This is an installation that is currently part of Freedom 2008 show on at the bombastically-named Centre of International Modern Art in Kolkata. It’s called Ghuter Deyal which roughly translates to “the wall with the dung patties” or “the dung cake wall”. The entire thing, including the figure, is made of paper. Dung patties are slapped on walls to dry and then the hardened patty is used as fuel in much of India. Most art critics will appreciate the fine sense of structure and composition that the artist who made Ghuter Deyal has but there won’t be much more appreciation. The cow dung, the woman in the sari, the poverty – it’s all too exotic. Plus, it’s difficult to top Subodh Gupta slathering cow dung all over himself and then taking a shower in his video project Pure (a penetrating and gross comment on the bizarreness of how the same stuff can be considered shit and a purifier with Gupta’s characteristic flair for drama and narcissism).
But Shakila is not a hoity-toity, left-wing artist who wears lots of kohl and talks about how the postmodern is dead. She is the daughter of a streetside fruit vendor for whom “left” means the political party whose graffiti is covered daily by dung patties like the one in her installation. Shakila mainly makes collages out of paper. She got the idea of making collages when she found work in a factory that recycles old paper by turning it into bags and envelopes. That’s when she discovered textures. Her training in art involved sitting on a street corner and listening to the advice of a kindly professor of mathematics who realised this girl had potential. She still doesn’t know how to write much more than her real name and chances are, she’d fumble over the spelling of Ghuter Deyal if she were asked to write it. Apparently, Shakila’s works are now being bought by major collectors and auction houses. I’m sure Anju Dodiya isn’t losing sleep yet but how fairy tale-esque is the tale of Shakila!
Though, when it comes to weird and wonderful, no one comes even close to Bangalore-based artist Umesh Madanahalli. Madanahalli isn’t very well-known within India but he’s considered one of the big hopes of contemporary Indian art. He’s cutting edge, radically left-wing, a sculptor, a video artist and, because he needs to earn enough money to earn rent and do his experimental art, he is also a villain in Bangalore’s local B-grade film industry. Plus, he is currently in the final stages of completing a porn movie he directed. When Madanahalli goes out drinking, he is frequently recognised. Not as the artist who has been feted abroad, but as the moustachioed meanie who attempted to rape Ms Thunder Thighs in a pulpy Kannad film. I wonder if he acted in his porn film. Unsurprisingly, Bangalore, our version of the Silicone Valley, has a thriving amateur porn industry but what was unexpected was that this particular boom began when a high-society couple decided to make a video of them engaged in various…ahem… acts. They titled it “Mysore Mallika” and it is, apparently, all over the net. This, I believe, is what inspired Mr. Madanahalli.
Sometimes I love the art world.