I’d like to state, for the record, that I’m not an expert on art. Sure, I’m familiar with general trivia about the art world, like how Vincent Van Gogh (the ‘Van’ is silent) cut off his left ear after listening to Himesh. Also, I think the Mona Lisa is an exemplary piece of art, second only to Savita Bhabhi.
I understand symbolism as well. For example, when an arty film-maker, while focussing on what is usually an angst-ridden Bengali protagonist, fills the frame with darkness, I know he’s using symbolism to indicate that Maoists have cut off the power supply.
All this knowledge, however, does not make me an expert.
I realised this recently when I found myself at not one, but two modern art exhibitions in Colaba. I was accompanied by friends from the art world – serious people who can actually tell the difference between modern art and a paan stain. They gave me a very professional-sounding tip on how to critique a work of art.
“If you don’t know what to say, just use the word ‘interesting’.”
(This makes sense. In the art world, ‘interesting’ can be used to mean anything from ‘I don’t get it’, to ‘This painting looks like goat vomit’)
The first exhibition consisted mainly of a series of photographs of trees in a cemetery. I wandered about, frowning at picture after picture, before discovering an exhibit that spoke to my soul like nothing else could – free booze.
After a while, I wanted to rest my philistine butt on two mattresses lying nearby. Upon closer inspection, I realised that the mattresses were propped up by flower vases (hey, why not?) and were actually a part of the show. The artist said that they were “offerings against gravity and decay”, which I totally failed to see (although the phrase “offerings against gravity and decay” would make a great tagline for Viagra)
We soon moved on to another gallery – a gigantic warehouse really, designed to accommodate the average artist’s ego.
And that was where I saw it.
It was the highlight of the night, the money shot, the pièce de résistance (literally, “The French Resistance”) – a 30-foot-high installation that consisted of a bunch of long, intersecting bamboo sticks jutting out in various directions. It looked like regular bamboo scaffolding that had collapsed in a heap, as if built by Kalmadi’s men. This explosion of sticks was titled – I kid you not – Pubic.
The artist had also offered insights into her work, stating – and I quote – “My personal anxiety is pubic.” (If I went around telling people that my anxiety was pubic, they’d put me in a padded cell, or worse, on Bigg Boss.)
Other works here included a blank canvas that had been ripped apart, three logs mounted on a wall and three other logs mounted a little distance away. Of course, there was an underlying theme to each, i.e. ‘Guess What We Were Smoking When We Made This’.
Now I’m hardly one to comment on others’ jobs, seeing as how I spend the day sitting around in boxers writing Mayawati jokes. But that evening, the art world actually made me feel useful. You should try it sometime. It’s really… interesting.
(Note: This is my HT column dated 29th August 2010)