‘Art a satyagraha against simplification, totalisation’: Ashok Vajpeyi

Noted poet was panelist in KBF-Kerala Tourism seminar, inaugurated by President of India, that emphasised promotion of the sustainability of the arts and the preservation of cultural pluralities

Kochi, March 04: Asserting the role of the arts as an integral cultural indicator, renowned poets Ashok Vajpeyi and K. Satchidanandan and Kochi Biennale Foundation Secretary (KBF) Riyas Komu mooted avenues for art and cultural organisations to act against political apathy at a seminar held here on Thursday.


The two-hour discussion, titled ‘Importance of Sustainable Culture-building’, was inaugurated by the Honourable President of India Shri Pranab Mukherjee at the Pavilion in Cabral Yard, Fort Kochi, during his maiden visit to the Koch-Muziris Biennale.

Moderated by noted academician Prof. M.V. Narayanan, discourse at the seminar – organised by the KBF in collaboration with the Department of Tourism – mainly revolved around the role of the state in building sustainable art practices and encouraging and preserving both ‘local’ production and pluralities in art and culture.


“The Indian state is moving away from arts in a big way. Indian politics and Indian culture have been undeclared adversaries for years. Unless it is for ceremonial purposes, the politics in India does not care about culture. Art must be an unending ‘satyagraha’ against simplification, totalisation and vulgarisation,” Vajpeyi said.


Holding up the Biennale as an example of a proactive art initiative, the National award-winning litterateur observed that art institutions should take the issue up as a civic responsibility as the state is going further away from the arts. “The Biennale, over three editions, has shown that the effort of three or four individuals can revitalise art institutions,” he said. 


Satchidanandan recalled incidents of intolerance against freedom of expression around the country, linking this to the diminishing spaces for arts and culture in India. “All art is essentially oppositional as it works against hegemonic ideologies and status quo structures and should be an instrument of self awareness for a community,” said the Kerala Sahitya Akademi award winner, who noted that many universities are shutting down arts and culture departments – to replace them with more profitable ones.


“The primary goal of our higher education system is to produce technocrats rather than creative and cultured human beings,” said Satchidanandan, who observed that most art schools in India are showing signs of decline and decay due to the current political climate.


“The wrong priorities of unimaginative and indifferent leaders are withering the institutions of arts and culture. It is high time that the motto of ‘economics in command’ to be substituted with ‘culture in command’,” he added.

While current global structures are pushing for a certain kind of uniformity, Komu said, the onus must be on preserving the plurality of culture and the local art practices of every region.

“The ideas of culture remain permanently in plurality. Any notion of development that ignores sidelines or nullifies diversity of culture can be a self defeating move in the future,” he said.


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