Provocation & Protest : In the Name of Art

Every man may be an artist in his own way. His art may not be to your taste, expectations or form. But you must realize that you do not hold the patent on what art is. Nor does anyone else for that matter. As rightly described in the movie Mona Lisa Smile, the scribbling by a three year old might not be art to anyone but to that child’s mother.

So we come to an elusive but essential question so as to further this exercise – What is art. Before you start to answer, you must realize that every answer you give is bound to be wrong. There is no definition of art. The moment we begin to define art by such and such words, it has ceased to become art. For, to define art would be to constrain art. And art transcends all constraints, limitations and boundaries. Art is related to those higher faculties of man which refuse to be tied down by conventional science and reasoning. And so, art is lost the moment we begin to measure it, weigh it, rate it or classify it. Every creation by an artist is not necessarily art, because art is not something that comes out of an assembly line.

With art being such a vague and mind bogglingly vast indefinite phenomenon, it would be simply too lame to excuse a large number of horrendous crimes just because someone dared to label them art. When M F Hussain depicted a goddess naked, his work somehow insulted millions of citizens who worshipped the goddess. So these citizens protested violently with crowbars, hockey sticks and unsheathed swords. The whole ‘intellectual’ community along with the media, described M F Hussain as an unacknowledged artist and the reacting citizens as barbaric and narrow minded. What Hussain stroked with his brush was termed art and what the huge insulted population tried to express through their ‘brushes’ was termed anti-social. It seems unfair that freedom of expression is limited to those artists with camel-hair brushes and oil paints.

A few months later, the whole media was backing a few students whose works were brutally destroyed by a group of people as it insulted every god they worshipped and every belief they held near and dear. The peoples’ violent actions were barbaric and anti-social while the violent and outright insults hurled at the people were to be excused as it was art.

I will not justify the violence that served political interests, but it seems only logical that even citizens who might not be well versed with the art of hurling insults through the medium of sculptures and paintings too be given a broad venue to express their feelings. When such venues cease to exist, the political parties will be sure to take advantage of the common man who has just been forced to witness the sale of a defiled portrait of his god or goddess.

Art as a social reforming weapon is something I totally agree upon, but when certain provocative creations are labeled art just so as to attract attention by creating a controversy and thereby increase the market value of such so called artists, that is something we art lovers should recognize as downright degrading. The amount of obscenity and lewdness that are passed on today as art is simply outrageous. And when the topic is about the same type of depictions that were used by artists centuries ago, know that two wrongs don’t make a right.

Raji a Rauof

[Image source: ]