Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Saturday, July 08, 2006
Contemporary Indian Art in Berkeley
As you would expect, there’s fascinating stuff to look at. You run across vernacular traditions treated as an equally valid path to contemporary expression as artists from more conventional art school preparation, like pieces by Manu and Swarma Chitrakar, who are members of the Patua community in Bengal. This is a formerly nomadic group that developed a narrative style of painting and the members of this group traveled around painting to make a living. The pieces here include a poster about the war in Afghanistan and a scroll summarizing the highlights of the movie Titanic. There are some great crossovers with pop culture, like Cyrus Oshidar’s mock small-goods stand which serves as an elaborate frame for a video monitor running Indian MTV filler spots that are pretty hilarious.
What struck me was how political so much of the art is. Communal violence between Hindus and Muslims looms large, especially the destruction of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya and subsequent riots (like a big piece by Vivan Sundaram that takes the figure of one dead body and builds a kind of shrine around that. You also see the figures of India and Pakistan’s founding (Nehru, M. and I. Gandhi, Jinnah) appearing as powerful mythical characters with an ambivalent legacy of violence, cruelty, and neglect in the politicians who have followed and in the political and bureaucratic structures they created. It is strange to realize that a new country, although also a very old one, creates these instant icons from a heroic era that has just occurred. In a longer established political entity the founders recede into a historical past that is safer because it is further past. India and Pakistan are roughly in a position analogous to the U.S. of Martin van Buren relative to our founding.
Monday, July 03, 2006
Stuff from Shaun Slifer in Pitttsburgh
What better way to celebrate our national holiday than with news on Shaun Slifer’s latest project in
So Shaun’s latest project is a stamp and ink pad set out in a gallery, where people are encouraged to stamp their $20 bills, right next to Old Hickory’s picture, with the message “Great Heroes of Real Estate: The Indian Removal Act of 1830” and then put the bills back into circulation. It seems like there have been protest actions of writing messages on money, but this puts it on a different level, meets the money on one of its natural levels as a bearer of cultural iconography and therefore of historical interpretation. You can look at money as filled with subliminal messages, or not so subliminal messages. Thus agitation about “In God We Trust.” Or trying to decode the eye on the pyramid. Or a local activist putting his stamp on the currency.
Shaun is also involved with a website, the Pittsburgh Art Review that includes open-forum art reviews. Looks like a good thing to have in place.
So on this 4th of July, think about ... I don't know, either where you get your history from, or where to get fireworks to shoot off in your backyard.