Case study of two works towards defining the notion of ‘Public Art’

(i) Contemporary Ethics in the time/context of ‘Presence’:
Ethics is one of the most difficult terms to come to terms with these
days. The lexican definition of the term succeeds in explaining it but
fails to appeal. In fact an attempt to explain ethics is an attempt to
demean it! If I could mark a point of departure in the conventional
‘feel’ (not a change in the ‘definition’) of ethics, I would earmark
the day Buddha died in Afghanisthan, as the turning point. I am
speaking about the day when the Bamiyan Buddha (carved into the
mountain) was finally destroyed. However ‘destruction’ and ‘death’
were two things that Buddha separated from each other. According to
him, destruction was a product of human weakness while death was a
natural physical and chemical change. The Taliban’s intention, at
Afghanistan, was to kill the ‘notion of adoring an imagist symbol of a
divine human form’. Buddha was not following Buddhism, for he was the
reason for establishing an ism called Buddhism.
Taliban only succeeded in destroying the external shape/form of his
‘representation’. The gap between Buddha and his image is, somehow,
also the gap between classical absolutist ethics that we are familiar
with and the one today which is selective and mostly optional and
somehow dilettante! The act of bringing down Buddha’s carved image was
an attempt to empty the essence from within a given form. This is a
parody, something similar to the much favoured aesthetic
experimentation of the Modernists.
Should one imagine this as a metaphor wherein the essence is something
that is clothed within the form? Should one pursue a thinking process
of a Derridian kind, then it would be just easy to read the act of
separating the ‘essence’ from the ‘form’ as something that consists of
the non-essence as well and essence-hence-essentially being able to
exist without form, to a certain extent! (1)
Somewhere around the same time (2002) when the Bamiyan Buddha was
destroyed, two specific art projects in the first ever Bangalore
Habba(2) occurred on M.G.Road that connect to each other in a
magically realistic mode. And the modified definition of ethics taking
a new twist–that I pointed out in the first line of this essay–was
reconfirmed, locally(3). Whenever I feel like taking a journey in an
alley full of absurdities, I walk through M.G.Road, preferably on the
side where I can meet more people. If the changed compeer of Kaun
Banega Karodpathi would show a picture of this road, and provide names
of personalities to match with it, I am sure Gandhi would be the last
person to be opted out and M.G.Ramachandran would be at top of the


(ii) “ATP-All Time Plant” “Do Not Urinate”: embodying ironies:
It was the first Bangalore Habba in which there were several stalls,
art materials and art participants, on the other side of the pavement,
to do what they thought best, to interact in the way they thought was
a true interaction, with the public. Suresh Kumar Gopalareddy had come
up with an ” ATP Shop” (All Time Plants) and Surekha’s work was called
“Mahathma Gandhi Road-Do Not Urinate”. While Suresh Kumar had worked
out his project in a temporary festive Habba tent, Surekha had chosen
an actual defunct solitary room, lying on the pavement on its own,
without a permanent companion on the whole stretch of this prestigious
lane, on the other side of which there were buildings ranging from
colonial to postmodern prototypes. It is very comfortably to compare
Bangalore M.G.Road with the London Bridge (and the streets attached to
it) immediately.
Both the streets constitute economic exuberance. And also refuse to be
very culture specific. Both represent their own culture of
multiculturalism, as they are. On the other hand, they do not hold
themselves ‘responsible’ for museumising what one presumes is the
culture of those specific States (Bangalore and London). Suresh and
Surekha’s works, created together in the same time-space nexus
reconfirm such a construct. It is a ‘construct’ to represent (a) the
Gandhian culture and (b) a renewed notion about the idea of Kannada,
beyond a mere linguistic framework/constraint. They also comment (c)
on the vanishing greenery from Bangalore. And finally while performing
all these, the two works also (d) ascertain what Buddhism holds
best-identify that all such ‘constructs’ are bound to be
forgotten/changed/modified in urban sites, as if it is a character of
the urban-unlike the rural and very much like life itself-to hold
change as constant.
In other words both these works are not about M.G.Road /Gandhi
/Environmentalism/ Buddha /Bangalore/Kannada but are about the fast
deterioration of such construed ‘notions’ as themes for artistic
expression. That an artwork can hold such ‘deterioration’ as a
theme-is also a ‘construct’ that is put to stake through these two
works! It also means that the notion of ethics of positivism within
Indian contemporary art historical approach to artworks created by
Indians, in India, that is put to stake in general. In a way, the
historic truth that the artworks (in India) that are made popular,
historicized through institutionalized programs of shows, curatorial
appropriation etc., happens to be the works that are also already


