EDITORIAL: About Applying the Values of Art in the Lives of its Makers / Editor-in-chief JohnyML
Can there be art during the (post) Covid-19 days? The question has been variously answered from various quarters of art making during the last two and half months of lockdown. Initial response of the artists, like any other creative people in the world, was a sort of belligerence. “We shall overcome the situation by doing more art,” they said. Sooner than later they realized that it was easier said than done for the art always needed hope to get created and then to get disseminated. There was no hope in the vicinity. That was, perhaps the first take away for the artists from the Covid-19 days; to make art the artists need HOPE.
The second argument that made artists remain solipsistic was that they had always been quarantined in one or the other way as they preferred to be aloof from the mundane dealings of the society. Isolation was not a new thing for them, many an artist said. May be they were too much believing in their so called isolated status in the world of ordinary mortals. It is one thing that one prefers to remain indoors for many days or weeks together, with the doors bolted from inside, provided he/she has proper supply of provisions. It is another thing altogether when one is locked up and needed permission even to go and pick up the provisions.
The fact is that we all have been under the strict surveillance of the government, both local and the central. Those who ventured out, out of desperation got brutally beaten up. By this time many have been dead and many missing. Thousands have been rendered jobless and clueless about their future. The euphemism, reverse migration is nothing but dispossession of the citizens by the government. The dispossessed people do not make art. But they provide ideas and the tragic spectacles for the artists to work on. So artists should not feel that they are really the creators of their own works. A work that could speak of happy things cannot be the works done during the Covid Days.
Does it mean that the artists have shifted their gears all of a sudden to become socially conscious people with sympathy oozing out of their palettes? The only answer possible to this question is that the art cannot be the same with or without Covid being completely erased from the face of the earth. We may learn to live with it. But our art cannot go back to its pre Covid Days’ status. Some say they still continue with the art that they have been doing for a long time and believe that the milieu cannot change the fundamentals of art. Such diehard aesthetics perhaps wouldn’t last because the world might think differently about everything in the coming days.
Art of sympathy, art of empathy, art of compassion, art of inner power, art of universality, art of working class, art of healing and art of many other things cannot remain as they have been in the pre-Covid Days. A new art has to be born. A terribly new art has to be born. I do not know what could be that art. I do not suggest that old materials and methods would die. But they will have to be reborn again or reclaimed from their traditional status. Those who wouldn’t do might eventually go out of parlance. Art will still be bought and enjoyed by the rich and the affluent. The aesthetic commodification of public pain has been the norm of the art world ever since. That is going to remain in various degrees but that will be a different discourse altogether. Art, if at all it has to perform any social duty, should become something that goes beyond its art-ness. It has to be brutally true. For that the artist has to be brutally truthful.
Covid Days have taught me one thing; you cannot experience the suffering of the sufferer the way he feels and internalizes it. So representing pain or a particular state of being or society will no longer be the true art. It is time to philosophize the society and life in the changed scenario. Perhaps, artists may even take a break from making art and involve in doing something else. It is high time that the artists re-think about their class affiliations. Artists cannot be traitors. They cannot paint the pains of people and join hands with their tormentors. May be we are going towards a time where art galleries and gallerists are no longer relevant. The fact is that the galleries and gallerists could do nothing during the lockdown days about art. Like the malls, shops, movie theatres, temples, churches and so on they too remained locked. And people learned they could live without god, without shopping and without going to see art. Galleries have rendered themselves useless. They need to reinvent themseleves and in that the greatest impediment would be their class affiliation.
Good art is not going to come from the affluent. The affluent would definitely make decorative art and it would reflect their class consciousness. The art of the future is going to come from unexpected people and artists, and the mediums are going to be really different. The interfaces of their traction and transaction would also be different and the money from this would flow in a different direction. And those people who amass wealth perhaps would prefer to have hologram based hyper reality for art than having a flat piece on their walls. Affluence is a sort of blindness and the affluent need to touch to know something; so they want to possess it. The affluent ones are just one percent in the world. They no longer need the art that is generated by the artists from the rest of 99% per cent. So the rules of the game are now absolutely different. It is time for artists to reinvent themselves and apply the values of art that they make in their own lives.
Images Courtesy: The internet, artist Ranjeet Singh