Khoj 1999 (Modinagar)

31/10/1999 00:00
The third international artists workshop - Khoj 1999, was marked by intense dialogue and debate.
Khoj 1999 (Modinagar)
Modinagar, Uttar Pradesh, India
Sunday, 31 October 1999
Anita Dube

'One position, one voice, lacks dialectical resonance... [dialogue offers] a latticework of thoughts and points of view that interweave and complement each other' Suzi Gablik, Art critic and artist

The Khoj 1999 workshop was marked by intense dialogue and debate and much of the work produced was underlined by a strong socio-political conscience. Simultaneously, the work of performance based artists, Michael Shaonawasai from Thailand, Song Dong form China, Anne Marie Culhane from the UK and Subodh Gupta, India blurred boundaries and provided interesting overlaps between performance as art/performance art.

Through these workshops over three years, Khoj has endeavored to integrate various art forms to provide a forum for artistic freedom and experimentation. With twenty-four artists at Sikribagh, Modinagar, Khoj 1999 was packed with strong individuated, politicised and poetic voices that debated with critical artistic interventions.

Khoj 1999 (Modinagar) Catalogue1.19 MB
Critics Essay By Anita Dube

The Critic-in-Residence for the Khoj Workshop 99 was Anita Dube. Anoli Perera, a participating artist also contributed an essay (see below). Khoj 1999

By Anita Dube

A workshop is not a workshop, is a workshop. The same location the same structure, but a different set of twenty four artists, and everything was transformed : The atmosphere and the sites, by the unique dynamics of human exchange. That was KHOJ # 3, as combustible as they come, packed with strong individual voices, politicized voices, poetic voices, spontaneous debate and critical interventions. Theory and praxis all thrown into a melting pot spiced with differences and contradictions and confrontations. Khoj 1999, was a provocative construct, not so much through deliberation as by chance, a compound-mixture of experience intending to stand many a priori determinations on the head.

Let us begin story in Sikribag, the huge, walled to colonial Modi house, used by the family's gurus, that housed the artists during the workshop. Set amidst acres of land, fields, mango and guava orchards, a private pond (to which the residents of Modinagar have access only during certain festivals like the chat puja), assisted by a small army of servants in true feudal, provincial, U.P. style. Or should we begin in Modinagar, once a flourishing industrial township founded by the Modis (a premier entrepreneurial family of post-independent India), now in a state of quasi abandonment, with family funds, litigation, sick units and disbanded labour - And with the new features of cross development that mark small highway towns in UP ? This sharp inside / outside contradiction became central in the work of many artists metaphorically and significant politically, which we must keep in mind as we go along.

Early in the workshop, Subodh Gupta and Charles Citroen set off for Saharanpur a village 6 kms. from Modinagar. Subodh collected objects from the villagers a hookah, a plough, a brass pot, an empty bottle, a small insignificant blackened container used for putting oil in machines etc. In this contact with the villagers he returned to his roots, to childhood memories and rituals, trying to connect the stories buried in the objects to his own story. With the help of women he smoothed the surface of a filed with a paste of mud and cow dung. Cutting into this to the shape of each object, he sunk them in at different depths. Himself anointed with the same paste, he placed himself in the center of the field in Shravasana (corpse posture), in a ritual of cleaning and forgetting himself.

Meanwhile Charles Citroen underwent an "orientation/ disorientation" experience. Nothing had prepared him for an "International" workshop in such a "local" place. As a Euro-American also, he found himself in a minority. He made pictures, as he's done earlier in 35 countries, posing G.I. Joe, the American zombie - the village, in the arms of street-boys, against a fresco in the Modi temple complex. Negative stereotype / alter ego, Joe's pathology was communicated through juxtapositions. But being small, a toy, he got by, while the real Charles suffered neurosis when the surface of his skin got nicked by the blade of a local barber. He compulsively bandaged, covered up, tied together odds and ends, poles, toys, balls, coils of rope, chairs in pieces that were like innards suspended in a deliberate interference of space mirroring a westerner's paranoia at the comfortable chaos, crowding / touching of local life in the market.

