Tip of Our Times
By Swapan Seth
Swapan Seth, hailed to be one of the well-known new age art collectors in India vouches his allegiance with cutting edge art. With his unique tongue-in-cheek style he says that cutting edge art neither sits on the fence of familiarity nor does it sit on the barstool of aesthetical boredom.
The phrase, “cutting-edge” is unarguably the most polite phrase in the art business. Deceptively so, though.
For in reality, it has a smirk as its bridesmaid.
There are allusions to lunacy that are embedded within it.
Very simply put. It means art that no one, besides a certified moron, would purchase.
I love “cutting edge” art.
To me it represents art that sits on the tip of our times. Dangerously so.
Not art that sits on the fence of familiarity or the barstool of boredom.
Art that pushes the collective consciousness of all its constituents: the artist, his gallery, the audience and, of course, the collector (if there is one, for such kind of work).
To me cutting edge art is anything that is born out of a pressing need to embrace the technology or the language of our times.
Art that provokes and not cajoles.
I have consumed reams of newsprint to drive home the point that I am merely the adult custodian of art that actually will belong, over time, to my children.
For them, art that did not reflect their times and the technology that embraced those times would be dated drivel.
Which really means that I am consumed by video, enamoured by sound, enthralled with interactive and quite captivated with hardware such as IPads. I actively collect photographic work that emanates out of Blackberry and other handheld devices. I would be quite lured by art that emanates out of Facebook or Twitter of even Foursquare. Imagine something happening to an artwork each time an artist checks into a restaurant or bookstore?
I am in active conversations with a clutch of artists who are consistently and diligently exploring the landscape of new media.
Am I just a tech junkie?
Far from that. I actually actively seek an idea and because I am fortunate enough to have a wife that allows me to live with the madness that I collect, the work must have an aesthetic appeal to it as well. My favourite work, A 1000 Tears by Suchitra Gahlot has nothing to do with technology but certainly to do with migraines, a curse of our times. Is it beautiful? Oh, God, it is. Is it cutting edge? They tell me that 1000 vials stacked up in a home is cutting edge. They must be right. They are so much brighter.
Of course amidst all this, a certain pattern has begun to emerge in my collecting sensibilities. And some naysayers can actually walk out of a show and guess what I would have picked up or liked.
It used to piss me off earlier. Now it doesn't.
In her lovely book, Damage, Josephine Hart described, “damaged people.”
She said, “Damaged people are dangerous. They know they can survive.”
Cutting edge artists are much the same.
And if I were to extend the embrace of the compliment, so are cutting edge collectors.