Kochi, May 18: Raising serious concerns over the spectre of censorship that is stifling creativity and suppressing dissenting voices, renowned artist and art educator B V Suresh said it is imperative to take a concerted stand against the fanatical elements that are creeping in the art arena and marginalising those who differ with them.
“Taking such a firm stand is the need of the time so that the boundaries which are being slowly built up by the censorship would not corrupt the younger generation. A painstaking effort in this regard to improve the situation should stem from the educational institutions,” he observed.
The artist was speaking at the ‘Let’s Talk’ programme organised by Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF) here on Thursday.
On the occasion, he made screen presentations of some of his inventive and creative works which he described as his expression “against the saffronisation of the country”. One of his works, titled ‘Facilitating the Beast’, was presented in Vadehra Gallery in Delhi in 2006 and it is a grim reminder of the ‘Best Bakery case’, an incident where a bakery was set ablaze causing the death of several people who had taken refuge in it. The metaphor he used in the installation was ‘burnt bread loaves’.
Suresh said the 60 loaves of bread he used in the installation were from a local bakery. “I did not expect it to survive for more than two weeks. But to my surprise, it survived many months. I have some of them with me even now as I had chemically treated them,” he added.
Through innovative and creative visual representations, he sought to display the stark realities of a politically charged milieu where the freedom of speech is being curtailed.
‘Albino’, his another work, reflects “on the identity crisis many people are undergoing in the country at the moment owing to the onslaught of saffronisation,” and he used ‘white peacock’ as the symbol in this installation. “Peacock is our national bird and lots of traits are attributed to it. But what about the identity of the white peacock?” he queried.
Yet another work of the artist showed “a weight being suspended on a thin thread and the Prime Minister’s voice assuring the farmers” could be heard in the background. But in no time, the weight falls on a cotton cushion with a thud, indicating the suppression of the voices of the farmers.
Reminiscing an occasion where he had difficulty in finding a place to display his work, he said, “I really struggled to find an alternate space as my work could not be placed in the predetermined gallery just because some of the religious symbols had occurred here and there in my work,” he noted.
Responding to a question in the Q & A session which followed after the talk, Ms Anita Dube, curator of the fourth edition of Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2018 spoke about the need of agencies in the artistic spaces. “There’s a fragmentation of cultural spaces with the actual spaces and it is where problems happen. Hence there’s a need for connecting these spaces. We need expansion of agencies rather than taking them away,” she pointed out.
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