For Anne Marie and Mariusz Soltysik, searching for materials, the same street became a nightmare. Stoned by a group of school boys having some cruel fun, they tried to escape from the encounter during the course of the workshop. They invented a surreal romantic masquerade, an orientalist fantasy in which Mariusz was an exotic man - bare forso - haram pants and Anne Marie a saree draped princess. Photographed near the pond, in the cotton field - they showed slides of their collaboration. A debate began around Said's critique of orientalism - on why their fantasy was routed via the Arab world During the workshop Anne Marie made a thread web-work on a mango tree, a fragile and temporary home to feel secure in. She controlled the tension in the thread, in the abstract lines and negative spaces, and as she bound herself in, she intuitively performed her way out. Mariuz's anger against the "Modi Mafia", for the chaos of the town, for the failures of electricity and water simmered. Ann Marie and he again collaborated on a photo project in which they photographed themselves as Gujarmal Modi and Dayawati Modi, replacing the patrons photos bearing down on all of us. Another debate began here around the "freedom of the artist" and the rupturing gesture of the avant garde. We asked them about their awareness of local national histories, about responsibilities even within the avant garde.

Meanwhile, Huma Mulji from neighbouring Pakistan felt amazingly at home. Observing popular advertisements of consumer items, on the walls and billboards in the town, she wanted to bring three symbols of contemporary capitalist culture into the feudal-field of Sikribag. A dish antenna, a tyre, a sewing machine and fans made with ply-board, were covered skin to skin with patterned florescent pink, green and purple sarees. Installed in the field, the antenna-dish was the transmitter / receiver of signals, the "medium" through which seduction flowed, magnetizing the fans like moths which whirled around in dislocated edginess. An inflated tyre lay still. It was the domestic sewing machine, however, the smallest item, which was the surreal witness in this witty parable.

For Navjot Altaf memories of her childhood in Meerut returned. She combined these with her engagement with the Bastar tribals. The official politics that surrounded the amazing Mahua tree became her focus. Under the only one in the compound, she installed a swing constructed out of railway sleepers. She told us that forest officers in M.P. have stopped the planting of Mahua trees because its flowers are used by adivasis (tribals) to distill alcohol, forgetting that its bark is used to make a medicine for arthritis, its seeds crushed for oil, that throughout the year it provided shade. In protest she planned a planting of 100 Mahua saplings in five primary schools with the help of school children. With the compound children she made brightly coloured paper boats that were floated in a water channel near the house on open day. In another context Ramesh Kalkur engaged with the inside/outside contradiction, quoting and commenting on the Post-impressionism within the post-modern, with wit, reversals and a wry irony. A clear knowledge of the out of sync illusions of underdeveloped economies underscored his work. Working with the aviary he wove an image of the cage as seen from the outside (quoting the 50 mm lens), onto the rectangular frame of the pipe-iron cot. Perceptional knowledge, fauvism, pointillism and weaving skills helped him realize an image surface to contemplate or to sleep on. The modernist object image was thus encaged within the real cage.

Opposite Kalkur, Subba Ghosh blew up the marginal proletarian subjects into larger than life characters - Ramesh, Roshni, Ismail and Komal - on the outer walls of the caretakers quarter. Academically painted these portraits belonging to the social - realist genre were offset by a post - modern excavation in the surrounding ground that yielded labour implements.

In contrast Balasubramaniam was involved in the sensory perception of ambiguous polar phenomena and a translation of this into material form. In one work, 700 porcipine (ish) wooden needles painted first red, then black were inserted into an inverted pot projecting 360° in all directions. It was the space between them that interested him, the ambiguity of the positive and negative, the blurring of the outline. He placed this "small animal" in the junction pit of the water ducts which was painted in the junction pit of the water ducts which was painted a corrosive red. A heavy drone in the sound piece created the atmosphere. Another work placed 13 mirrors framed with straw along a straight line. The watering mirrors reflected the changing sky. In "thanks to the sky" he mixed paper pulp in water, allowing it to evaporate and return to the sky.

