In a city better known for its association with big business, the Mohile Parikh Center (MPC), Mumbai, has been in the forefront of efforts to create a space for those interested in following the arts and aspects of contemporary cultural theory and practice in a serious way.
On February 22, one such panel discussion organised by MPC will pick up themes from a much-awaited book, Articulating Resistance: Art and Activism, edited by Deeptha Achar and Shivaji K Panikkar. The discussion — drawing from the experiences of mainly visual artists as well as activists, critics, historians, faculty and students who met for a three-day seminar soon after the genocide in Gujarat in 2002 at MS University Baroda — will explore the spaces that exist for and between art and activism. A dialogue between art and activism in contemporary India will inevitably have to address the largely neglected questions of political beliefs and behaviour of those who have incorporated activism in practice.
Prof. Panikkar points out though that the question lends itself to a more politically nuanced reading than that indicated by current discourse on “issues”. “These are urgent questions but not linked to party lines. The concerns are probably better described as socio-political where politics is taken in a much wider sense.”
The book goes beyond the seminar though, as the editors asked for fresh contributions from others in the fields of arts and activism. The main themes of the book are linked to visual arts, though some writers have also covered theatre and the performing arts as well. Contributors include Rustom Bharucha, G.P. Deshpande, Koonal Duggal, Kancha Ilaiah, Geeta Kapur, Nivedita Kuttiah, Georgina Maddox, Parul Dave Mukherji, Vasvi Oza, Sahmat Collective, Santhosh S., Sneha Raghavan, R. Srivatsan, Gary Tartakov and Jothi F. Xavier.
The panel at MPC comprising artists Nalini Malani and Tushar Joag as well as Achar and Pannikar (the editors of the book) will be in a discussion moderated by Sudhanva Deshpande, actor and director at Jana Natya Manch and editor at Leftword Books in Delhi.
“The question of art and activism is urgent and all of us are grappling with it,” says Deshpande. Taking his cue from the touchy political environment of the day, he hopes to discuss dimensions of the politics of hurt sentiments. The targeting of all kinds of artistic endeavour — irrespective of political content or intent — has left him wondering whether “there are strategies for creating works that reach people but do not lead back to the creator”. Intriguing questions like these will be part of the discussion at MPC.
Bottomline: Exploring the spaces for and between art and activism.
Articulating Resistance: Art and Activism; Edited by Deeptha Achar and Shivaji K. Panikkar, Tulika Books, Rs.995