opinions, sides and small penises
today was a strange day.
It started off with a discussion on life, identity, labels and selling-out. The MA students had a talk with Khalil Chishty as he showed his work and talked about his artistic journey. You can see his complete works and profile at his website www.khalilchishtee.com
While some of things were a 100% spot on with me – such as the market dictating the success of an artist, and the investors making sure their investments in art would be secure not only for now, but for a long time to come, by promoting their selected artists – I did not agree with his opinion on discarding all aspects of identity in order to free oneself of contempt of others. I just don’t think it’s so black and white. I told him so too. Sure I agree that highlighting differences have been the root of countless conflicts, but differences also make us who we are and can be beautiful too. Such as languages, foods, cultures, clothes.
Like Khalil Chishty, I do know that I also don’t want to be identified as one kind of an –ism artist . And yes my work is not specifically about being a woman and a Muslim and a Pakistani. But these things have made my personality and it’s what makes me different. Whether I accept it or not. Like Mizna, an MA student said, differences make us unique.
I felt torn on another discussion that stemmed from casting off labels. While I also feel that miniature painting is perhaps the most used and abused art form from this country, I felt it was unfair of him to discard miniature art as an exotic art that sells internationally, and hence the sole reason for its practice, and has no other creative aspect to it. Unintentionally or otherwise, that opinion discards all miniature students as potential opportunists. I feel, what miniature art has come to symbolize today in the commercial art market should in no way demean its status as an art form.
More and more of our artists are stuck in this rut of removing labels. I don’t question an artist’s reasons. They decide things based on what makes sense to them. And art should allow that freedom. But how does one de-label-ize oneself. (I don’t even know if that’s a term!). Shouldn’t we first look at who applies the labels? Just because the west’s Orientalist eye looks at our art forms as ‘exotic’, do we necessarily reject that in pursuit of the contemporary?
Last year, after a fantastic talk between Huma Mulji and the MA students – in which we saw most of her work and artistic development – the session unfortunately ended on a surprisingly very condescending note (for me) with Huma declaring that miniature art is done by people stuck in the past and who can’t embrace the present and the future.
This perhaps is ironically exactly like those who reject contemporary art practices. For instance, Bashir Sahab walking into our studio and squinting at my text works and saying: kuch kaam bhi keriya ker kadhi. Or Asif Sahab (the previous HOD Fine Arts) refusing to mark our 3rd yr experimental contemporary art assignments (in 2003) because he didn’t consider such work to be Art.
All these judgments by educators of art makes my head spin. Must I take sides? Must I choose what kind of art I like/want to practice? Must I adhere to guidelines?
On a different note: The day ended with me getting stuck on the mall road for 2 hours in a traffic jam. It’s happened countless times before in the years that I have been driving/or being driven on the mall road – mostly because of VIP movement or protests. Today, though, it was a display of complete and utter assholishness on the part of impatient people who break lines, lights, rules and common civic sense.
At the end of the day, I realize that Brazilian public service advertisements have it right when they say bad driving and display of aggression and macho-ism on the roads is a sign of inferiority due to a small penis. There I said it. Small penis. Again.