For long I have been thinking, why amid such largely negative political and social changes in the country, no protest art can be seen?
Thankfully, my search took me to Decoding Democracy, a highly provocative, questioning, answering, commenting, mocking, eulogizing and satirical show by Kishore Chakraborty at Art Konsult, Haus Khas Village in New Delhi. The art pieces, mainly three-dimensional sculptures, installations and paintings are unique for mainly two reasons; its deep red colour and the hidden narrative. So, within the seemingly simple-shaped objects like hot water bags, bottles, a thick book, a damaged spinal chord, numerous tiny graffiti joined in a parallel manner to shape a huge collage and mysterious large paintings, the show invites curiosity. Its first installation is a thick book kept wrapped in red cloth like a scripture or a manuscript this Bengal-born Delhiite has created.
While the left pages of the book have random images denoting scar marks, stitches etc, the pages on the right have immensely provocative poems in Bengali that he has cut in laser. The cuts indicate perforation in democracy, in politics, in our lives. The book has 25 poems and each corresponds with abstract images. The content largely rejects politics and warns political parties not to indulge in the politics of self interest with everybody. Take for example, a poem “Shudhdhu Rajniti Jonne…” means ‘only for politics, I am born, eat, sleep and make relations’.
Another poem, “Aamar pratotibaad kaura shahos nei, kaino aami ka purish (I cannot protest because I am coward) is about the dull routine of human beings which is averse to the changes in life and protest for wrong. Kishore’s another installation titled “Only for politics” is based on a collage of several bottles painted red.
This is the numbness the political parties offer to the poor in the run up to elections in lieu of promised votes. The same thing is given to the rich people as gifts of expensive alcohol. The reason is, they want people to be in sedated state so that they don’t get to know what is really happening through politics. An angry artist says, in the greed of getting these freebies, many voters sell their conscience, and don’t protest when the need arises, as they remain numb to atrocities. “Democracy is the biggest commodity today. So I think there will be a share market of democracy soon,” Kishore philosophizes.
Another interesting works is a curved, damaged spinal cord, kept on a shelf, called “Still it is visible”. He has penned a poem for this work. It warns, “you should carry your spinal cord with you. We need to use our brain and spinal cord attached with each other, not to keep on a shelf, if it is unused, please pick it up, wash it and wipe, else it will rust”. It urges viewers to speak up, protest if the need be, to save democracy.
The show is a retrospective journey of this artist, also graphic designer, a youth who hailed Marxist ideology in his prime and “got disillusioned” , a senior fellowship winner from the Ministry of Culture and Charles Wallace Trust, a sharp observer of political ideologies and its consumers. In a way, he questions the hypocrisy of all political ideologies in the country.
Therefore, all his works in mixed media (paper, vegetable dye and cast) are painted in deep red, the colour of blood and passion, with hints of some basic hues to break the monotony. “I don’t produce art. My works smell of gunpowder”, he shoots.
This must-visit show concludes on January 17.