Art News & Views

Guest Editorís Column


The curious case of the absent artist

If you watch television, or attend seminars, or are otherwise in a room consisting of the country's elite and intelligentsia, here's one group of people you will most likely not see anywhere at these events: artists. This disengagement with daily politics, or issues of social debate, is something that should be of concern because, though artists grapple with them as a subject of their work, they rarely step out of their comfort zones to tackle these same issues on public platforms.

Is this absence, so glaring as to be obvious, the primary reason why art has not yet become a part of our national mainstream or consciousness?

Today, there isn't any social, political or cultural dilemma that remains outside the context of art, and artists have turned their attention to everything from domestic violence to global terrorism, from issues of migratory displacement to urban chaos, myopic state policies to phobias arising out of regressive antecedents. If we can address these concerns within the milieu of our own fraternity, why do we hesitate to take them on in an environment where the artist can become a spokesperson for the redressal of these ills by engaging in a dialogue in a physical space?

When we talk of peace (or war) with Pakistan, question sectarian brutality, address Maoist intensity, draw attention to farmer suicides, genocide, foeticide why is it that there is never an artist on panels that deliberate on these issues on national podiums? Why is the artist, who otherwise reflects on these matters, not roused enough to voice his opinion on these subjects? Why does the art fraternity shy away from participation on a more visible level? Is it enough to say that their job is done the moment they have put their brush, or chisel, away?

Politicians, statesmen, bureaucrats, editors, we expect to see them pontificate because it is their job, but isn't there also a counter-face to their views, whether learned or subjective, provided by authors, filmmakers, theatre-actors and directors? Their contribution is pivotal to any polemic on the nation's wellbeing, yet they too could argue that their ideology is evident in their book, or on screen, or on the stage. But in taking the subject out of its immediately cloistered, or privileged, background, they create awareness not just for their own creative self but also for their fields of expression.

It is these platforms that artists, but also art writers, scholars, art-historians, curators, even gallery owners/promoters, need to conquer if they want to be taken seriously beyond just a small bunch of collectors. They have to be responsible for creating their own relevance, an aspect they have neglected over the years. Once they are seen to represent a larger social and cultural environment, something lived on a daily basis, once they become household names, they will then enjoy the same respect that their peers from other but related cultural fields enjoy. Rather than nitpick about their own irrelevance to a more mainstream manifesto, isn't it time we took the opinion-making bull by the horn and added our voices to the clamour for an artistic legacy that is part of, and not separate from, democracy's ideal?

  Kishore Singh 
Guest Editor 




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art etc. news & views is a monthly magazine published from India in order to promote art and culture. It intends to raise awareness about art all around India and the world. The magazine covers art exhibitions, auction highlights, market trends, art happenings besides Antique, Collectibles, Fashion, Jewellery, Vintage, Furniture, Film, Music and Culture.