Friday, November 25, 2005
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Saturday, November 19, 2005
The Indian Express Sunday, April 11, 2004 There is this fascinating book called My Name is Red by the Turkish writer, Orhan Pamuk. The book is poised in the midst of a changing world. The sacred state of being that created miniature, painted elaborate borders and gilded manuscripts is being threatened by revolutionary European methods and techniques of painting. A whole philosophy hovers behind what is happening in this confrontation of civilisations. On the one hand is the devotion to established rules and norms of painting, a total obedience to what has been formulated that leaves no space or scope for the individual voice, no possibility for different strokes. This state of being also required an ethical and moral integrity to accept this system. The threat to this world comes from the European painting methods of the seventeenth century, of many voices and styles, of the artist as individual, of different strokes for different folks. This is the argument I wish to use. Before the artist became an individual and found expression in his own imagination, or in a particular style and technique, things were very different for the one who created. The artist belonged to a larger system of visual codification, which was in keeping with norms that were already established. Since there was no personal style in the system there was therefore no signature, only the following of a convention which developed around faith and religion. A lot of activity was around the architectural grandeur of churches, mosques, stupas and temples, the carvings to be found therein or the paintings and mosaics that decorated them further. The result everywhere was of great beauty brought about by faith, talent and virtuosity. And, of course, no identity. The implication was that the self was not as important as the gift to God and the joy to be evoked in the viewer. The notion of artist as individual, as a person to reckon with, as star and celebrity really began with the Renaissance. Some of the artists were renowned, knew the rich and powerful and accepted commissions based on their ability and artistic expression. They had their own style, their own way of seeing and of interpreting reality. There are artists in India today who state that their art so strongly bears their style that they do not need to sign. They say their style is their signature. For buyers the signature is important. There are those who buy signatures, not paintings. And it goes without saying that a fake will definitely need a signature to establish credibility. There are artists who develop different styles during their artistic career. Each style implies the release of passion and intensity. Once that is spent, the style too, is exhausted and loses meaning. Then the artist moves on to another style. There is a need to establish ownership to each style, hence the signature. Certain young artists today declare that they are too busy experimenting with medium, method and material to pause and develop a style that they get identified with. But they require a signature to establish claim. How confused everything is, as we go round and round. There are as many opinions as there are people and no way of knowing the right from the wrong.
But ask for happiness and strive with fate;
Because thou art, the wretched still can hope.
Because thou art in him, man hopes and dares
Because thou art, men’s soul can climb the heavens
And walk like gods in the presence of the Supreme.
Because thou art, the soul draws near to God:
Because thou art, love grows in spite of hate
And knowledge walks unslain in the pit of night.
Because Thou art All-beauty and All-bliss
My soul blind and enamoured yearns for Thee;
It bears Thy mystic touch in all that is
And thrills with the burden of that ecstasy….
Time voyages with Thee upon its prow –
And all the future’s passionate hope is Thou.
Friday, November 18, 2005
- Even for this talk, we were encouraged to be "engaging" and "visual." The implied caution? Don’t use big words, don’t be too intellectual. Remember, this is an audience of visual people.
- Where does this come from — this notion that thinking and making are seperate acts? That graphic design must be inherently anti-intellectual because it is a creative enterprise? And why is being "popular," — and by extension, participating in "popular" culture — understood somehow as antithetical to an engagement with the larger world of ideas?
William Drenttel: Designers talk about creating a body of work, but they seldom talk about acquiring a body of knowledge. They take pride in being makers, but seldom identify themselves as thinkers. They claim to be emissaries of communication — to give form to ideas. And while we would like to believe this is true, it seems to us that all too often, we, as designers, are called upon merely to make things look good — rather than contributing to the evolution and articulation of ideas themselves. This is an age-old criticism of design, but it seems especially relevant this morning as we talk about the Culture of Design.
- We believe the "Culture of Design" has become implicitly about branded culture: culture that we can see, that we can name, that we can buy and sell and package; culture that is synonymous with style; culture that resonates with novelty and which, by conjecture, dismisses history as mere nostalgia; culture that determines and drives our reactions to the constantly changing pulse of modern life.