While touring the S.K. Modi factories (searching for materials). in a particular abandoned melancholic shed filled with waste, two ara (saw) machines stood silently as in a Louise Bourgeois installation. In a moment of inspiration Alex Mathew put a white fluff of grass through the wheel knob of the giant machine. The site became alive and used for a performance piece by Anita Dube. Sheba Chhachhi photographed this shed, the machine with the grass fluff and the debris, which became the projected backdrops of her installation in the house. Researching the history of this shed, Sheba discovered Itbari Lal Khan, a carpenter employed in the same shed in the early days of Modinagar when the doors and windows of the Modi houses and factories were being constructed. She made photo portraits of Itbari and his colleagues, who had lost their jobs. these were transferred onto transparent lith film in multiples. The coal black faces were layered onto the centrally framed horizontal mirror (a fantasy landscape with a reclining Veena-playing apsra- a kitchy nayika from the Todi ragamala). This seductive/ reflective source of light was concealed by the rogue's gallery. The debris from the shed was projected on to this above the mantle shelf. Below, the giant machine was projected from the floor-tangentially -into the fire - place, its grey and pink marble border holding the white fluff. On the way it illuminated the cupped cut hands of Itbari holding his identity cards, reminding us of the story of the building of the Taj Mahal and the fate of the artisans.

In a differently engaged manner Shilpa Gupta chose a very basic disused wash - room in the care takers compound, almost swallowed up by the expanse of Subba's work. A retrieval of function became central to her engagement with a public site. She repaired the waterline, attached a tap, and altered this roofless structure a bit towards her minimal, conceptual interests. A string of fairy lights was embedded in a straight line on the inner and outer horizontal facades of this white structure. The dotted line ended in a full stop breast cast with prominent aureolic hair. Inside the semi private washing area on the floor were embedded two square marble files with etched drawings like misplaced quotations from the history of art as a fragment of distant memory.

Alex Mathew came preoccupied with the real life story of the abandoned wife of an artist friend. This woman crazed with grief disappeared and no one knew whether she was dead or alive. Anita helped him compose a Brechtian ballad around this story which formed the border around his work. He wanted shadows to represent the stories of such women, but was unable to convince working-class women who came to cut grass in Sikribag, to come into a darkened room to model for the work, for fear of scandal, Sheba, Shilpa and Anita helped out and their shadows were cut out from plyboards and painted black, Installed on the terrace of the house, the iron structure with a hook as well as the negative areas of the plyboards contributed to this study of traumatized women.

It was the artists from the far and near east, Song Dong and Michael Shaowanasai who brought a fresh and a free approach to art making that was revealing. Song Dong left for us the mercurial breath of an artist, in the inner body of vacuum flask, on the last day. During the workshop he sat silently for an hour or two each day, face almost touching the wall, on a large wooden platform (takhat) in the busy courtyard area, in a ten day action-work that remembered the Indian Buddhist monk who went to China and not knowing the language remained silent for ten years. In another work he cut up the pages of a Hindi textbook on history "Bharat Ka Itihaas" until it was a shredded hairy conceptual Art-Object placed on a table for contemplation, with two facing chairs.

Michael Shaowanasai brought theatricality, performance and gay issues into the workshop. He showed us the "Tale of the Iron Pussy", a Thai film, in a local Modinagar theatre, demonstrating that despite the language barrier communication was easy because of plot and structure with popular Hindi films, that echoed the similarity within peoples lives. In another work he dressed himself up as an Indian bride, taking on a dream identity, that he has attempted in different locations. Local make up artists, hair stylists helped him don a saree, imitation jewellery etc. to reach the desired effect. He got himself photographed, and hung this come-hitcher but coy portrait over a slogan panel, kitchy and bedecked with painted flowers that read - "Blow my horn but keep distance".

Michael Lin from Taiwan however continued his practice of transforming interior spaces with blown up patterns from popular textiles. In the lounge, on the wall surrounding the fireplace, he painted a stylized green vine - pattern taken from a textile. Preparatory drawings on a grid were projected and synchronized with the grid on the wall to enlarge the pattern. Theatre backdrop, wall paper, design, a fragment from popular culture, a stylized piece of nature - all come together in this artifice.

Jayashree Chakravarty alias Khepa, filled the early hours of the morning with the pure sound of song, haunting in its crystalline beauty lined with pain. In her work she wanted to capture sunlight as an experiment with working in nature. She painted a large cloth backed paper piece that curved in. Painted with her characteristics free mark making in inks and acrylic, she wanted to install this vertically as a kind of enclosure, a cave open to the sky, where real sunlight would play with its painted cousin.

