Shuddhabratta Sengupta could not join) wear many hats; as artists, media practitioners, curators, researchers, editors and catalysts of cultural processes. Their work, widely exhibited in major international spaces and events, finds them at the intersections of contemporary art, historical enquiry, philosophical speculation, research and theory – often taking the form of installations, online and offline media objects, performances and encounters.
Dr Alka Pande, renowned curator and art critic, who has been a witness to the growth of new media in art delved at length on interfaces of technology in new media. Canvas is expanding in the language of computer, she said, resulting in a situation where the artist, as well as the viewer, need to be techno literate to appreciate it. Most new media artists are global citizens, they understand the language of moving, fluid, dissolving cultures.

Understanding new media is like understanding abstract art. Even though, art produced by new media artists lacks archival value, nor it can be bought and sold like paintings and sculptures, she said, growing number of museums are offering space to the conceptual art of new media.
On the final day, art critics Rahul Bhattacharya, Dr Rajesh Kumar Vyas and Dr Avadhesh Mishra deliberated on questions whether new media is art or science, whether it is a craft assisted by technology or creative art, whether it is a performance art, and whether it will find a place in history or not. The audience was sceptical about longevity of such art, which, some claimed was global but not local, whereas the experts believed, if one is able to appreciate new media art or not, depends upon aesthetic trajectory of the person. Chairperson CLKA, Diwan Manna, said, the changing art scenario requires an audience that keeps pace with developments in the art world, hence the seminar acquires a lot more relevance.

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