To begin with, irony is good. Artworks (a) seemingly addressing issues
and then–at a second glance-(b) addressing the actual failure of such
issues outside the issues of representation; and further (c)
themselves deteriorating as ‘everlasting’ representations (due to the
absence of an institutional recognition of its own self, like,
critical acclaim, documentation, being subject to curatorial program
etc.,) as if to imitate the death of their own subjects gives way to
multiple ironies. Irony serves those who point it out with a sense of
intellectual supremacy and then, when it becomes excessive, looses its
self. Too many ironies refute to be confined within an ironic
situation. An excessive world of ironies leads to amnesia.
The two artworks in question, addressing a gamut of ideals-excessively
so-lost out on too much of lamentation about too many issues, and, in
the due process imitated its own ‘content’ by becoming absent in the
world of, say, Indian art. While walking on M.G.Road and having an in
depth knowledge of Mahathma Gandhi, one forgets the irony that exists
in between its ‘name’ and ‘appearance’ and proceed to the next step-
the ethics of constant irony, in turn, which informs that the changing
irony has changed the definition of the very ethics itself. I shall
elaborate this, with specific examples of Suresh’s “ATP Center” and
Surekha’s ” Do Not Urinate” as case studies. A possible physical
description of those two works–for those who were not there on the
ever-ironic street during the existence of these two ‘time and space’
specific artworks–is the first possible step to grasp these artworks-
imitating-its own content-of deterioration. In the due process the
tense used to address the works undergoes a constant ruptures owing to
the issues that is already over (due to the absence of a societal
approval of these works and, as artworks)…
It has already been two decades since the advent of new media in
Bangalore. However, the works were a part of a changing tradition of
alternative sponsorship, scholarships and residencies but never has it
been an art imitation-of-its-own content. Neither are the works
monologic, soliloquist, self-representations because, thee was an
expression within which was a fast diminishing sign. These two works
succumb(ing) to the pressure of its own thematic concerns.
Interestingly this happened while addressing the deterioration of a
set of culturally valued values.
I would like to draw the readers’ attention to a related article:
Derrida’s “Meaning and Representation”. Husserl’s notion about the
self, its own expression to itself without communication and Derrida’s
quest as to whether there is a representation while expressing one’s
self to itself and the derivation ” I am he who am” helps me place
these two works-that-are-no-more (at most in a short while) (4). My
concern is towards the newer possibilities of visual culture through
these two works which echoes Derrida’s conclusion that, ” the self
presence would be as indivisible as the blink of an eye”
The absence of communication while expressing the self without
representation strikes an equivalent meaning with what is generally
understood as Buddha’s teaching. Suresh Kumar and Surekha’s works,
since they are ‘unacknowledged’ and ‘unrepresented’ (as major works
within their portfolios, post-event) and also deals with a theme which
is a set of ethical values that are recently going ‘unacknowledged’
and ‘unrepresented’ (Gandhi/ Buddha/ Environmentalism/ Kannada)
possess this aspect of Husserlian-self: an expression without
communication and the danger of change in the function of sign
(Gayathri Spivak)..


