Conflicts Beyond Words—The English Department Exhibition
“If the world were clear, art would not exist.”
And so, our world is fraught with all of its own fault lines, its ruptures have changed the lives of people in unimaginable ways. The two-day long Litmus 2019 attempted to help us understand it perhaps a little more closely, with an array of deeply insightful speakers, academicians and creative performers. But certainly, a more heartful and truly honest rendering could not have been made of bringing to life multiple perspectives on what conflict is as was done through the Department Exhibition.
There were three sections of the exhibition, showcasing artwork made by the Art and Design Team of the Department; the newspaper cut-outs, film stills and photo montages collated by Tabeer; and another for the artwork contributed by the Dalit Panthers.
The underlying concept of the Art and Design exhibition centred around capturing the essence of experiencing the conflict of the personal with the external and the political, covering a wide range of mediums. Madhurima’s personal touch of using needles and threads within a canvas painting to depict the blurring boundaries of the personal and the political in Kashmir, Anusuiya’s fresh take on the Kedarnath floods through her translucently layered and three-dimensional craft to depict the conflict between man and nature, Parul’s assortment of things from her childhood, a memory box, to implicate on a union of the conventionally conflicting aspects in public spaces and Nehal, Ambika, Aanchal, Aastha, Ayushi, Rachna, Topi, Pallavi, Vandana, Ambika, and Himangi’s attempts to reflect their personal tussle on paper and canvas were truly unique and thought-provoking.
Tabeer’s exhibition, after sustaining some low-key conflict of itself, managed to put up an astonishingly detailed and carefully curated collection of depictions of conflict within the Indian experience in the private and the public. Headlined with a deeply ironical title, the section showcasing photos from Kashmir forces us to shift uncomfortably, preventing us from continuing with our idyllic imaginations surrounding the heavenly beauty of Kashmir while conveniently erasing the people that live within, and the pain they experience.
Another poster consisting of newspaper cut-outs was devoted to the potent conflict surrounding the media, dubbed ‘Making Space- (Presence/Absence)’. Film stills from three documentaries, ‘Ram ke Naam’, ‘Jai Bhim Comrade’ by Anand Patwardhan and ‘India Untouched’ by Stalin K, located the issues of conflict within the nation panning across the intersecting lines of communal, caste-based and gendered spaces. Rectangular boxes within the centre of the display showcased the space of streets as a platform for resistance and celebration, while sardonic metro-line dividers punned on the reality of current development projects— “Minimum wages? WORK IN PROGRESS”.
Other photos, taken by Bharat Sikka and Prabuddha Dasgupta, among others, broadly focused on mapping conflict within the lives of Indian men and women, challenging heteronormative narratives and addressing the issues of child marriage and widows.
The exhibition at the conference reserved part of the space for the representation of the Dalit Panthers movement which began in Maharashtra. The Dalit Panthers movement gave impetus to several Dalit writers who saw writing as a form of protest and took the nation by storm.
The exhibition was put up in collaboration with the Dalit Panther Archive, an informal, self-funded, independent organization set up in 2016. The Archive helped provide pieces which traced the vibrant history and politics of the movement.
The Dalit Panthers movement in Maharashtra was inspired by the Black Panther Party movement in the United States of America, a socialist struggle in opposition to the racial discrimination against the African-Americans. Namdeo Dhasal, J.V. Pawar and Anil Kumble emerged as pioneers in the Dalit Panthers movement.
The exhibition definitely gave a taste of the times to all those who stopped to read the displayed pieces, of how this conflict was experienced by the minorities, and the kind of literature that emerged from conflict, not from a point of view of the privileged but from the perspective of the Dalits themselves.
The times of conflict are, needless to say, fraught with violence and resentment, betrayal and anger. But they are also times of a gushing outpouring of new literature and art. The Holocaust presents a massive example. So do conflicts in India. The pieces at the exhibition proved that time after time, conflicted minds find a confidante in literature and art, which thus stands as ever present and ever relevant, always posing as a repository of all elements of existence.
Tinka Dubey and Pakhi Pande