When my assignment became interesting!

This semester, for the mass communication subject we are all required to maintain a blog unto which we upload the assignments given to us. At first, I thought I could do it here, but then again, this blog is personal, plus I thought the assignments would be dull and too academic to be included here, and the first one actually was.

The second assignment though, the one that I uploaded just a few minutes ago was pretty interesting. We had to read an editorial and critique it. Upon receiving the assignment, I just wanted to be done with it…Obviously. And today was the last day to upload it, again.. Obviously! This is the blog address: http://www.scepticalonpurpose.wordpress.com, my username is sangsentranced! How cool is that! 😉 😛

So, I sat down with a heavy heart to type out a few words and get it out of ht way. I chose an article that dealt with art, since I can bullshit more about it than other subjects cuz I’m more comfortable with it. To my surprise, it turned out to be quite a fun task. So I thought you guys might enjoy reading it as well! So, Here it is:

All art is political in the sense that it serves someone’s politics.

August Wilson

The editorial in question is titled It’s time for art to be political (find it here ). It appeared in the Bengaluru issue of The Hindu, on Thursday, December 10, 2015.

The author, Deepanjana Pal lays down her opinions about how art in India should behave and how it must be received by the society. Her examples of  examples of political art/actions by artists stretch from The Divine Bovine by Siddhartha Karawal to M.F.Hussain, Shilpa Gupta and Bhupen Khakhar’s watercolour dated 1994. These illustrations are no doubt accurate but it is in providing them that she seems to defeat the whole premise of her argument.


Hussain’s depiction of Bharatmata. Source


She states, in the rider “Indian art has always been well behaved, determinedly steering clear of politics.” but goes on, as established above to provide examples to the contrary. The article, on the whole, operates on a larger assumption that until recently, art in India has been stagnant and apolitical.

The questions that I, as a critic will be asking/examining are: What is, according to the author political? She does not justify her statement throughout the article but resorts to a mere repetition of the word. There is an overall sense of ambiguity in her assertion about art and its seeming neutrality.

She constructs quite an arbitrary connection between the words “Political” and “Politics”, the headline carries the former while the kicker utilises the latter. So the question that remains unanswered is the assertion of the author herself.

Art, or as the author considers it, fine art has never been apolitical. Moving further from her example of political art in 1994, we see that Raja Ravi Varma, now touted as one of India’s greatest painters was ostracised by the society for his female nudes. Can this not be considered a political statement? The notion of the female body as being sensual and erotic was no stranger to Indian myth before the advent of this controversial artist, but it had always been shrouded behind the veil of religion and Varma’s art contradicted this popular sentiment.

One of Ravi Varma’s semi-nude paintings. Source

Once this argument enters the fray, the statement about the lack of art’s political affiliation becomes null.

The author does argue a better case for the lack of response to contemporary art. She posits that the audience for art in India is paltry at best and this audience is ignorant of a larger portion of art that is not, in a sense popular. Thereby rendering both the art and the artist safe although it is this safety that prevents them from stirring the change that they undoubtedly aspired to.

It is important to recognise the role that controversies play in the domain of art, It brings forth into the public sphere, the art that is otherwise thought to be a bourgeois space, it is generally cordoned off to clean rooms, champagne, relatively silent exhibitions and superficial interpretation.

The language is exemplary and the examples provided by the author is historically correct but contextually and logically wrong. The article requires a better perspective. It not only needs to take a firmer stand, but needs to possess the facts to support said arguments taking care not to contradict them.


6 thoughts on “When my assignment became interesting!

  1. A number of questions immediately come to mind.
    1. How sincere is the critic after all, controversy attracts attention? Offer negative views against a celebrity in any field will draw attention. Is the goal of the critic to be honest, or to be controversial. Each will attract a different size audience.
    2. Does an artist create a political statement, or does the critic/observer add the political dimension? I would suggest that both can be true, but an artist does not necessarily create in order to make a political statement.
    3. How much of art appreciation is subjective? For any critic to adore, or be critical of, a piece of art pre-supposes personal perspectives. Picasso is acknowledged by critics as an icon of creativity, but 500 years ago???? We must conclude that art appreciation has little to do with creativity, individuality, and skills in the preferred medium … but has everything to do with the cultural norm of the era. and the perspective of the critic/observer.
    4. Who are the most valued critics? An average person who simply likes works that make sense to them (aka the wine tastes good therefore it is a good wine) or a professional critic who is providing a service for a remuneration?

    Nice Post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was a fascinating review of someone else’s opinions. I think you may be right that art is often political. The art displayed shows an openness to physical bodies and beautiful sensuality. It is too bad they were banned and disrespected. I think you wrote a fine paper. Did I miss your grade?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the idea of the merging of the political and artistic spheres. It’s quite an uncommon subject matter that is usually not given much attention however I love the ambiguity of it all, the way in which personal opinion is part of the experience in terms of the way in which you interpret it gives different meanings to different individuals! That is the beauty of it! True art that makes you think.

    Liked by 1 person

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