Suresh had borrowed saplings from a Bangalore-based agriculture
university (Gandhi Krishi Vignana Kendra) and was giving it away to
the audience ‘in reality’. It was a ‘live-reality-show’ in the name
and form of art. While taking away/borrowing and borrowing specific
kind of plants, the onlookers had to ‘mark’ the place of their
residence on a map of Bangalore city and write down their address.
The ‘map’ and ‘plants’ as motifs of Suresh’s works could be inferred
into Bangalore’s history as the Green City that was. The addresses
written down in the book were ‘real’, by real people; the plants were
‘real’ and also suggested a specific class hierarchy of those who
sought such saplings. Consider this: those neo-rich living in pent
houses would not opt for a sapling of a jack fruit tree! So much for
the ‘projected’ history of the terminological constructs of Bangalore
as a green city, now replaced by terms like Silicon Valley, India’s IT
City and Singapore of India. The map of Bangalore has the neo-rich and
the slum dwellers co-existing, almost literally. Sociologically,
Suresh’s work worked as an ‘optimistic expectation’ that the credited
would plant and nurture the saplings, which also functions as an
ethical test for the audience, who would never be testified (by
anyone) even in the future. It was ‘live’, ‘real’ in more than one
sense and also ‘symbolic’ but succeeded in failing at both instances
to a great degree!
Its failure as ‘real’ lies in the fact that the number of saplings
were too meager to substitute the loss of falling trees in the city
due to old age, wind and the promise of the arrival of the (seemingly
always in the future) international airport. Its failure from within
the symbolic premise lies in the fact that the very container of this
symbol, in the form of an artwork, has already deteriorated
(physically and essentially), rather unusually. It is a question of an
expression being alive whose representation doesn’t exist any more.
Symbolic gestures (that were present at certain point of time/space
nexus) of absent cultural agents would tend to be(come) myths. ‘
Absence’ of a critical acclaim, ‘lack’ of documentation and
‘association’ with a city-fare (Bangalore-Habba) are few of the
several reasons for the erasure of these two works (and similar ones
that have been addressed in-silence, till now). This is very much
unlike the much acknowledged “Sthalapuranagalu” (‘Local Myths’) show
curated by N.Pushpamala that addressed Bangalore, before the
‘happening’ of these two works. (5)
What is the best way to represent deterioration without the
agency-of-representation-itself diminishing? These two works are
no-more due to an overburdening of the ethical question that they
addressed from within! Similarly, Gandhi’s autobiography (whose
translation into Kannada happens to be the cheapest book available in
Kannada even to this day meant to ‘erase’ a few aspects that
represented his previous-self while in South Africa. This gives a
chance to argue that the presence of the self-presence is always
subject to change or contain more than one self–an argument to
facilitate these two works, to exist in more than one self, though
they are already always over (as art works). Gandhi modified his life
accordingly so that the ‘changed’ Gandhi but ‘real/actual’ Mahatma
became a ‘symbol’ of being called the Father of the Nation. That is
the Gandhi, we are familiar with. Ironies and the Mahatma are two
terms that seem to be mutually proximate: he as an image of poverty
and his image on Indian currencies for too long a time is one such
classic example. Surekha’s work was an attempt to ‘invoke’ a few of
his values:


(v) A network of ironies (that was, is and will be):
Surekha cleaned up an already existing defunct room-earlier misused
due to vested interests and social abuses–located on the other side
of the richest street of the IT city of India ( sic). The room was so
positioned that the illumination and glory on the other side was not
powerful enough to reach out. The physical distance between the two
sides was just 80 feet and was called M.G.’Road’. The artist lit up
the stinking room with serial lights, as if to mock at the pompousness
of what M.G.Road stands for.