- But we do believe that we are fundamentally restricting the pluralistic character of design by adopting a fixed vocabulary for process. Not everyone in this room sees "generating value" as a rationale for what they do. By expanding the very definition of design, are we simultaneously narrowing the rich variety that makes design such an exciting profession?
JH: But it is sobering, nonetheless, to consider how culture awards real contributions. The French cubist painter, Georges Braque once said that art is made to disturb, while science reassures. Design, it seems, lies somewhere in the middle: it is both and it is neither, playing both ends against the middle: and it is this middle-brow, middle-class, middle-of-the-road intellectual apathy that diminishes the real power of design: its power as a humanist discipline. We believe that to engage that discipline — and the many cultures it serves — means simply being better educated. This has perhaps less to do with culture, and more to do with having a cultivated mind; less to do with technical virtuosity, and more to do with intellectual curiosity. Less to do with popular culture — and more to do with culture, period.
WD: Francis Bacon once said that knowledge and human power are synonymous, and it is in this spirit that true power is perhaps ideally achieved: it is power informed by learning, collaborating and considering how the ultimate quality of our lives is made, whether in reference to our health or our schools; our environment or our foreign policy; our aspirations in science or in space; or our humanitarian achievements, as people, in war and in peace.It's that simple. And it’s that complicated.
For years I used to be in awe of art. Not 'awe' as in respectful bewilderment, but deep dread at the thought of encountering, and having to comment on, mystifying masterpieces. In corporate foyers, my host would halt in front of an expensively mounted work and pause knowledgeably. In an upwardly mobile (if inwardly puerile) world, style can be bought from a designer and clipped accents picked up from the nearest call centre. Talking intelligently about art is the most difficult skill to acquire, and I had nearly given up being able to do so, until inspiration struck. The secret lay in approaching the problem the way a boy scout would, i.e. by being prepared.
I prepared myself by spending a sabbatical pouring over anthologies and memorising the artists' signatures. An assiduous fortnight later, I could tell the impressionist's squiggle from the post-modernist's flourish. When next I stood before an abstract outpouring of colour, I was ready. "Ah", I said, stooping low (in both physical and moral sense), and shooting a glance at the corner of the frame. It even seemed to wink at me conspiratorially. "Husain", I said, turning to my host, "has such candour. Even his hubris has a touch of innocence about it". As important as knowing whom one is talking about, is knowing what to say. Comments like 'how beautiful' and 'so pretty' have no place in the art con-noisseur's (hyphen intended) lexicon.
Ideally, your words should be as mystifying as the paintings themselves. With practice, I also learnt not to rush headlong into comments. Instead, I would murmur, "Subtle, very subtle", and pause reflectively before coming up with: "Hebbar seems to be in continuous dialogue with his own archetype". The admiration of my listeners was palpable and my culture quotient soared. When I had eloquently declared that Bhupen Khakkar 'connected to forbidden quarters of the soul', that Akbar Padamsee's 'world-view was the healing balm people needed', and that sculptor Adil Davierwalla's stark lines were 'fraught with myth overlayed with contemporary sensuality', the world hailed the arrival of a true aficionado.
