'Old systems must be broken to make way for new ones'

The only way for a ruler to show his power is to display art. How else would a rich man show his muscle? Definitely not by showing off his bank account. He does it by buying art and showing it off to get praised in return,” says Inder Salim, a Delhi-based performance artist who originally hails from Kashmir.

Born and brought up in south Kashmir’s Bijbehara town, Inder Salim, migrated first to Jammu and then to Delhi in the year 1989, following the eruption of militancy in the valley. A graduate in sciences, he however, could not stay far from the world of arts and aesthetics, even though he took up a job as a banker.

Few years into performing arts, Inder Tickoo became Inder Salim, a ‘conceptual name’ which he took in an effort to break what he calls ‘older systems’.

“The name Salim might not have much significance except that it helped me to break away from an existing system. That’s how it should be. Old systems must be broken to make way for new ones,” said the 49-year-old artiste just moments after he pulled out a 1000 metre fabric dotted with poems from an empty building located in posh Jor Bagh area.

At the same event, he recited his poems as part of his performance which he termed as ‘an articulation in architecture’. “Laws, morals and institutions are meant to be broken, beauty lies there,” one of his poems read. “Long live the workers of Delhi,” reads another.

During a performance earlier this year, Inder Salim smashed watermelons filled with olives during the Israeli bombing of Gaza. Olives were a preferred choice owing to the fact that thousands of families in Palestine earn their livelihood from olive farming.

Besides focusing on issues of gender, environment and workers’ rights, his
work mostly features the Kashmir conflict.  Among many of his noticeable works was a performance in 2013, during a show named ‘Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir’ (Reality of Kashmir) which was organised by civil society members of Kashmir to protest against Zubin Mehta’s concert.

While his work has generated quite a controversy in the past, he believes that what he and many others like him do, is an important opposition mechanism to the culture of repression.

“The state or state rulers have a tendency to behave tyrannically, that too is a culture. Hence it is required for an alternative culture to exist,” he told Metrolife.

Though he has spent more than 20 years in Delhi and is an integral part of the socio-cultural scenario of the Capital, Inder says “Kashmir continues to be in my heart”. His latest performance, he said is based on the fact that his work on Kashmir was refused by Kochi-Muziris Biennale, an international exhibition of contemporary art.

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