The room had a lot of soot on the wall and ceiling, a result of people
from the lower strata burning lamps, cooking and litting up the place
for various reasons that one can only assume. The artist ( had)
arranged serial-lights all around, as if to draw attention to the room
that did not receive much of it, in its hey days. A room that is
defunct had it’s hey days (in reality) but a defunct-room, now, in
itself, need not contain a past compulsorily different from its
current situation (for representation) -rather two ways of treating it
as a subject for artistic expression! Surekha then stenciled the
letters ” M.G.Road, Do Not Urinate” all over it. She went on mockingly
interviewing people regarding their ‘knowledge’ and ‘opinions’ about
M.G.Road with a video camera. The idea that ‘opinion follows
knowledge’ was put to stake, by and large. One cannot imagine doing
this to Subhash Chandra Bose on the streets of Calcutta. On the other
hand, Gujarath, the birth place of Gandhi, has been unable to confine
him as a mere State-hero. Hence the only way M.G. Road has been able
to evoke various ‘signs’ to the ‘idea’ of Gandhi has been through such
seemingly everlasting ironies.
(i) It is the irony of being named after a street where many even to
this day consider the street to be M.G.Ramachandran’s Road, owing to
the absence of a Gandhi statue, presence of a Tamil dominant crowd (in
the vicinity, around it and the Tamil population in the city exceeds
that of the localites, the Kannadigas, as it happens with most Indian
cities) for whom MGR, the ex-chief minister of Tamil Nadu, was a
(ii) The second and stark irony lies in the fact that the road is well
known for trading class, a class that Gandhi in reality hailed from.
(iii) The third and the best of the irony lies in the fact that though
one has been seeing him the most, on a day to day basis, on Indian
currency notes from past half a century, he symbolizes something
opposite to what a currency promises-more of an idea of the barter
system between public politics and a private spiritualism, admixed in
the way only he could manage. Ironies and symbols clash at this point,
like the past (a clean room) and present (defunct room as-it-is) in
that defunct, desolate room decorated by surekha (yet another irony).
The artist invited that class of people (middle, high-middle and the
educated) to enter the room for the first time (in their lifetime),
which marks a parody instead of an irony. It is so because the posh
Burton Tower, Bombay Store, G.K.Vale, Utility Building and the like
are the kind of buildings that the visitors have in mind while
visiting M.G.Road and not a desolate building that actually belongs to
semi-slum areas of the city like Srirampuram, Ashwathanagar,
Guttahalli which, curiously enough, always seem to be attached to
bungalow-areas: a typical characteristics of Bangalore! Thus the work
also denotes/ d the class difference (amongst localites) as well as
the fast vanishing aspect of this very class difference due to the
arrival of migrants also meaning the diminishing of localites.
(iv)The fourth irony is that the room, today, just doesn’t exist! And
the coincidence between the erasure of her work as this defunct room
and the BMP authorities bringing it down immediately after her project
might not be as coincidental as it seems!


(vi) Re-locating the erased:
Around the same time, in Afghanisthan-one of the earliest metropolis
city in the human civilization, which Bangalore opts to become in its
contemporary sense-there were more ‘ironies’ and ‘symbols’ clashing
with each other. Buddha, was a familiar ‘image’ for the Afghans,
perhaps like Picasso was to the Russian Marxism. The latter’s
popularity was sought but not for what he actually stood for (Ref:
John Berger’s book “Success and Failures of Picasso”). The Talibans
forced those very native Afghans who had lived with the image of
Buddha, to bring down the already defaced and mutilated Buddha.
Earlier, the Soviet troop had damaged the statue. At once, the
sculpture had been treated as a mountain of various meanings. Ranjit
Hoskote, in his article in Hindu magazine section, immediately after
the destruction of the image of Buddha, made an interesting
observation. He said that the very teaching of Buddha should give us
wisdom not to lament over what is a loss, and not to lament it because
since it is a ‘no loss’. U.S was ready to store the image of Bamiyan
Buddha as a museum-object and make a neo-ritual out of it in Carol
Duncan’s sense in which visiting a museum is a ritual* (Ref: Carol
Duncan’s book of museum visits as ” Civilising Rituals”).
The mechanical reproduction and other kind of memories of both Bamiyan
Buddha and its erasure ‘remains’ to remind us of both its presence as
well as the presence of its absence! Or is it the absence of its
presence that is given to us?
It has been three years (2003), post 09/11, since Suresh Kumar and
Surekha created these time and space bound/specific works. The memory
of the Bamiyan Buddha and these two works share a common point-both
have undergone physical destruction. Not much has been posthumously
circulated about these two, unlike say, Nam Jun Pyke’s famous ‘still’
Buddha’s video or, even for that matter, unlike the other works of
Suresh and Surekha. It finally brings us to the question of what
Hoskote said about the loss of the image of Buddha.
Can an image and the essence that it represents/symbolizes/expresses
be ‘separated’, ethically? What is the fate of that
representational-agency which thematically celebrate an erasure, other
than ‘self-deteriorate’? Such a character is what commonly unites as
well as draw attention to these two works in question.


