EDITORIAL – REVIEW : Clipboard / Clipping Creative Circuits onto Contemporary Culture / Johny ML
Cilpboard is a show curated by Shijio Jacob in Durbar Hall, Kochi. In a world were mediums are given leverage over ideas, this show stands for the counter articulations of the mediums that are defunct yet new, says JohnyML.
When ideas fail and the intensity to execute imaginations weakens, if an artist scrambles around for a new medium, there is nothing surprising about it. The new millennium, in terms of art, has contributed a lot in the medium front. The artists all over the world were feeling the urgency to do something new; this ‘new’ category in itself was something ‘new’ because this ‘new’ never stood for the ‘new’ in expression but it obviously stood for the ‘new’ in medium/material. It was not just about durability of the medium but its whole new feel that made artists run behind new mediums. The new millennium also had offered us this ideally pessimistic view of things that the old mediums had become more or less defunct and there was nothing called originality. However, the argument on originality was an old thing though its manifestations became so telling with the arrival of the new millennium. Global porosity was one of the main reasons why artists thought while ideas failed mediums ruled. They refused to accept the fact that mediums of art largely depended on their locality, availability and feasibility. When the mantra of newness could flourish in importing, searching for a new medium could also suggest the global mobility of the artists.
Indian artists, at least of the provincial variety seem to have taken up this challenge in a different but innovative way; for them searching for a new medium or material was largely debilitating for innumerable reasons including their provinciality (supposed marginality) and the general lack of financial means as compared to the artists operating from the urban spaces where global porosity itself defines the glitter and glamour of the given spaces. For a provincial artist going out poses a lot of hardships than going in. As a reversal of routes by way of searching roots in order to find new mediums could naturally take him or her to wonderful findings and obviously those mediums and materials that had been hitherto considered as mundane things could come to assume their elevated roles as art mediums and materials. It is a sort of the rural spaces talking back to the colonizing urban spaces or the dispossessed and deprived ones talking back to the global innovations through these counter mediums. In their humbleness they look as alluring as the metallic finish of the works of Jeff Koons or Anish Kapoor. In their naturalness they look rebellious like the seed and cycle installations of the icon of the global art rebellion, Ai Wei Wei.
It would be too exaggerating if an art critic cites too many examples from the global art scenario to justify a very innovative show like ‘Clipboard’ curated by the artist-curator, Shijo Jacob in Kochi. However, I cannot avoid seeing the innovativeness of the medium, a clipboard that has been archived in the memories of yester generations. When Shijo Jacob looked for a new medium, in the same lines of the international curators who look for mediums than ideas, he found this humble hardboard piece that has surprisingly and silently migrated to the virtual world to find its own space without invoking much memories but being there as a prop-icon. However, when a real clipboard is given into the hands of an artist and the curator says that it is his/her medium to create a work of art, then a whole lot (load) of memories are suddenly imported to that medium. That’s what exactly happens in ‘Clipboard’, the group exhibition of hundred and one artists at the Durbar Hall in Kochi.
What makes this show important to me (I too was a participating artist in this show in collaboration with my partner artist, Devi) is its location and the expressions of hundred and one artists. If you ask me whether I have liked each and every work of art displayed there, my answer would be an emphatic no. If you prod me further, I would say that if the medium was different, I would have rubbished several works in this show and at the same time, the same works could have gained my appreciation had they been the parts of another thematic show. So, my idea of this review is not to go all praising for the individual works of art, on the contrary I would like to see how this show becomes very important in terms of its location, display and its ability to eke out curiosity and interest amongst the art lovers. I should have talked about the first point of curiosity as the very medium itself. But as that is the case that I have been arguing all this while, it is taken for granted that the medium itself has generated a lot of enthusiasm not only amongst the participating artists but also amongst the viewers.
Durbar hall is the prime art exhibition space in Kochi, which is currently the Biennale city therefore a part of the international art map. An exhibition happening in this huge heritage building attracts a lot of people; interestingly the people who come for evening walk or visiting the temple nearby without any persuasion or compulsion go into these galleries to ‘take a look’ at the displayed works of art. ‘Clipboard’, as an exhibition in this building should be naturally getting a lot of viewers. But interestingly, Clipboard is a marginalized show within the building and the very marginality has given it the centrality or focus of attention. Clipboard is exhibited on the first floor. And the spatial dynamics leads you to the main gallery, which is huge, well lit with state of the art facilities. But Clipboard is not happening here. People are slightly disappointed when they know that this show is happening at the corridor outside the main hall. This space has been given to insignificant shows and is treated as a ‘left over’ space. But when 101 clipboards are exhibited there in two rows just at and above the eye level, the space transforms automatically. There is an Ernst Neizvestny effect to the show where the innards of the gallery are taken out and presented on the outer wall. It is almost like seeing a series of Francis Bacon paintings.
The marginality of Clipboard show turns the spatial dynamics of the space around. Suddenly one understands that there is no other display structure than this apparently ‘plain, mundane and regular’ sort of displaying. How else one could exhibit these works is the first question that comes to our minds. We make a lot of rearrangements and see whether the works could break this monotony and we realize that other than interchanging of the works from their current spaces there is no other way. So it informs us about the kind of finality that the scale of the works attributes to a marginal wall. Had one work been slightly bigger than the present one the whole show could have been collapsed by the ‘weight’ of it. The show is a very sensitive and brittle balancing of ideas, spaces, mediums and methods. And the light plays an important role. During the day time there is no controlled lighting. Like the Vermeer’s windows, you have a series of windows that flood light into this corridor. The works of art have to fight with this flooding of light. But they do as there is an invisible balancing between the row of windows and the works that replicate the pattern in a different rhythm and leaving the space open in between them where people could move like organic cameras and see the works from different focal lengths.
There is a very strong democratic sense in this show titled ‘Clipboard’. No work gets more attention than any other work. You may intentionally skip some works or you may intentionally avoid the totality of the exhibition, but no other show could claim this kind of democratic approach as each work looks like a part of the whole and each work has its definite role to play in the whole ‘appearance’ of the show. If you say that each work is conspicuous with its distinct visual features, I would agree. If you say that each work stands inconspicuous, then too I would agree with you because this is the feel that each work imparts to you. However, as a human being, when you touch a garland made up of equally fascinating flowers, your fingers and eyes would dwell upon some of them for a few seconds more. In this exhibition my eyes lingered more on the works of K.S.Radhakrishnan, Manoj Vyloor, Antony Karal, A.P.Sunil, Bhagyanath C, Benoy PJ, Priti Vadakkath, Ajayakumar, Deepak John Mathew, Shijo Jacob, Surendran Karthikeyan and Josh PS.
PS: I liked my work and Devi’s. But that does not come under my critical preview as it could be prejudiced.
(Images courtesy : (Rinku Raj and Clipboard Facebook page)