Meanwhile Fiona Foley's was a full-on response to the sense of India as experienced in the market place in which colour was naturally dominant. Mounds of dried red-chillies and turmeric attracted her as natural materials associated with the world of women in the home. These became layers of symbols in two works with strong geometric designs of circles and half circles, on flat hard grounds prepared with robin blue ultramarine pigment, that were reminiscent of her sand sculptures. Decking her with marigold garlands and henna in enjoyment of the local culture she also made a work stringing pipal leaves cut in red and yellow paper dipped in wax. This made a concave arched line on the wall over a similar arched line made with strung marigolds. Having previously used markers from as original culture and history to empower aboriginal identity, here, without particular historicity, these markers could not escape the exotic that usually foregrounds contact with other cultures. Anoli Perera and Belle Shafir, also prominently used red (kumkum) pigment to ground their work.

Metaphors of imagination, travel and borders preoccupied Anoli, especially the context of the Sri Lankan identity being a suspicious identity within international travel. She sunk eleven small and large shallow galvanized iron trays in a geometric floor pattern, near the pond, into the flattened earth of the embankment. These trays were filled with water that metaphorically represented the reality of Sri Lanka. Within each an earthen pot with a lid was placed, its neck tied ritualistically with mouli or thread dipped in a sindhur paste. The outer surface of the pots carried an English stream of consciousness text reflecting the anxieties and the psyche of a traveller. For her the pots were like knots of emotion in the process of leaving home and negotiating a space and an identity elsewhere.

Belle Shafir was deeply moved by the warmth, easy camaraderie, and purity of the ordinary people in Modinagar, that contrasted with her experience in the capitalist / militarist state of Israel. She made a shrine for love "Pyar hi Jeeva Hai"(love is life), in a quiet corner near the pond, surrounded by mango trees. Around one totemic trunk, decorated with garlands, a primitive bark carving and drawings, she smoothed and smeared the egg shaped land with Sindhur mixed with milk. Around this was a garland of dried leaves. Fragile and ecologically aware, the work was filled with stray details of stitched leaves that were scattered around.

Kay Hassan had other political and ecological concerns that oversteped Carl Andre's minimal line. With organic waste of dried leaves and twigs he made a foot wide line that bisected the path from the entrance of the house to the compound wall. This was lit up on the night of open day in a straight line of fire, around which the artists unwound themselves.

Minimalism's long tail was visible in many works, in one way or another. Al Obaidi flew into the middle of the workshop and created work with the help of Huma Mulji previous works. He displayed these, one open and one closed in the courtyard outside the house. He also promised financial support for a small business for Salim (Itbari Lala's son) who helped him, as a gesture acknowledging the economic unevenness of the interaction.

Meanwhile Mariusz Soltysik continued the minimal story by constructing a few meter long, L-shaped beam with plywood. Painted a deep ultramarine blue it was installed at the edge of the pond, just off the water with a steel support structure. It was visible from across the water body as a blue line.

Here, Shyamala constructed a bamboo structure tied together with coarse jute rope that pushed forward her preoccupation with structures and diagrams rooted in a genre of Cholamandal Art but brought into a new aspect of sculpture. This ambitious eight pronged grid originating from an octagon was designed to float in the central pond, but floated half in and half out having become too heavy, and with perhaps too little water in the pond.

In a different approach to interactive work, L.N. Tallur designed his space as a kitchy road-show called "Welcome to the global village - eat here and meet me anywhere". A red jute carpet led one into the servants quarter, where under a canopy on a plat form was a hollowed out T.V. box filled with images of God and fitted with different coloured bulbs that viewers could activate sitting on a sofa and smelling the incense from plugged in electrified incense sticks. In another piece a stuffed hen, i.e. a 3-D object was placed inside the idiot-box to be viewed under psychedelic light conditions that a viewer could optionally never the less control.

Finally Patrick Mukabi from Kenya encountered for the first time a diversity of practices that opened up many possibilities for him, especially the works that interacted with sites. He installed painted canvases around the well, with images that linked up with his usual voyeuristic images of women. (Women and wells and Patrick, well!) And so another Khoj went by and another one is in the making. Meanwhile there has been a change of guard. I say adieu, Khuda hafiz, and Khoj Jindabad in the same breath on behalf of all of us initial working group members, may the existing experiment germ retain its energy and vision.

Anita Dube

New Delhi, August 2000

Critic's Essay II By Anoli Perera

Is Artist's Freedom a Negotiated Autonomy ?

