Democratization Through Cutting Edge Art
The world is here and elsewhere. Perhaps, we live in a world where none would like to meet the other in person. The virtual spaces are comfortable enough to create a new republic of ideas. Premjish Achari in his inimitable style delineates the new cultural fields where cutting edge practices facilitate both aesthetic and political revolution.
Last month I met this guy in a bookshop and after helping him out with spotting a book we started talking. And believe me he turned out to be an artist, but of a new kind. When he realized that I am studying Visual Studies he started speaking about his new art project. He was travelling across the world and doing video documentation of those places and he wants to create a video installation through which the viewers could experience a three dimensional image of those places. But sadly he couldn't find any takers for it because according to him it is new and is highly radical for Indian art scene. I don't know about its radical effect but it is time for the art world to think about cutting edge art practices and its impact on the art world. By cutting edge practices I do not confine the using of new technologies for the production of works of art. But this also includes the new technologies to ideate, proliferate and debate its nuances amongst a larger but invisible audience community. Therefore, cutting edge art practices need not necessarily wait for the galleries to support or promote it. It could function like the viral messages within the social networking communities. It could be able to bring together inter disciplinary practices and ideas.
According to Parul Dave Mukherji cutting edge art practice means one that has broken out of the representational mode and considers circuits through which works proliferate. That which does not start with the preconceived idea that can be transferred into any medium but that which considers how the idea travels and shapes the way it appears. She agrees that certainly, technology facilitates its production but cannot be determined by it alone. Hence it becomes important to see it in its current concerns and expectations.
Internet, social networks, encrypted Blackberry Messengers have played a decisive role in the political upheavals in Arab countries including Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya and civil uprisings in Bahrain, Syria and Yemen. These uprisings asserted the role of digital media as a fundamental infrastructure for socio-political dissent. It became an important medium to channelize public sentiment. How can we forget the “Million March Egypt” scheduled on Facebook which witnessed worldwide participation. One activist tweeted, “We use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world” acknowledging the importance of digital media. Leil Zahra Mortada now has over three thousand friends in FB. During the Egyptian uprising she compiled an album of photographs of the women who were protesting on the streets called 'Women of Egypt' in her FB account. For me it is one of the most remarkable online curation on gendered experiences of a sensitive and historic event.
Blackberry messengers challenging the sovereign authority of nation states were on the verge of ban due to its use in British riots. Cloud computing is going to revolutionize information technology by not requiring end-user knowledge of the physical location and configuration of the system that delivers the services. People are sharing information rapidly and information creation is also happening at a rapid pace. As far as our country is considered we still are at the infant stage for/of a technological revolution. The digital divide is enormous like the divide between rich and poor. Notwithstanding the fact that these changes in internet revolution are facilitating the fastest economic change we have ever witnessed. Over two billion people are online today which is a small percentage of the world population but a huge figure for the burgeoning internet market. An important question to ask now is how art world is reacting to these changes. Is the art world ready to embrace this new age artists who are using cutting edge practices. Johny ML thinks that cutting edge art practice in India still remains in a nebulous zone of cultural production. Galleries and collectors though do promote this kind of new age art practice they still have not got a complete faith in it. Like any new art form, cutting edge practices too face the same fate; neglect, suspicion and scorn.
One of the major setbacks which these practices face is the medium. Unlike space-based visual forms like painting, photographs, installation, sculptures, etc. cutting edge media practices are devoid of sensual and physical quality. By accepting this practice we will move away from space-based art. Internet acts as the new space for this new practice which is also seen as a highly democratized platform. In this sense it can blur the boundaries between the elitist art world and the public through the dissemination of their works. But keeping in mind that the contemporary art practice in India goes hand in hand with the global order of the Late Capitalism I also have my reservations against these practices. Information today has transcended beyond its expressive qualities and plays a vital role in the movement of late capital global order.
Kiran Subbaiah who is trained as sculptor works on a range of media especially internet art. Many of his works are downloadable mock viruses from the section called netart. His computer virus depicts a virus attack on a personal computer. Interestingly he has used hand written codes in this work emphasizing on the artistic touch on the new media. This sophisticated work is not easy to understand for a lay man, but it reflects a humorous simulation of a computer virus which exhausts the use value of a computer.
Guthrie Lonergan's works depicts the tension of an individual attempting to express themselves through YouTube, MySpace, Apple, etc. and approaches internet as one singular being. Asked on his role as a collector of his works in an interview he said that his art practice and art world grew out of intense Internet surfing, collecting and trading links on del.icio.us. He acknowledges that the ephemeral nature of internet generates a disdain for perfect 'created things'. Also on collecting he remarks that 'the word "collecting" implies too much physicality or weight; it's more like pointing or listing. In this way it's different than pre-Internet appropriation, because there's absolutely nothing precious or special to me about my specific source materials. We can all Google whatever the hell we want.' His offline art tries to take the emphasis off of the internet and technology and focuses on text which he calls as 'Internet Aware Art.'
Could the rise of new media arts and using of cutting edge technologies provide a new safe space for artists from vandalisms and censorships? It is difficult to say, because censorship is on the rise and many activists faced arrests for tweeting and using Facebook during the Arabian Spring. Governments of many countries have banned many websites, requested Youtube to remove videos which they found 'objectionable', and have passed stringent internet access laws. Therefore, cutting edge practices will not also be free from the surveillance of authorities and fascist forces. But the only solace is that these works will reach a larger audience which will lead to the democratization of art world.