There’s really no contract between an artist and his audience. The artist does his thing based on self-interest. If he has some talent and does not want to be a poor man, he will use it to do the kind of thing which evokes popular interest. Others will look at Picasso and try to shake a thing or two about perception and often die poor because no one understood a thing about it. Manmohan Desai was as much right in ensuring children get lost and found every time he made a movie as Adoor Gopalakrishnan is in making movies which are crossword puzzles. There is, however, a contract which the audience has with itself and that is to be honest to one’s own feeling about what there is before one’s eyes.
At one corner of a cavernous hall in Mehmoob Studios there is a cannon which shoots red pellets into a white background. This is part of artist Anish Kapoor’s show which is on till 16 December. According to the show’s curator, the red could be an allusion to blood. The roar of the cannon and the splotches that it makes could evoke violence. Then there are other installations, like steel mirrors in various forms, which distort reflection in myriad ways. This could unsettle the person who looks into it, distorting his reality.
All of which are valid interpretations put forth by someone who has organised the show, but the mystery begins when everyone who walks into Mehboob Studios sees exactly the same thing. Read reviews or articles on the show, and you would be struck with the similarity of comment.
Artists want to be understood, but they are also wary about explaining their art. During the press walk through the show, Kapoor too was reluctant to dwell on it. For good reason, because once he has finished his work, the artist’s inter-pretation is just one among the many. If what he thinks about his work becomes public, then everyone who walks in only sees that. Art must engage the viewer on his/her terms, not on the artist’s.
There is absolutely no guilt in saying that the steel mirrors in Mehboob Studios distort reality far less than what a maze of mirrors in a recreation park does. And distortion to distortion, that is a quantifiable statement to make. Or, that when a cannon shoots red pellets, I see nothing but a cannon shooting red pellets. It would be honest, and that is more aesthetic than parroting a line.