IPEP India 2016 – Catalogue
Dr. Bess Frimodig
Art Writer, Sweden
‘Mankind, which in Homer’s time was an object of contemplation for the Olympian gods, is now one for itself. Its self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as aesthetic pleasure of the first order’ (Benjamin, 1936: 242).
The petrification of imagination must be contested and the image world revolutionised. Imagination influenced by images, narratives and metaphors can also raise empathy to understand the conditions of others in order ‘to determine the morally relevant and the widest range of possibilities outside one’s own narrow experience’ (Johnsson, 1993:10).
Aim for a praxis that inspires, through ‘politics of feeling’ and provoke an audience of a post-emotional society’ (O’Neill, 2002:74) where the empathetic connection has been lost.
In a post-emotional society news is entertainment, where a discrepancy between media, art and suffering result in cynicism, according to Sontag (2003). The meaning of the impact of suffering has been lost. The sociologist Mestrovic (1997) defines a post-emotional community as: ‘types (who) are able to feel a vast array of emotions without necessarily being motivated to action. In the post-emotional society feelings have not disappeared but rather – a new hybrid of intensified, mechanical, mass produced emotions have occurred on the world scene’ (O’Neill, 2006:26).
Meaning emerges in the dialectic between rationality and mimesis, or the image. Nevertheless, mimesis is not the panacea which unveils myths of freedom. A late capitalistic world organises work modes and leisure time in an ‘almost totally administered society’ (O’Neill, 2006:80), by a flood of images disabling imaginative thinking, which could envision new models of existence.
While mass media streamlines emotions and mass-produces sameness may it be advertisement or news, any feelings but desire vanish. Empathy is too much hard work, because it calls for action whereas desire lulls the consumer into day dreaming. Eventually, the spectator cannot differentiate between a war reportage or a crime–drama. Pain is entertaining, and indifference a state of mind.
On the other hand, Ben Shahn, an American printmaker (1898-1969) approached tragedy as something private and subtle. Shahn believed that ‘all observation must be moulded from an inner view’ (1957:43). Even addressing the tragedy of a fire in a tenement building was not a reason to portray horror, ‘I wanted instead to create the emotional tone that surrounds disaster; you may call it the inner disaster.'(ibid: 32). Motivated by empathy, Shahn combined commercial work with commissions of social value because ‘it is only against a background of hard reality that choices count, that they affect life, and carry with them a degree of belief and dedication’ (ibid: 10-11). Subtly merge rage with compassion because ‘art is made from humanism and controversy’ (ibid: 6).
Making images can be driven by a humanist impulse to educate. Art can be consciousness-raising. The image itself is not just to be shown, but to act and to be acted upon in the streets, since art has a physiological dimension and social spatiality, as identified in the manifesto New Babylon by Nieuwenhuys:
‘Sociologists extend this concept (see Homo Ludens) to the aggregate of social relations and ties that define man’s freedom of movement in society, and also, and above all, its limits. This symbolic interpretation of space is not one we share. For us, social space is truly the concrete space of meetings, of the contacts between beings. Spatiality is social. In New Babylon, social space is social spatiality. Space as a psychic dimension (abstract space) cannot be separated from the space of action (concrete space). Their divorce is only justified in an utilitarian society with arrested social relations, where concrete space necessarily has an anti-social character’ ( Nieuwenhuys, 1974:2).
The way to empathy may be through the intimate and not the epic, and through the spaces we share in daily life. . The arts can give meaning to our lives and our experiences because of their focus on particularity and the individual. Formless suffering or confusion is given a shape and moves beyond the obvious to resonate with the shared universal of a story. When we focus on the mundane and the minutiae in everyday life, we embed these in a greater context. War is incomprehensible to a distanced observer when presented as a mass on a battlefield. Show war as a separation of lovers, a pet cat shot, or family photographs burning, then we can gain insight to loss.