(vii) Crediting Values and Plants
It might not be deliberate that these two works are the least shown,
talked about and circulated amongst these two artists’ portfolio. The
photos, video and records of plant-monging people’s addresses and
their markings of their own residence on the map-all in all, are
mortal parts of an idea that ‘was’ and is ‘no more’ (artworks).
Coincidentally, or not so very coincidentally, Surekha’s room was
functionally, earlier, used for burning waste, collected from the
footpath of the most popular road of Bangalore. The dirt was destroyed
on the very street where it was generated. One of Gandhi’s virtue, as
Surekha points out as ‘the’ inspiration for this work, “is
contemplating cleanliness”. The soot within the ceiling and walls of
Surekha’s room-of-intervention was due to ‘recycled’ wastes collected
from M.G.Road-a mark of ‘recording’ of the ‘taste’ of commuters which
includes their upbringing and notion about cleanliness. The work that
addresses this issue, now, exists only in a recycled form, as well.
Nothing informs us better about the personality and behavior of those
commuters, when they are puzzled about how to dispose peeled off
bananas or groundnuts, in the absence of a dustbin. And, the work-that
was -itself doesn’t know how to exist in the absence of a methodology
to survive in itself, while its essence/content is something opposite
to survival.
Since the garbage was constantly burnt, the soot formed by the
interior of the room, the ceiling as well as the walls served as ideal
dark spaces for the doodling. The visitors scribbled, drew, wrote –
the three partial acts that belong to the past tense within a work
whose tense remains to be ambiguous. More or less, the art loving and
artistic community who visited the ” atp center” was that which was or
is in the process of being transformed/metamorphosed from a known
class within the defined class hierarchy into a defined class of a
known variety–the art loving community . This gives rise to a
nostalgic sojourn into the city’s past with pre-electricity homes and
factories with soot-burns, called Bengaluru of the 1970s.
Urban cities do not look back and Surekha wanted it to. Did the room
desire the return of the actual, something similar to the
reestablishing of Kannada as a language within a city that was later
going to rename/retain its actual name (Bengaluru)? Dr. U.R.Anantha
Murthy raised an interesting puzzle that the Kannada papers
specifically face(d) when it comes to retaining the city’s earlier
name. All through, the vernacular papers were using the name which was
going to be change in the future in English newspapers!

Here is an instance wherein a language, due to its very structuring,
falsifies a ‘real’ incident. The renaming of Bangalore never took
place according to Kannada newspapers! By being alive, Suresh Kumar
and Surekha’s artworks could never prove their content: of
deterioration of one’s values emerging through the notion of Buddha
and Gandhi and Environmentalism: Expecting Gandhian value on M.G.Road
is like growing trees on the basis of credit cards!
These two works try to either bring out a sense of sanctity for
Bangalore city or allege a character to it, but end up treating the
city itself as a probable subject of art. This shift-within the
city-from being a place of new media works to being a part and very
subject of art is specific to the city. The whole string of new media
artworks produced over a decade in this city share this ‘redress’ and
hence ‘redefined involvement’ of Bangalore from being a city to
becoming a thematic concern (6). However, identifying a street within
Bangalore with relevant themes for it or themes that gain relevance
after addressing the street is also an attempt to look a bit closer
and more intimately at the physical, geo-cultural space to which one
belongs to.


