Experiencing art without fashion
Perhaps art is best left undiagnosed and focussed on the sublimating experience of experiencing
There is something about a piece of art which touches most people's sensitivities. Mercifully, this has not been analysed to a point of atomisation and people are asking: What makes a thing of art? A visual flourish, a piece of music, a touch on the palate can be such a moving experience.
Before the writer of these lines fell in love with management, he had a sojourn with anthropology. In the course of a field work in the Chota Nagpur area and for that matter with select tribal communities elsewhere, one had a sense of embarrassment and awkwardness when in the course of the field trips, one came across Adivasi women who were topless.
In an elegant way, the experience itself was not only unusual but almost aesthetic. Any museum does have statues of exposed upper part of women or indeed paintings which have made a mark to highlight the beauty of the human physique. It’s difficult to recall anyone who has attempted to put a size measurement on the parts of the body of such statues, pictures or paintings.
Prof LP Vidhyarthi explained this in a lucid way when he pointed out that the Adivasi mindset does not have the concept of nudity for the upper part of the human body. He pointed out how people notice the exposed upper part of the feminine body but had no views on the exposed upper part of the male body! He was really dwelling upon the concept of categories in art.
We have got lost in this perspective, in the so-called superiority of ‘urbaneness' and made a fetish of technology. Indeed, a relevant question to ask would be: Why does one have problems with other person's categories? Why does one consider one's multi-level lives as superior to people who lead their lives at a simple level of being?
Tribal musical instruments have drums as an essential component in all parts of the world. To this day, one has seen no reference to this as a page in the process of globalisation. Ever-so often, globalisation is taken to begin with the emergence of modern technology.
Pre-industrial communities anywhere in the world from Mexico to India and from New Zealand to Iceland have survived on the principle of being an integral part of nature. History of this planet was being re-written when all resources were seen as subsets of utilising resources to save physical labour of humans. Human rapaciousness was glorified till slowly the realisation began to dawn that there were limits — if nothing else, of time taken for renewal of resources. However, there seemed no limits to human avariciousness! That is another story.
To get back to the theme of aesthetics and art, it is remarkable that the aesthetic contents of arts are not as widely celebrated as the breakthroughs of, say nuclear physics. There is no museum that I know, which has visualised the unity in the excellence of artistic expression in all the five senses. Very often, aesthetics, through eyes and ears, are combined, but there is no museum on the odours and smells which are something equally aesthetic.
The artistry on the palate has only recently been glamorised with the emergence of heightened profiles of the chefs. Be that as it may, if one wants to witness the successive stages of evolution of human sensibility on this planet, one has to recognise the strong service tribal arts have rendered to preserve the uncelebrated charms of eternity.
It would stand to reason that there is a beauty in silence and even some music in melancholy. Many definitions of poetry have tried to highlight this. However, melody always preceded visual aesthetics.
If the basic instincts of desire, longing and love bring poignancy to human expression, so does experience of revulsion, break-up and hate. The character of Iago in Shakespeare's Othello contrasted with the character of Shakuntala in ‘Abhigyan Shakuntal' of Kalidasa demonstrate this. A comparison of expression of two opposite emotions is always tricky. However, the two are moving renditions in their own right. Perhaps art is best left undiagnosed and focussed on the sublimating experience of experiencing.
(The writer is a well-known management consultant)
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