Some years back, when the economic recession was at its heights, a rest room wall in a suburban county in the US was ‘decorated’ with a graffiti which read - “the next time some one tells you they got rich through hard work, ask them; whose?”.
Graffiti, with its roots in the protests of the working class against the capitalists gained energy with the economic slow down. ‘Express’ located similar politically charged graffiti works, largely unnoticed by the media, in the catchment area of the Kochi Biennale.
People around Fort Kochi and visitors were surprised to read the graffiti 'Merry Crisis and Happy New Fear' on some walls during Christmas week. “First I thought it should be “merry Christmas and happy new year and the writers got it wrong,” said Rajeev, an LD clerk.
“But later, I realised that with the country opening to the FDI in retail and downsizing of employee strength, peasant suicides, and reduction of existing benefits of the employees, much of the Indian population will have a Christmas and new year filled with uncertainty”, he added.
Another interesting graffiti on the walls was a small poem expressing solidarity with the widely-appreciated installation art of Amar Kanvar.
It had brilliantly documented the violent destruction of peasant life and agriculture in Eastern India and the aggressive build up of neo-liberal capital.
The lines by T P Anil Kumar, a carpenter and graffiti artist “266 rice grains, 266 hunger pangs and withering fields” captures the ferocious onslaught that destroyed bio diversity and livelihood of peasants who were cultivating indigenous paddy.
Unmesh Dashtakir, a textile designer and artist who was among the graffiti painters, said that they wanted to challenge the elitism in art which is ingrained in the average Malayalee mindset. He also pointed that this elitism and conservatism, coupled with the ignorance about international developments in art, was the major reason behind some of the unfair criticisms levelled against the Biennale. He quotes the Afhgan artist Aman Mojadidi to bring out the politics of graffiti - “I want to make art that disturbs identity, challenges authority and exposes the hypocrisy and reinterpret reality.”