(viii) Anatomy of the new idea about one’s past:
What happens to the nature of these two works while doing so, due to
the things and the way they evolved might be more relevant on one
hand. The belief of a work is lost to gain a new belief. Within new
media, often it was a habit to address issues of a wider context, at
the cost of being specific and aesthetic. That visual argument would
comfortably fit into the cliché of the global-local,
national-international and often innocently rejoiced, while all it
might do is being able to achieve a cliché. While Suresh Kumar and
Surekha’s current works were about deteriorating values and ethics-as
an important aspect of the given city–the works themselves imitated
their own contents-they gradually deteriorated. On the other hand the
works of Shyamala and Srinivasa Prasad, realized at Ulsoor lake (very
close to M.G.Road) and a defunct theatre house-Samudaya, respectively,
as a part of Pushpamala’s curated show “Sthalapuranagalu” (literally
meaning and addressing the local myths.) were about celebrating that
aspect of the city which had ‘already’ perished- the tradition of
lakes and regional theatre, within the city.
Almost all other works of Srinivasa Prasad, the “Earthwork” by
M.S.Umesh, “Sakshi Gudda Sakshi Gode” by Sheela Gowda’s, “Pages from a
Burning City” of Vistaar (and the like) addressed various aspects of
the city and began addressing the city itself. But most of them formed
a dialogue with the city. While Suresh Kumar and Surekha’s works were
simulacra of soliloquies of a culture specific city that was. By and
large these works (and a few more of lesser relevance) address issues
that are relevant to the belongingness of a city through buildings, a
news agency (“PFBC”) or a shooting site (“SGSG “). Earthwork was a
gestural homage to a site-specificity of farmers; ‘Sthalapurana’ and
‘SGSG’ were homage to specific locations which served as ready-mades
signs for expressive communication of a cultural sort.
My concern is here the loss of ‘art’ which becomes a gain to its
‘subject’-the street called M.G.Road. And the relevant specificity it
acquires. For instance, in the intimate ” Kuvempu Smaaraka” work by
K.T.Shiva Prasad, the ‘memory’ of the design of the famous monument
“Stonehenge” is difficult to do away with. It is like a private myth
of a public poet in a cornered site, way too far away from the reach
of those who really matter for, art. (7)
The loss-of-art or that of visual arrogance, is loosing oneself in
front of something magnanimous-the medieval, vachanakaras (from
Karnataka) willful loss of self to seek something para/meta-physical.
‘Recognised’ works -unlike those similar to Suresh Kumar and Surekha’s
elaborately but tangentially discussed works in this write-up-have
been able to retain their skin, identity and consistency of their
creators’ previous works, which seems to be an expansion of what style
was for the oil painters, earlier. Due to the same reason of style
delimiting the ability of a work (even in the new media) to address
multiply varied issues the ‘skin’, ‘identity’ and the ‘creative’
consistency can often act as foes to the discourse evident through a
work of art.
Though Surekha addresses one of Gandhian values (cleanliness) it
doesn’t end at that, by a sheer intent of illustrating that specific
ethical value. Just recollect what is given to the reader through this
write-up, about what happened during that week of time-space-specific
(1) The opting-to-be-cultural audience was permitted into a ‘space’
that did not resemble any associations their upbringing could make. A
defunct room, on a posh street and its appropriation into and as an
artwork could associate such associations into something that they
would ignore: the garbage itself.


(2) It was an enclosed space for burning the dirt (waste) which, in a
way, is a ‘cleansening act’ of the ‘baffled attitude’ of the
commuters, subject to a specific city culture (like jay walking,
littering etc.,). The absence of dustbin provides an altogether a
different dimension as well as excuses for the exhibition of their old
(3) Decorating such a discarded, desolate room, though ironic, also
meant unveiling its history as against the glossy buildings on the
other side of the road (like evoking the memory of the holocaust, by
enclosing Reichstag with Christo’s clothes).
(4) Stenciling “Mahatma Gandhi Road, Do Not Urinate” is a satire drawn
upon the tradition of warning letters, in order to either protect the
private spaces within public locations or public spaces-from the
public. This private/public warning itself contains the character of a
‘ note against publishing other notes’ (for example, pasting of a
poster “Stick No Bills”). This evokes perceptions that form
indefinable interstices within the otherwise mundane experience of the
commuters, who were the only audience to those two works.
(5) The specific nomenclature given to the city (Green City) was
contested by a real act that intended to assist in the growth plants
and trees. A rejuvenate space between the end of art and the beginning
of environmentalism was thus coined-only as an experience, for there
is no more the physical evidence of both art and environmental issues
as far as these works are concerned.

(6) The act of distributing the real saplings was both real and
symbolic at the same time. It was real for it was a realistic act of
giving away the plants. It also turned into a symbol due to the sheer
tiny-ness of the character of such a real gesture.