By Anoli Perera

In a truest sense, the Khoj experience made me question my own inhibitions and convictions about the premises of art production in order to search for answers to the issues that informed much of the intense discussions in the 3rd international workshop at Modinagar, India, in November 1999. The most important issue that interested me was the one that surfaced with regard to the works of Anita Dube and Anne-Marie Culhane & Mariusz Soltysik. Their work brought to the forefront notions of freedom articulated in the visual arts and manifest in the role and action of the artist in contemporary situations. It also questioned to what degree artist's freedom may find autonomy in the context and politics of his/her chosen work site. It also deals with the historicism of the consuming public on the basis of which the artist's freedom of expression gets re-negotiated and, his/her intentions and their validity get questioned.

One of the works central to this discussion is the series by Anita Dube called Silence (Blood Wedding) (1998) comprising of thirteen pieces of sculpture. As Kamala Kapoor describes in her interview with the artist: "In Silence (Blood Wedding) Dube transforms the composite of a human skeleton into separate, isolated images encased in opulent, sensuous blood-red velvet, suggesting the body as site of both pleasure and pain, where desire and death forever entwine...." (Kapoor 2000: 41).

Let me juxtapose these observations with Dube's own narrative on her work: "When my father was first diagnosed with cancer in 1996, my relationship with death was revived in an immediate and physical way... Some connections were triggered at this point and I began looking for the skeleton my brother had once used for this medical studies. Ironically, these bones which I finally found in a sack in my mother's storeroom, were my first "found objects" the remains after the fact of death. I knew I had to work in reverse-from death back into life. This became a challenge for me: first using one bone (the ulna) to make the "Flower" and then carving others, combining them into new structures and forms-a bird, a fan, a garland-things close to my inner world, translated into sculptures that are simple aphoristic metaphors or haiku poem" (quoted in Kapoor 2000:42).

The other artwork relevant to this discussion was done at the 1999 Khoj workshop by Anne-Marie Culhane & Mariusz Soltysik as a joint project. Culhane and Soltysik chose as their work an impersonation by themselves of two photographic images that were prominently displayed in the living room, of the founding father and mother of the Modi business empire, The artists replaced the original pictures in the frames with the photo images of themselves dressed up as the male and female Modis. Here, it is necessary to explain the immediate social context in which the artwork was done. The workshop site is a large house situated in an extensive area of land (named Sikhribagh) belonging to the Modi family, one of the wealthy industrial families of India who were also the founders of the Modinagar city. The house is given annually to Khoj as their contribution to the art event, where all the artists reside and work. All service personnel at the site as well as services (food, cleaning etc) are provided by the Modis, which also invariably includes numerous hierarchical relationships entertained by staff within the premises. During the workshop, the artists experienced numerous service related problems to which the Modi were held responsible, more or less. At the same time, some of the artists genuinely felt uncomfortable with the feudal and hierarchical power structure operational among the staff.

Although conceptually and aesthetically these two works differed from each other, the political issue that surfaced around both was more or less similar. In both cases, a question arose as to the artists authority to appropriate as well as the act of such appropriation itself. In other words, the premises of their freedom in the name of art was questioned. To formulate this discussion further, let me quote Bourdieu: "The autonomy of art and the artist, which the hagiographic tradition accepts as self-evident in the name of the ideology of the work of art as creation and the artist as uncreated creator, is nothing other than the (relative) autonomy of what I call a filed, an autonomy that is established step by step, and under certain conditions in the course of history." (Bourdieu 1996:140)

Basically, the twentieth century art movements globally were about debates on representation, the politics of representation, its mechanics and meaning. These debates and struggles identified as "movement" became the intensive liberating forces against the established hierarchies and oppression of assumptions. Within these struggles of transformation, the symbolic role of the artist was formulated as someone who supposedly gave access to the "truth" of our "nature", someone who has the power to create. In other words, the artist was seen as a genius. At present, at the beginning of the 21st century, artists have assumed a varying degree of roles, and contemporary art displays a multitude of meanings. Art can be mirroring social reality or be non-acknowledging it; it can codify social cannon or defy it. Art can be syrupy, irritating or disruptive. The artist can be a true interventionist, conformist, social recluse or symbolic deviant in society. Whatever the role, the notions of "freedom" of the artist takes its cue from such symbolic garbs, But the question is, can freedom that is negotiated within the historicity of the art field as Bourdeau believes, be left with such autonomy? Today, in the times of globalization and notions of global village where everything overlaps, where margins are blurred, where complexity of social processes demand an acute socio-political conscience, the art5ist is no longer privileged to indulge in his/her own inhibited fantasies. At the same time, in the era of postmodernism where individual identity is emphasized over collective identities, notions of the autonomy of social subjects and personal liberation without universalistic claims or ideological consistency, have become very attractive. The freedom that artists have to deal with should be located within these two contradictory dichotomies.

