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Artist to hold summit of banned organisations at Kochi Biennale

S. Anandan
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It will be organised next March on the theme ‘History according to resistance movements’

Jonas Staal of the Netherlands displays his work on banned organisations, at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale on Wednesday.— Photo: K.K. Mustafah
Jonas Staal of the Netherlands displays his work on banned organisations, at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale on Wednesday.— Photo: K.K. Mustafah

At first sight Jonas Staal, with his closely cropped hair, piercing eyes and impassioned talk, could be mistaken for a radical.

The artist-activist, who formally opened his political installation on banned organisations in the Kochi-Muziris Biennale at Aspinwall House on Thursday, represents a pursuit rarely encountered in this part of the world.

He, along with colleague Younes Bouadi, is planning to organise the third ‘New World Summit’ of outlawed organisations at the biennale site in March 2013 on the theme ‘History according to resistance movements’.

“It will be a supplementary history,” he says.

While the first ‘New World Summit’ was held in Berlin in May 2012, the second will be get under way at Leiden, Netherlands on December 29, two weeks from now.

Mr. Staal’s installation comprises 45 billboards depicting flags of banned organisations, 24 Indian and 21 from abroad, and he says he’s going to ‘indiscriminately invite’ all proscribed outfits to take part in the summit and present their role and ideologies.

“It is up to them to take a call on participation,” he says.

“The initiative is perfectly legal. We would be pushing the envelope by leveraging exceptional measurements like diplomatic legitimacy to ensure representation of all interested organisations at the summit. Say, for instance, an organisation banned in one country may not figure on the blacklist elsewhere, or there could be someone linked to a banned outfit who is free to travel and talk,” he explains.

Incongruities

Though he studied monumental art, Mr. Staal has been a key explorer of the relationship between art and propaganda. He is pretty much fascinated with the internal incongruities of democratic structures, such as the use of undemocratic, rather oppressive means to deal with unlawful organisations, which, he says, denies these organisations a legitimate opportunity to explain themselves. Banned organisations expose the limits of democracy and the task of progressive art is to work towards a limitless democracy, Mr. Staal believes.

His job, therefore, is to employ art as a counter-measure to dominant political expression. The artist in Staal, however, takes strong exception to states or organisations fighting over territory. “Unfortunately, most of it stems from an urge to wield control over territories,” he says.

The summit will generate an archive of alternative political thinking born out of an alternative parliament, he says.


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