Wednesday, July 24, 2013

an unexpected tryst with art

I had been to the art exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art last weekend, with some friends. It was an unplanned engagement and we didn't know what was in store for us.
The original purpose was to visit some of Rabindranath Tagore's works of art titled "The Last Harvest".
But at the rate of Rs. 10/- per ticket we were able to view all the other standard exhibits also. The art gallery complex is very big and sprawls across many large halls and buildings. Students are charged a nominal fee of Re.1/-(can you believe that?).
The sprawling campus of the National Gallery of Modern Arts, Palace Road

Inside, the paintings, sculptures and a few other stuff which I don't know the names of were in display with appropriate lighting schemes, name plates, arrangement and layouts. The uniformed guards in the various sections were very courteous and made sure no one missed any piece of exhibit and sometimes gave some tit-bits of info when queried.

A section named "Homelands" was the first and it was hosted by the British Council. None of us bothered to read the descriptions and just barged in, just to be met with cryptic exhibits. But soon I started recognizing patterns in the photos. The exhibit claims to portray the theme , "A 21st century story of home, away and all the places in between". It contains pictures of dilapidated shacks, age-old mansions, small tents and crude huts against their natural backgrounds. Another exhibit contained a prayer mat with a compass in the centre which probably helped face towards Mecca. Some interesting exhibits covered the question of who is a resident, who is an immigrant and who really is owner of the lands. I find arts exhibitions interesting because the artists go through a lot of effort to bring out some idea or concept that usually is easily missed or ignored by the general population.

Another exhibit in the "Homelands" section had three large displays on the wall with three videos running simultaneously on them with headphones hung around for visitors to tune into. The subject was the conversations between three generations of women. Grandmother talks to daughter, daughter talks to granddaughter and finally grandmother talks to granddaughter, all in French. Though the content of their speech was indecipherable, it was clear the the exhibit wanted to capture the essence of conversations between a mother and a daughter and to signify the resemblances and differences across various generations.

But my favourite exhibit in this section was where various sheets were stuck on the walls which contained voice prints and English sentences alongside. Initially it made no sense to us and we started making random guesses. The mention of "Southern Sami" made me realize that each sheet represented one language and Sami was an endangered tribe that I was aware of. It took me some more time to register these were extinct or near-extinct languages. That discovery brought a lot of respect for the exhibit in us. What we saw were the last possible voice imprints of languages that would have been spoken somewhere for centuries. It even had a wonderful film screening where various dialogues from these languages were recorded, either in normal speech or lullabies. And they were with English subtitles wherever possible. It still gives me the goosebumps to recall the feeling of hearing a language that no one speaks now. It might sounds gibberish to us, but probably the languages I speak would sound the same to someone down the ages and this thought excites me.

I found an online atlas of endangered languages compiled by UNESCO, and found it be quite exhaustive. The data it presents is grim.
Then we followed onto the main exhibit of Rabindranath Tagore, which I didn't really appreciate much owing to his naive involvement in the business of painting. I don't care much what someone would have had in his head when drawing something unimpressive, even if its someone great as Tagore. But a Tagore fan among us was enjoying every single stroke with oohs and aahs. But to give some credits where they are due, some of Tagore's later works were quite impressive to even my untrained eyes and we spent quite a lot of time reinterpreting his thoughts and possibilities of mistakes just to irk the Tagore fan friend of ours.
There were many exhibits which are probably permanent ones from prominent artists, which are quite engaging and powerful in nature.

Overall it was fun and sent me back to the artistic corner after ages. The sense of comfort and the lack of it hits one in all its duality in such conditions :)

cheers to arts :D

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