At the same time, art produced within this negotiated freedom has its own complex existence once confronted by its consuming audience. An event of art and aesthetics becomes a product of broad cultural and social relations that are production. It is marked by the artist's whole set of relationships which include his socialization as "social subject" and "producer", as well as the social demands and constraints that are included in the context of his labour. These social demands and constraints are reflected through the consuming audience of an artwork where again the economics of consumption relies on the individual context of each consumer. Therefore it is obvious today that no uniform audience exists, no single culture defines art and no art object can be totally objective and uninfluenced from the external world. This informs one of the complexity in which an art object is produced and comes to exist. It also informs one that the artist's action and production is constantly open for a process of evaluation and reevaluation. In this axiom, the artist's freedom gets defined and contextualized within a negotiated space. It is the space where the artist's authority. the consuming audience, context of the object, context of the production and meaning of that produced object overlaps with each other. Here, one factor cannot negate the existence of the other and the artistic freedom's boundaries get marked according to the economies of each factor reacting with the other. Therefore, the artist's freedom is one of contested spaces.

Looking at Dube's case, the issue was the concern over the artist's authority to appropriate someone's identity and body after death in the name of art. Since her work did not include or indicate a reference to the person that the bones belong to, a question arose as to how much of relevance the identity of that person had in the artist's conceptualization of the work and her intention. Here, the issue was also about a sense of violation of the dead by the artist due to her use of human remains, Keeping in mind the danger of falling into the antiquated belief that art must have a moral purpose to be socially credible, I would nevertheless pose the following question : can artists totally ignore the ethical and moral positions as well as the historicism of the social context in which they work ? If they do, isn't it possible to interpret them as beings who are above every other social subject? Or, should we be looking at art purely in a clinical context of the artist and his/her studio and in a temporal freeze where historicity of everything else other than the art object and artist is controlled?

Since the work was put to a global audience at the Khoj workshop, contemplating such Utopian possibilities were no longer relevant or possible. Once the audience consumes the artwork, its meaning or meanings get articulated within the habitus (Bourdieu 1996: 141) of the viewer. The grounds on which the viewer bases his/her reaction is therefore not in the clinical context of the artwork in a temporal vacuum. It is also a result of a genealogy of his / her being and the socio-political and cultural discourses relating to his/her existence. I would take as an example the Australian artist Fiona Foley's reaction to Dube's work at the Khoj workshop to place in contest these issues. For Foley, coming from an Australian Aboriginal background, such using of human bones in a situation where it is displayed as a beautiful object brought the work directly into the colonial discourse that she is familiar with.

To Foley, Dube's act of appropriation was analogous to the colonizer's authoritative act of violating and appropriating the burial remains of the colonized subjects as in her ancestors time which then ended up in museums and private collection to be displayed as conquered trophies and curios or to be the objects of anthropological inquisitiveness and inquiry. At the same time, one cannot negate the intentions of Dube and her circumstance of production of Silence (Blood Wedding). One could assume from her narratives about the artwork, her personal subjective context of traumas and tragedies governed her intentions where as she explains 'I know I had to work in reverse- from death back into life' (Kapoor 2000:43)- In this sense, one could consider an interpretation of overcoming death where resurrection becomes the artist's intention. Here, her work becomes not a violation of the dead, but a deep rejection of "death". But this interpretation of the artist's intention based on verbal narrative will be accepted by the audience only if the art object can visibly be justified it in its aesthetics and presentation.

My observation is that this is the exact point where Dube's work fails. The Silence (Blood Wedding) does not do much to connect the audience to the artist's sense of loss and her rejection of death. As such, it creates a gap where interpretations and reactions such as Foley's can become legitimate and also leaves room to question the artist's use of human remains as a vehicle for pure aesthetic expression. At the same time, using human bones for artistic expression should be debated on a larger context. The question was raised at the Khoj workshop that if human bones can be used in the name of science, why can not it be used in the name of art? Irrespective of the field of study, the fact remains that in every society there are social and cultural discourses on handling of human remains after death. In some communities it can be sacred, for another it can be inauspicious and in times of war and terror it can generate a totally different symbolic meaning.

