Art News & Views

Overview Cutting Edge


by Snehal Tambulwadikar

When you Google search 'cutting edge art' you come across cutting, promising you exquisite art works painted on sickle, and saw; art actually on a cutting edge! The example is leading one, portraying the difficulties is defining of the contemporary art practices.

The cutting edge art is as difficult to define as a spellbound experience, and equally worthy to understand, what complicates matters is the lack of universal nature in the same.  Every moment in any period is the cutting edge; Dadaism can be considered the prime contender; but the art which one is referred here is the one around the 1980-90s, coming with the postmodern. The essence this art is the idea that there is no essence; that we're moving through a world of signs and wonders, where everything has been done before and is just lying around as cultural wreckage, waiting to be reused, combined in new and unusual ways.  It's an exhilarating world, but uncanny too. Thus comes out art which was not bound by any inhibitions, of media, or subject or pleasure. Artists freely moved between the binaries of visual and concept.

In the West, it's more of blend of technologies, sciences and altered spaces and viewership; like the work of the death Dr. Gunther Von Hayden, the anatomist using the skin peeled dead bodies with his novice preservation technique is art. Damien Hirst came to public recognition for his pickling of dissected farm animals in formaldehyde. In the ground-breaking Sensation exhibition of young British artists, Hirst exhibited a work showing thousands of flies feeding off a rotting cow's head in a pool of blood within a glass case. Sensation also included Marc Quinn's Self, a sculpture of his head made from his own frozen blood. The work was one of the advertising millionaire and art collector Charles Saatchi's prized pieces, but came to a sticky end when workers at his house accidentally unplugged the freezer in which it was kept. But the context is quite different when one comes to the Indian scenario, the new-media and the alternative art practices have numerous varied dimensions. Firstly, these art practices have come much later to us, as did the technology. The quest of artist here is more than cutting the edge between sciences and art, rather breaking the ice between 'sociale' and the self. It is not exactly to approve of non-essence, rather the cognition and alteration of essences. The artists might seem to follow the visuality of the west, but the essence remains essentially their own. This many times has led to its non recognition by 'generale', subsumed as subverted art.

The pioneering examples of cutting edge here, Bharti Kher's Skin Speaks the Language Not of Its Own, Chintan Upadhyay New Indians, Jitish Kallat's Public Notice or G.R. Iranna's Birth of Blindness, more of socio-personal comments than merely a technological proceed, although the usage of 'media' is path breaking. Chintan explores the hybridity in the contemporary India the unnatural blend of tradition and the world modern, “an insane synthesis of a fully integrated traditional culture in a more and more modern and cosmopolitan society” says the press release. He uses the iconography of Indian miniatures, over the male babies, at the same time commenting on numerous issues of gender, traditional dogma tics and the acceptance of externalized modern. Jitish Kallat in Public Notice uses the texts of great Indian leaders, the speech of Pandit Nehru, that of Gandhi, with the viewer having his reflection in the reading. G.R.Iranna again comments on the religious dogmatism, with the faith blindfolded. The art represents the early cutting edge in India, firstly due to novelty of media, and secondly due the representational techniques exploited. T.V.Santosh too works on the sensitive subject of Hiroshima blasts, with dogs aligned and Counting Down, a very interesting usage of technology in sculpture, leaving a jarring effect on audience. Interestingly, all these early exploits in alternate art took place not in India, but outside.

All these artists use the new media not only for the reason of technology, but for wider conveyance of subject, the artist poses himself as the other and is subject and object at the same time. Sonia Khurana's performance Bird (2000) with her 'self' can be considered as the most cutting edge work for the visual here, for the use of space and the media itself, leaving apart its radical effect or sensation. Bharti Kher's stands apart for the novice of media, the use of 'bindis', something Indian but altered in usage. Similarly in case of Subodh Gupta, media cracks the ice, usage of very common folk object in altered subjects and spaces. These practices are varied from the installations, videos, though all including, not all of these can be cutting edge, but any of these could be.

What edge is being cut, that between science and art, one between artist and audience, between aesthetics and sensibility or one between art and non-art itself? The artists are trying to portray themselves or are they reflecting the audience? The edge that's being cut is between the public and the personal, never has public art been so personalised/ individualistic. The society today is made of individuals, subsumed in crowds, the globalization highlighting identity crisis.

The medium is used as altered imagery; the space is not divided but occupied and non-occupied. The usage of space in these practices is most fascinating, as the artists use it universally; the area de 'void' the art work becomes imperative. What makes it very interesting is that it belongs to the present here and now, neither meaning nor aiming towards history or making of one. And it does not give any conclusions; it poses new questions, posing for a new avant garde, neither claiming nor proclaiming it.

Cutting edge practices in India do not have a natural blend of history, neither have they arrived as an outcome of technological advancement. Many a times they are debated as non-art in traditional art schools, not exactly grasping their virility. Also if we see the major works that brought about the edge avant here, these are not exactly technology 'powers', but subtle individual comments on the global. The artists are not creating altered spaces but working in them, merging the line between the 'spaces', real and heteropias, the art works becoming more and more alive as the audience are the part of 'art' space and complete it by partaking. The media when it comes naturally does not need any explanations, it speaks for itself, thus the real cutting edge conveys through the audience. The contemporary is not about enjoyment, it's about the experience of mind and brains both, and these art practices adhere to it; only the aspect that it relies not solely on the visual but space, language and so on. Though not all the art here is path breaking, a few contemporary artists are promising in their endeavours. Rather than authenticating its validity as art/non art, it would be enriching to sit back and ensure the aesthetic, which these art practices derive, sometimes visually and almost all time sensually, there's no escaping the weltgeist, the world spirit.



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