Just when I thought I had mastered all the possible perils of art appreciation, a new one reared its head. I am actually beginning to like some of the stuff. THE TIMES OF INDIA : October 11, 2005
Monday, November 14, 2005
Nostalgia has always been a bad word for designers. Like “retro” and “vintage” it smacks of a sort of been-there-done-that ennui — looking backward instead of forward, nostalgia presents as the very antithesis of the new. Even hard-core historians resist its emotional lure, which can, in an instant, dramatize the truth and distance it from fact. Nostalgia skews by privileging episodic time over chronological time: in this context, “memory” is cast as a curious, dangerous and rather unreliable lens. Or is it?In the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, nostalgia was seen as a disease, an ailment to be cured. (One doctor described it as “hypochondria of the heart.”) Over time, it came to typify the porous romanticism of bygone eras — Victorianism, for example — conjuring visions both sentimental and ornamental. The streamlined reserve of the International Style obliterated such decorative excess, inaugurating an age of uncompromised neutrality: later, we called it modernism and applauded its appeal to functionality and its celebration of formal rigor. But the notion of longing never really went away because at the end of the day, it remains an essential human condition. Equally human is our need to mark time: so we keep calendars and agendas and diaries and albums, all of them gestures of physicality and permanence, tangible, graphic reminders of our own evolution, participation and engagement with the world around us. (My current research has revealed, among other things, evidence of an astonishing range of visual imagination from civillian diarists proving, rather conclusively I think, that DIY began a long time ago.)It is easy to classify such efforts as lacking in authority since they are, by their very nature, autobiographical: if they’re the micro, then the macro — the big world vision — would seem to require more public forms of expression. As designers, we tend to orient our thinking to the broader demographics, visualizing messages that are read and recorded by multiples. But multiples are made up of singulars: in other words, in order to truly understand how to reach people visually, why wouldn’t we start smaller? Why aren’t our efforts more centralized, more specific to one person at a time? And in the spirit of such inquiry, why wouldn’t we consider, as the grass-roots cultural anthropologists that we really are, what makes people feel and notice and care and think — and remember?The short answer is that in principle, memory is a fairly unreliable search engine. And while it has received substantial mileage in televised courtroom dramas, where witnesses are asked, under oath, to recall events “to the best of their ability,” it is generally thought to be deeply personal and highly flawed. Yet it’s those personal flaws — the ones that our logic tells us should be overlooked — that sit right up there with nostalgia as qualities we typically resist, loosely on the assumption that our work needs to read to a wider audience rather than resonate with a smaller one.Nostalgia is fuzzy and utopian, privileging an imagined past over a real one. And indeed, nostalgia can be kitsch — playing on the collective recollections of a generation and teasing the psyche through the occasional retro replay — but why can’t it be more than this? Big branding conceits — Old Navy bringing back '60s hip-huggers, for instance — is one way to mobilize nostalgia as a catalyst for sales, but it's a collective memory and besides, we’re all sort of “in” on the irony. Can’t the use of personal memory in the public realm be more transcendant, more emotionally raw than this?A potentially controversial new report released this week claims that sleep, often maligned due to its its obvious link to idleness, might be another opportunity for understanding the role of memory: more sleep may actually bring about more clarity — not less. ‘In different stages of sleep,” writes Kate Ravilious in this morning’s Guardian,“our brains piece together thoughts and experiences, then file them in a structured way, giving us clearer memories and ultimately, better judgment.” File and structure might not be the first words to come to mind in this discussion, but to the degree that point-of-view remains a key ingredient in so much of what we produce visually, why would we disparage the role of memory in our work? Human memory is more than merely fallible — it’s intangible, difficult to pinpoint, virtually impossible to quantify. And yet, bearing witness lies at the core of a very particular kind of history: it is a history that, more often than not, depends on the collective stronghold of a series of highly individualized stories. (Consider the tradition of oral and visual histories — The Shoah Project, for example.)I’ve had a growing concern over the past few years that designers in general — and design students in particular — seem predisposed toward a kind of virulent antihistoricism. It’s as if a bow to history precludes innovation, that looking back prevents you from looking forward. Such analytical disparity is perhaps deserving of its own post — but for now, I’d like to suggest that the tension between nostalgia (old) and novelty (new) is one of authenticity (personal) versus authority (public). The designer, as maverick, maker and visual missionary, is perhaps culturally predisposed toward The Next Big Thing. But it’s the last little thing — and maybe the thing before that — that really interests me. And which, for that matter, makes me rather nostalgic. Posted by Jessica Helfand on October 27, 2005 08:25 AM Jump to Most Recent Comment
Saturday, November 12, 2005
The Indian Express Home > Front Page Saturday, November 12, 2005
INDIA EMPOWERED TO ME IS When art, the custodian of a nation’s culture, gets its due
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Saturday, November 05, 2005
Pertaining to that which arouses sensitivity to beauty and emotion, as opposed to the practical, intellectual, or scientific. An aesthetic response is an appreciation of such beauty, and an aesthete is a person who subscribes to this philosophy and regards themselves as having special sensitivity to beauty. The Aesthetic Movement began in the late 19th century in England with leaders being Walter Pater, Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley. The slogan was "Art for Art's Sake" meaning being that conveying a sense of beauty superseded all social and moral considerations. The word aesthetic is derived from the Greek "aisthetika", meaning perceptibles. Credit: Kimberley Reynolds, "Illustrated Dictionary of Art Terms" Credit: "Random House Dictionary" AskART