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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.

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6 thoughts on “Split personality

  1. of course, it’s possible to make paper out of dung… which would be kinda cool if she went that direction!

    ‘Mysore Mallika’ – i bet it was, after doing a Paris Hilton…..

  2. Mad, “Mysore Mallika” roughly translates to “The Jasmine of Mysore” (at least I think Mallika is the jasmine. It’s some sweet-scented flower at any rate. 🙄 )

    If I ever meet Ms. Shakila, I’ll be telling her about the paper dung. She’s sort of reversed the process and made dung out of paper in that installation. 😀

  3. well, your art scene sounds at least a lot more interesting than the european one. i doubt anyone without formal education would get much of a chance around here.

    art scene rubbing shoulders with the porn industry has been quite the rave here 20 years ago (with some really ghastly results :-D)

  4. I need to find out what happened with the porn movie but I don’t know if our art scene is more exciting in terms of the actual work that is produced. It’s all highly cloistered here as well. I know of a lot of young artists who feel it’s all about knowing people or being “marketable” but I guess what makes things a little more open is that every gallery is desperately looking to find the next big thing that will make the gallery rich (especially with established artists becoming incredibly expensive). Also, we have a pretty weak academic base for art in the country so automatically, you can’t pay that much attention to academic training.

  5. “…it’s all about knowing people or being “marketable”…”

    Is this why bollywood stars seem to be roped in to create art? Didn’t that annoying power couple do a painting together at some point? And Salman Khan too?

    I wondered who were paying those exorbitant amounts. People who are really into art or people who want to say they have a part of the bollywood touch hanging on their walls.

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