I think therefore graffiti....
Apnavi Thacker  Mithu Sen
Atul Dodiya   Prajakta Potnis
Baiju Parthan Rakhi Peswani
Balaji Ponna Riyas Komu
Bose Krishnamachari Sathyanand Mohan
Gigi Scaria Sumedh Rajendran
G. R. Iranna T. V. Santhosh
Justin Ponmany Vishal Dar
Kiran Subbaiah Ved Gupta
K. P. Reji Vivek Vilasini 
  5 August  - 23 September, 2010


Who designs, beautifies, creates our cities, our roads, gullies, pavements, parks, markets, and other public spaces? And who is entitled to use these spaces, maintain them, live in them? Who is responsible towards the safety of these spaces? Who controls them? ...In the larger matrix of these and many other unanswered questions, remains the public sphere, the street culture, the physical space of day to day living and commuting in large metropolitan cities. These spaces, unofficially, also house enumerable migrants who compromisingly arrive to the cities everyday...holding those dreams that they are unable to realize within the contexts they leave behind.

In the chaos of everyday existence, where the city meets the individual, the physical meets the mental, the public and private merge.  This everyday is a difficult terrain to frame,  to understand, or to draw lines from. This everyday is the field where the political is practiced, but it is almost hidden by the everyday encounters of the mundane, day to day. A chaotic realm of uncountable visual experiences, this ‘everyday’ is a transient mass;  of layers...cinema hoardings being pasted on top of each other, funeral processions of  local guru or MLA,  street vendors going hoarse, drugged beggars sprawled along the pavements, motor accidents, fisty fights between rowdies, urinating men, warning signs for trespassers, glass windows with no entry, private property demarcations, uncontrollable traffic...and various visual instances that can become ‘incidents’ for the common imagination. Various artists, through their praxis, have tried to immortalise, and perhaps, have essentialised an agency that sometimes helps us in framing these nonchalant instances.

But, there is another concern here, another trope, an area, that almost seems hidden between this urban chaos. Perhaps it is these ‘voices’ of the street vendors, auto rickshaw drivers, car mechanics , the drugged beggars, the marginalised hijras,  pan wallahs, the factory workers, the prostitutes, and many other voices that seem the most inaudible. We all, do speak a similar tongue, but our language seems incomprehensible to each other; perhaps for the differences of class, caste, upbringing and various other experiential dissimilarities. Even while we attempt to understand each others’ language, the differences of appearances keep our distances intact.

Graffitti as an art form evolved in the west, from the grassroots; voicing these differences. The voices were from those that felt excluded, or from those who felt a need for something that the mainstream was unable to address. Graffiti (art) became synonymous with the voices that quietly, sometimes anonymously, vehemently roared against private property, homogeneity, and many other forms of exclusions that individuals experienced in the marginalised neighbourhoods of developed nations. These voices, as visual testimony, were a war, of words and visuals, mostly against the mainstream of production-consumption capitalist cycle. Reactionary, individualistic, radical, anti-aesthetic, vandalistic, are some of the theoretical adjectives coined later, to understand the form. Ironically,  once it started getting institutionalised, like many other forms of art, the art of graffiti also, came to be ‘recognised’ by the system of capitalist art market, and thus got usurped into another paradigm of style, that could be borrowed to replicate radical, reactionary behaviour. So, in its formal behaviour, if graffiti is a form of painting on the wall, one can immediately hold a strong denial, since there are many more possibilities of wall painting that cannot be termed as graffiti... in its spirit, and formal tones, the art form demands total unification to be termed thus.

The project, titled “I think therefore graffiti…” initiated by the Guild Art Gallery,  invited artists from across the country to perhaps, locate those thoughts that visit the spirit of Graffiti. The domains of exclusion, of a constructed ‘mainstream’, the domain of anti aesthetic, the domain of fast, transient, street culture, of politics of private property, of art and its objectification, of homelessness, art and site specificity, the spoken and the visual, the spontaneous expression, the strengths of the vulnerable, reactionary visual activism on the urban streets, mobility of the ‘common man’, deprivation, isolation, commercialisation are some of the tropes that seemed to be opened through this project.

Perhaps, as a project that is sprouting from the mainstream, the aim is to break the glass as well as hold a mirror...for it is through these domains of the public that a private life is shaped, which in turn produces the public sphere ahead....

Rakhi Peswani
July 2010, Hyderabad


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