Art reviews

Innovative illustrations

Art reviews

The way the “(social) bacteria” event was projected sounded grand, serious and innovative at least in theory. It was part of a large project series by FOA-FLUX, founded in Zurich by Dominique Lammli, a Swiss artist with a background in philosophy and Annemarie Bucher, her compatriot art and landscape historian.

Supported by Swiss government institutions and happening in different areas of the world from India to South America and Africa, it means to approach “the functions of art in global contexts” as a research venture on scientific, artistic and applied planes. After contacts with a traditional art school in Bhutan, the work presented at Bar1 studios on February 23 was described as “a visual essay on mutations in interdisciplinary work” and included interactions with a young microbiologist Deepa Agashe and the city performance artist Smitha Cariappa.

To vet one’s appetite further, the introductory piece of information brushed on the wall mentioned the possibilities of art and science teeming to questions ethical and environmental issues, using biological materials or chemical reactions to make art. One does know and accept, even with the whole heart, that bridging speciality segregation is full of revelatory potential and that art can be generated in most unexpected ways and environs including through the meeting of non-art practitioners or normal people. In tune with the changing character and behaviour of reality, art has to become transient, focussed on words, information or on what is occurring among people rather than resulting in stable, physical objects.

However it be achieved and whatever be achieved, the essential necessity for art it to conjure heightened sensations and thought-provoking recognitions between the participants and the audience. Perhaps one should take the Bar1 event as a stage in the learning process, nonetheless, the contributors should have practiced long enough to arrive at some interactive insights first in order to let the viewers intuit those. What the spectators faced in the actual were kind of illustrated starting point situations without affording a felt or even stated mutual impact and its broader ramifications.

Everyone sat facing the video projection that showed an inner room with three participants. Maybe the aim was combination of remote contact and close proximity. Anyway, what one saw was three phases that hardly related to one another except a theory and future potentiality. The scientist gave a rather condescending lecture on what educated people know already, for instance that bacteria can be good or bad while she displayed some familiar lab dishes too and seeds with sprouts.

The Swiss artist painted a bathroom scene with a screen and a tub, initially dripping pigment and then brushing a dragonfly, which could have been read as suggesting simultaneous cleansing and exposure to infection along with imagination, but did not really connect with the scientist so as to enable subtler or just new angle intuitions, like did not the scientist’s adding a few strokes to the temporary mural.

One commiserated strangely with Smitha Cariappa who was the only one to sincerely and gracefully try to interact with and influence what her colleagues as well as the audience felt. In between and towards the end of the project she kissed the participants and the viewers, offered them a desert suitably made of curds and pomegranate and collected spoons showing symptoms of a cold, eventually enacting an ancient death ritual involving food. Instead of believing that anything goes as long as it is supposed to be cutting-edge, perhaps the participants should consider that validity can be given to them by the audience and think what is possible for the audience to experience of what they offer to it.

Two kinds of amateur art

The duo exhibition at the Alliance Francaise (March 2 to 10) presented two different, almost equally popular aesthetic options employed by amateur artists. Although completely unlike each other, the styles of both participants nonetheless revealed a similar approach to ready form repertoires and broader subjects. In the case of Joe D’Souza the idiom may appear freer and more dictated by passion, whereas in fact his blend of faint but highly stylised linear silhouettes and very abstracted brushing all around closely follows a much overused and by now fairly old-fashioned paradigm. By contrast, MI Shaikh’s drawings in black pen and ink rely on photographically sourced and composed realistic sights from today’s Mumbai city. Conventionally chosen and viewed, it has the well-known crowded coexistence of imposing, colonial-time buildings, ordinary human crowds, taxies, trades and vegetation, all structured, shaded and textured monotonously varied hatchings. Comparatively interesting are the dense close-ups of plants or old clasped palms.

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