What causes our blindness to art?
Internationally acclaimed artist and co-founder of Kochi Muziris Biennale says why public art needs a curator.
BENGALURU: Bose Krishnamachari, an internationally renowned artist and a co-founder of Kochi Muziris Biennale, is a firm believer in the role of the curator. “We never experience (uncurated) public art because we have never learnt to look at art,” says the director of the most successful public exhibition in the country.
“We don’t have enough museums or gallery spaces to experience contemporary art in India, be it in Mumbai, Delhi or Bengaluru,” says the artist, sitting in the midst Colour Code, an exhibition of his technicolour paintings at Gallery G on Lavelle Road. He loves the use of colour, calling them “magical and transformative” and with an ability to “sculpt things” from the formless or the abstract.
There is the Triennale-India, which was started by the Lalit Kala Akademi in 1968. But Bose says it hasn’t really thrived after the 2000s because of the “bureaucratic nature of its functioning”. He names academies as the bane of visual art. “There is sympathetic curating done at their shows,” he says, “but we should not tolerate mediocrity for any reason.”
Schools fail the kids
The educational system too has failed to give children an eye to appreciate art. “Our students do not recognise what is art and what is not,” he says. Bose even started the ABC Art by Children project, which selects a 100 schools and sends out various experts to educate them in aesthetics.
Bose adds that art cannot be taught. “But you can learn to appreciate it by experiencing it,” he says. “Abroad children are taken to museums and introduced to works of Picasso or Dali.”
In planning public infrastructure projects too there has to be a difference in approach. “In other countries, whether they are building a toilet or a library, they ask people to send in their designs and art... then, a jury picks the best. We need to have this kind of professionalism while commissioning works to artists or architects,” he says. This pays off, in the form of cultural tourism.
And because of these failings in our environment, “people do not know where to place art or how to see art”. Bose says that urban planning must include artists and thinkers. “You need to know what kind of public sculptures are needed or how art can change people’s perception.”
Civic work is art
He has noticed the art done on pillars and walls in the city and is certain that it has helped in the expansion of minds. “In Kochi Biennale’s recent edition, we had invited a novelist from Argentina and he presented a conceptual art. He wrote his novel on walls. We kept going back to see it every few days and realised that people have not defaced it,” says Bose. “Over the years, the public have come to recognise art and respect its value... (The painted pillars and walls here) would have educated people, and stopped them from peeing or spitting on the walls,” he says. This civic function is very much art, according to him, just as any “social or political work” is.
With many cameras and camera phones, there is a flood of images. But Bose says that we have forgotten to look closely at them and appreciate them. “Earlier people would hold their camera long to get the right frame... now we keep editing, deleting and erasing it. We are looking at many images but not experiencing them. When we are living in chaos, you do not experience chaos,” he says.