Art review

Art review

in flames: Prakash L, Killer as victim

Considering the overwhelming persistence of violence, duress and cruelty that affect and draw in everyone, one may wonder why many artists here addressing this condition translate their response in essentialist and largely aesthetic ways. It was with much respect that one received the effort of Prakash L to face the situation head on, along with its immediate, drastic manifestations. Although the works in “Conflict”, displayed in a public hall at K Narayanapura off Hennur Road on November 8, were not always accomplished and often rather literal, otherwise unclear in their arbitrary metaphors, the artist’s impassioned involvement, even his rawness deserved appreciation, as did the sheer scale and complexity of the whole which comprised several videos, installations and his performance-like presence.

Throughout, there recurred the thread of innate and socio-political aggressiveness including underworld bloodshed, that enforced by the broader system damages lives, feelings and minds. This negative element emerged there as something equally natural to and ever coexisting with intrinsic human goodness, longing for love and striving to get out of the belligerence. In fact, Prakash seemed to accept the inevitability of any, even positive deed to cause harm to others and to simultaneously trust the self-redeeming spirit of people. Two of the “Stream of Time” video series are interviews with and monologues by gangsters driven by revenge or political pressure who, nonetheless, opted out finding new bases in sport and publishing. The handling of the films may be too simple as prosaically direct documentation, in one case alternating with shots of clouds and meaning-laden village scenes. More cogent in its rough, registering tone that brings out tender notes is the piece about hapless insane and cripples looked after by modest medics and disabled children who run races but help one another.

The viewer was baffled by the multi-part installations which dealt with the proximity of trash and spiritual aspirations, with the contrary aspects and impact of human endeavour or of a woman’s life, the works being crowded with randomly interpreted metaphors without an evocative power. A better effect, if needing some explanation, had the tied up sheep and the artist dressed like a joker from a commercial advertisement hinting at the passivity of people manipulated by the forces around them. The culminating event of the show was quite serious with the performative sculpture-video centred on an immense Ravana figure outside, on the village crossroads.

The statue resembled north Indian folk symbols of evil, but the film projected on a screen filling its chest appeared to carry the southern tradition of the hero who epitomises the inseparable togetherness of good and bad constituents of existence. Images of vegetation, water and rustic animals or implements followed and blended there with urban streets, construction and fast moving traffic, harsh shots with pleasant designs.
Eventually the artist torched Ravana’s skirt and the figure burned spectacularly in the dark of the night, the projected film scarred by the gradually charring screen-chest.
Whether this was Prakash’s intention or not exactly, one tended to sense the significance of the gesture at the same time as annihilation of evil and as death awaiting all our efforts, its ritualistic form perhaps suggesting renewal.

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