(ix) A lost city and regained nostalgia:
M.G.Road has been more than a mere prime road of Bangalore. Bicycles
were banned for a while, during the reign of Sangliana as the police
commissioner, re-affirming the belief amongst the non-elitist that it
is obviously an elitist street. The older ‘monkey top buildings’ are
fast vanishing from the streets, owing to the land value leveling that
of gold. Surekha’s project refuses(d) to be ‘framed’ within an
artificial premise of high-art, it is/was an open ended work with
specific observations that cater to high-art, but refuses to end at
it. On the other hand, Srinivasa Prasad’s work in “I as in India” was
a mono-litchi, nostalgic rendering of the factories of older Bangalore
of the 1970s. Surekha and Suresh Kumar’s work on the other hand were
first of their kind as public projects that fine balances(d) the high
art characteristics from within a public interaction mode, that has
been so much qualitatively watered down by the street plays and
NGO-kind of projects by mediocre artists, over the decades, that too
in the name of new media art in Bangalore.
The observation in the last sentence of the previous paragraph brings
us finally to the specifications of Kannada culture. It is this
culture, that is basically literature-oriented and literary minded in
attitude. It expects a high-art quality, or formal reading well mixed
with a public appeal. Not too long ago, the illustrations and high art
of Karnataka were inseparable. So it took so long–three decades to be
specific and a disapproval of conventional media artists/critics-to
delve into the realm of new media . New media in Bangalore ‘also’
meant creative travels in unimaginable vehicles. At certain point Dr.
D.R. Nagaraj observed two important points that gets well connected to
new media works in Karnataka in general and Surekha and Suresh Kumar’s
specific projects in particular. These works try to re-locate,
re-realise, and give rebirth to a set of cultural experiences that had
been long forgotten. Nagaraj calls it as cultural amnesia, which has
affected the institutions of education but very much alive among the
mass. These two works re-capture that which was lost due to amnesia.
Gandhian notion of swaraj, the Durga pooja concept of ‘immersion’ of
the physical deity giving way to rebirth etc., could be tangentially
connected to these works that were, are no more but nevertheless are
remembered for two reasons: (1) for what they addressed and more
importantly-’how’ it was done!


For the Local Afghans (LA) around the vicinity of Bamiyan Buddha (BB),
the latter was a form with a derived meaning of belongingness. The
fact that it stood for Buddhism a la Buddhist teaching -whatsoever is
its essence-might have been irrelevant to a great extent. What BB
meant for the LA allegorically occupies a middle path between the two
categories that marks the difference between Old Master artists (OM)
and the Modernist artist according to Clement Greenberg. If the old
masters initially created an illusion and then made aware of the
actual surface, the Modernist reversed the process (see article: The
Modernist Painting by Clement Greenberg). Talibans are said to have
made the LA destroy BB. It was an act wherein (a) what BB stood for
actually, (b) what it meant for LA and (c) what Talibans thought it
meant to make LA destroy BB-created a web of shifting meanings within
the premise of Greenbergian differentiation between OM and Modernists.
The ethical embarrassment that the LA’s felt while undertaking such an
assault of an imagery was a fresh take, but not new-in the history of
wars and destruction of something that one doesn’t believe in!
‘Bangalore Habba’ (annual ‘Festival of Bangalore’) begun in 2002, is a
Government-sponsored festival of the city that has already begun to
project the city only as a specific construct. It is, allegorically
speaking, a festival that treats the posh M.G.Road as yet an allegory
to Bangalore while the other aspects that are mundane are pushed under
the carpet, so to say.
&(4) I would read into these two works (that were), rather
differently, for, first of all, they don’t exist anymore. These two
works also implies those other avant garde experiments that
tangentially escaped any and all kind of institutional recognition.
The second reason as to why I cannot withold to any (one) specific
known mode of ‘looking’ at these works-in the due course of this
write-up-is due to the desire to attempt to read these two works as ”
Object of Post Criticism”. In other words, I intend to tangentially
touch these already-non-existent-works, attempt to escape the
formation of visual collages of their formal details (called
criticism) from ‘within’ the works (that are already no more), and
avoid playing the relational role of pest(criticism)) and host
(artwork), as inferred by Gregory Ulmer in his essay of the same title
(Read this essay in the book “Anti-aesthetic essays in Postmodern
Culture”, Ed: Hal Foster, 1983)
“Sthalapuranagalu”(1999) was a show curated by artist N.Pushpamala and
the three participants (B.J.Shyamala chose Ulsoor Lake, Srinivasa
Prasad chose Samudaya, defunct theatre house and Ramesh Kalkur chose
queen Victoria Statue at the entrance of M.G.Road and later shifted
the venue to Kannada Bhavana which houses the various government
agencies (Academies) of art) chose three different popular sites
within Bangalore.

(6) Read: Article” Trends, Motifs and Affinities In The Contemporary
Art of Karnataka” by H.A. Anil Kumar, in Lalitkala Contemporary Issue
No.46, New Delhi, June 2002. Ed: Amit Mukhopadhyay.///