Art activism spurs BBMP into action mode

Art activism spurs BBMP into action mode

Artist Baadal Nanjundaswamy’s riveting placement of a life-like crocodile model inside a gaping pothole on Sultanpalya Main Road finally had BBMP kicking. Desperate to stem a rising public storm triggered by this artwork both on the ground and social media, the Palike men were at work at the spot from Friday morning. Art activism couldn’t have got more dramatic.

For over a month, the pothole had remained unattended. But even as rains gave it a deadly twist and motorists took dangerous detours, the glaring symbol of official apathy sparked Baadal’s activism. Thursday morning, he arrived with his reptile model and greenish paint. The crocodile pond was about to take shape, one designed to deliberately shock the civic agency out of its apparent stupor.

Overnight rains had filled Baadal’s potholed canvas. That fitted with his plan perfectly as Baadal splashed it in a riot of green-tinged colours. The setting was just right to place the crocodile, its menacing presence sparking a rush of curious looks. Some recoiled in shock at the model’s realism, while others applauded the message.

A big crowd gathered, motorists slowed down to stare. But Baadal was pleasantly surprised when some motorcyclists stopped to help. “They controlled the traffic as I painted. It was like a streetplay out there,” recalled Baadal. A trained visualiser and art director of films such as the experimental Kannada movie, Lucia, he knew exactly how to create a spectacle in a budget of Rs 6,000.

Unprecedented in audacity, Baadal’s crocodile episode was striking enough to hit the headlines. Picked up online on Friday, images of Baadal’s reptile deed unleashed a social media storm, nationwide. Reeling from the Mumbai rains, the twitterati could perfectly identify with risky, potholed roads. The artist was excited by the response. It was another acknowledgment of his firm belief: “Art can bring about social change.”
For Baadal, the crocodile project was just one among many. Hazardous, misplaced road-dividers, for instance, always propelled his art. “If I find anything amiss, I do some quick ideating to respond artistically. On Diwali day, I had painted the median blocks as cracker bombs. On Christmas day, I had visualised them as Santa’s gifts,” Baadal explained.

His mastery over the artform and optic illusions helped him tweak drawings on the floor to defy dimensions. Baadal would squat and yet appear to be mounted on an elephant or a vintage car painting.    

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