Therefore, at any given point in time and in a particular context, if someone chooses to act differently to the prevalent socio-cultural and historical discourses on the body after death, such an act would meet with resistance. Through its historical evolution, medical sciences have under the guise of preservation of humanity etc. developed a particular rationale of the use of human remains in medical sciences is generally a controlled activity carried out in restricted spaces such as laboratories, and do not usually constitute spectacles. It is also a common practice for some individuals to instruct their families to donate their bodies to medical laboratories and schools for experimentation. This leaves less room to raise issues of ethics because permission has been granted for the use of one's remains prior to death.

Considering this situation, viewers reactions for using human remains for a given purpose should be read within the discourse of each field and by the intention of the act. Similarly, in most cases, the autonomous appropriation - without permission - of someone's (human) remains becomes a violation in an ethical sense. In Dube's case, the identity of the person whose bones had been used to create art had already been violated in the name of medical science. Again, such a violation is taken for granted, perhaps because a margin has been left for that within the discourses that rule medical science. My point is that one cannot expect to use something that has a multitude of symbolic meanings as human bones in the name of art and not be scrutinized by multitudes of discourses that it connects with and also not violate a whole gamut of sensitivities.

If the issue of Dube's work was about the evasion of an identity, Culhane's and Soltysik's work was about an appropriation of an identity. The shifting of identities by Culhane and Soltysik or rather claiming the identities of the other without consent and their legitimacy for that action became the point of issue relating to their work. Among the artists group, this work created mixed feelings. Among the staff, this act of impersonation of their masters created an uncomfortable situation. Asked about the intention of the two artists, the explanation expressed by them fluctuated between showing contempt for the hypocrisy of the Modi family and the hierarchical situations they supported with the Sikhribagh and having fun, One of the questions at the top of the discussion was that if the artists were critiquing the establishment of Sikhribagh and the Modi family, on what kind of knowledge did they base their assumptions ? In their 14 days stay, mostly confined to the Sikhribagh premises with no knowledge of the local language, how much of information can they access to come to conclusions of the Modi family's contribution to the community of Modinagar/ If the issue is merely impersonation of the Modis, one could then also argue that through impersonation the artists were also claiming the responsibilities of the Modis as well. On another level, if it is an act of exercising their freedom of expression fo an intervention on the social situation of Sikhribagh, what makes them feel that the local community wants the two artists to be their spokes persons? On the other hand, if the artists are merely producing a work of art for the sake of their emotional ecstasies and mental simulation, can they do that leaving their action completely removed from the politics of the site they occupy through their work ? In other words, can they simply claim to work without thinking about the consequences of their actions ? There was also a possibility of the Modi family taking the act by the two artists negatively and withdrawal of patronage for Khoj . In such an event the future Khoj workshops would have faced serious logistical problems jeopardizing the possibility for artists to have the same work experience in future.

My observation is that answers to all these questions set the premises to the "freedom" that artists claim. At the same time, the artist's whole being becomes an invariable factor in this freedom axiom. For instance, the two artists obviously white European, and their whole act of appropriating the identity of two local elite personalities as an intervention in the local socio-political situation can be read through the colonial discourse as an "appropriation" in order to bring civility and order to the barbarian other. This can be construed as a patronizing European missionary attitude that have been seen in the practices of the European colonizers in India and elsewhere historically time and again. The reaction to their work by some of the Indian artists as well as artists who come from regions where their history is marked by colonization can be understood in this context. Therefore, the boundaries of the artist's freedom of Culhane and Soltysil gets historically located and is contested by the viewer freedom of association and interpretation.

To make any attempt to impose a moral limit or structure to artist's expression and the art process can be fascist. At the same time, thinking that artists desire can get a free and autonomous passage through the art object is illusionist and Utopian. But it wouldn't be a bad idea for an artist to realize that the freedom that autonomy of the art field articulates is not enough to ensure a completely free expression in reality. As a concluding thought I would say that artist's freedom is an autonomy that is constantly in flux which eludes fixed boundaries because the economies of specific contexts artists work in, are based on socio-political elements that are active, fluid and sometimes volcanic.

Anoli Perera

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