Art Writer, India
Art works in “Breaking News” majorly employ the genre of portraiture to invoke the current face of the cities artists’ belong to. Consequently, there is space to self-reflect, create a reflex or mirror image the restful with the contradictory. This provides momentum to art which is representational and figurative as a political strategy to reach out the masses and convey what comes as the closest anticipated moment. In India figurative- art-practices continues to be an encompassing volume of space to read the dimensions (personal to political, canonical to peripheral and so on) of the current and the historical which makes “Breaking News” an eventful choice. I would like to mention the human figures of the eminent artist Akbar Padamsee, which are “generic”, as opposed to culture-specific. In Breaking News often the figures are generic too. This makes, the moment of arrival of “Breaking News” a poignant one, creating an umbrella term for the conflicts of human existence in contemporary times. There is a turbulence due to commonly shared disturbances regarding the current state of world-ecology, issues of religious fundamentalism and sexual violence. The artists involved have detailed out their concerns in the chosen news or have ruminated over the history. These aspects make this issue a very special one.
Adriana Lucaciu of Romania simulates the human hand with the desire to possess power. Her work signifies hand protecting an indefinite thing similar to a black egg suggesting the manipulating news that often poisons the fragile reality.
Alberto of Italy has chosen the newspaper “La gazzetta di Venezia” (gazette of Venice).”The series of portraits entitled “Dog’s live” compare a shady face to a skull of dog. These diptychs of people and animal rests assimilate the life lived by persons to the borders of the power to that lived by the lost stray dogs in the outskirts. But in the eyes of the dog’s life the dark light extinguishes the power”. Alberto
Sameer Rao’s ( India) says about his print “The image through which I want to represent “BREAKING NEWS” is a surprised human figure with exaggerated oversized open mouth to swallow everything and reveal at the same time. The hands and arms have no limitations to multiply its reach. The figure appears to be larger and fleshier than glamorous. The celebrated image is turned out to be from the grave which usually is the case of crimes celebrated by the media through breaking news. This figure further has the potential to become flexible enough to take any twist and turn. A surprise later turns ugly, disgusting though few can also hide and pretend to be still welcoming and exciting.”
Tanuja Rane’s (India) woodcut print is titled “Two Beetles Fight”. “It’s all about our fights of our life – fighting winning … Creating space again loving again fighting… The creation goes on. There is nothing good or bad as such but it’s a vicious cycle.
I have shown two beetles fight as they both represent me. One is me and other is my mirror or my mind which all the time attacks and wins, and again gets defeated. It’s an ongoing process.” Tanuja Rane
Melihut from Turkey says, “Daily newspapers are reflections of today. Although the current events seem changing constantly (government-shadow cabinet debates, traffic accidents, etc.) they transform into an ordinariness which we could call as vicious circle. At this study, with the printing of my work named “Chaotic Cycle” on the breaking news page of the daily national and local newspapers which are published in Turkey, I emphasize the vicious circle of events on the new days on daily newspaper’s news”.
Rajesh Pullarwar’s print manifests inertia as a political satire for self-reflection, the darker side of an “opaque self” mirroring the portrait of the chaotic and troubled metropolis Mumbai (India).
“Breaking News” collectively intervene the parody of political satire as common ground of experiencing crisis in contemporary times, wherein the artists choose to be dark and silent within one. May it be Sameer Rao’s art-work from India or Badawy’s art-work from Egypt, the converging human desire for peace and harmony is registered with grim seriousness.
In the present times when contemporary art-practices have evolved intricately and become speculative of the 21st century World’s Spectacle, perhaps it is relevant to ask the question “Why Printmaking?” Rajesh Pullarwar, the artist and curator of IPEP conveys that Printmaking is relevant when a context of sharing (quantity) of original works is taken into consideration. History has always been inscribed by those in power. Often the Breaking News and History are strongly linked where the voices from the margins remains muted. IPEP’s theme, Breaking News brings about the voices of the artists- protagonists in the forefront and makes a critical observation of the contemporary media as a compulsive choice.