The Art of Matter: MAP-ing a New Path to an Inclusive Culture

The Three Figures by Russian artist Anna Leporskaya (1932-1934) became one of the most iconic unintentional defacements of classic artwork in the history of the art world when they were vandalized by an agent security at the Boris Yeltsin presidential center in Yekaterinburg, Russia last February. year. The perpetrator allegedly drew eyes on two faceless subjects in the painting using a ballpoint pen. An artistic masterpiece, which cost more than 250,000 rubles (£2,468; $3,345) to restore and was on loan to the multifunctional museum, cost an investigation and the suspension of the guard – an incident the administration considers it “some kind of a lack of reason” and “a stupid mistake”. The blackboard was “vandalized” because the guard was said to be “bored” on the first day of his job. However, the incident also underscores the question: is art created for everyone’s enjoyment? Or can it be interpreted in different ways?

Experts believe that art case studies are definitely a matter of subjectivity. Three Figures by Leporskaya exemplifies the unintended defacements of classic works like Cecilia Giménez’s infamously botched restoration of Ecco Homo (Behold the Man) in Spain. Giménez made the face of Jesus Christ – painted in 1930 by Elías García Martínez – look like a monkey. The eighty-three-year-old amateur artist had only good intentions when she turned her attention to a deteriorated fresco of Jesus Christ painted on the walls of the Church of the Sanctuary of Mercy, in the small Spanish town of Borja, in early 2012. Spanish artist Pablo Picasso once said, “Everyone wants to understand art. Why not try to understand the song of a bird? Why do we love the night, the flowers, everything that surrounds us, without trying to understand them? But in the case of a painting, people have to understand… People who try to explain the images are usually barking up the wrong tree.

Given that the overall degree of artistic engagement in the masses of the country is obviously lower, the most significant obstacles lie in the lack of suitable platforms of access, as well as the reduced number of points of entry likely to target disparate audience groups, rather than one spread. in understanding. Nupur Dalmia, Curator-Director of Vadodara-based Gallery Ark (soon to be The Ark Foundation), says: “I find that a majority of people who are not used to engaging in visual art, expect potentially doing so in formats limited to commercial – when buying artwork, and academic, for example in a museum,” she says, quoting the art historian and JNU professor, Naman Ahuja: “Art enters into all aspects of our lives so that it is no longer separate, or an effort. Creative expression is part of our being, and its absence would be the most unnatural thing of all. Due to its subjective nature, the way a viewer consumes, interprets and appreciates one work may be different from another. “It is the most individualistic form of expression ever known that has collectively changed through different periods and movements. I appreciate different artists and their works because of the context in which they were created, the politics behind them, and what they represent. The rise of technology has made access to art more democratic,” says Goa-based multidisciplinary artist Osheen Siva.

Siva expresses her vision through city murals, digital art, canvas paintings and comics. She specializes in expressionism and incorporates visuals of dreamscapes, monsters, mutants and bright colors, all deeply rooted in her feminine and queer identity and Dalit Tamil heritage. Well, if art is understood by the masses, it may not be the way it is consumed in gallery spaces or in the form of visits and specific times allotted to appreciate it. “For decades, through artistic residencies and funded projects, this has taken the form of site-specific and research-driven works, permeating villages, satellite towns, deserts and seashores. You can’t ignore it; you cannot fail to see it as it resides in public spaces, both rural and urban. Everyone understands that, but that understanding takes many forms,” says Monica Jain, curator-director of Delhi-based Art Centrix Space. So, can this be something good? “For art to have a hold on our psyche, it must challenge our notions, elicit a response, good, bad, shocking, calming, whatever. Because of this, it can have many interpretations as the minds of artist and viewers often, if not always, merge,” says Jain.

By accepting the change, this is not the first time that a painting has been vandalized in Russia. In 2019, a man was sentenced to two and a half years in prison after vandalizing a 19th century painting of Ivan the Terrible at the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. The same work was also attacked in 1913 by a mental patient who lacerated it three times with a knife. However, living in a time where the pencil and the pixel are precious these days, the future lies in the collective acceptance of art, both from a technological and an aesthetic point of view. “Art is always a combination of serious inquiry and play…the studio is part laboratory, part silent sanctuary, part house of entertainment,” says Mumbai-based artist Jitish Kallat. In fact, some examples suggest how art has created and will always continue to create new, complex and brilliant possibilities, making us think beyond imagination.

For example, in 2021, Beeple’s digital artwork Everydays: The First 5000 Days showed the world the changing art landscape. US-based Mike Winkelmann, also known as Beeple, has created a design every day for the past 13½ years. From beginning with pen and paper to computer software such as Cinema 4D, collage of jpeg files was offered in a single batch and made $69.3 million (about 503 crore). wall by artist Maurizio Cattelan sold for $120,000 (`85,35,360) at Art Basel in Miami Beach, Florida. This work of art was a shining example of how the meaning and importance of objects change depending on the context. And sometimes it can be irreverent or whimsical. The work titled Comedian went viral on social media as most people didn’t understand how a rotting fruit could make money or if it was a “priceless” art form meant to the elite who do not know the price of a banana. But art for most people is open to interpretation, no particular meaning can ever be held true.

Dalmia says, “Art is necessarily open to interpretation as it is subjective and will affect each individual differently, however slightly. I think I see a work of art as a unique, private conversation entirely guided by individual references of memory, personal aesthetic, even mood. But does art always have meaning? Since some of the unique pieces are open to interpretation, as in the case of the banana, a viewer may refer to a piece as a reflection of their own life or relate it in some way. Yet there are moments to be interpreted in any form or material. For example, in 2015 an art experiment called Tate Sensorium at Tate Britain used innovative technology in 20th century paintings by Francis Bacon, David Bomberg, Richard Hamilton and John Latham.

A new approach to interpreting these paintings took the viewer to technological components such as the use of binaural and directional audio to produce 3D sounds, a scent release system to intensify the scent, and pioneering l non-contact haptics to create the impression of tactile sensations. Visitors wore a biometric measuring device to record the emotional impact of the activity.In India, the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP), Bengaluru, due to open later this year, has introduced a range of activities centered about art in the digital avatar, making art understood. MAP and Accenture Labs have collaborated to present India’s first conversational digital character from renowned artist MF Husain. Husain’s digital twin can be asked a question related to his youth, family, or career to receive a mock response from him. A 3D hologram in the physical space of the museum will also be available soon.

“Art can mean different things to different people. In some ways it reflects who we were and who we hope to be – it’s the landscape of our imagination. For decades, art has been considered a luxury reserved for the elite or connoisseurs. However, as an inclusive new age institution, MAP aims to change this perception and prove that art is meant to be enjoyed, valued and understood by all, regardless of age, social status, caste and race. religion. The idea is to make art accessible to all, inclusive enough for the common man and challenging enough for the connoisseur,” says Kamini Sawhney, Director, MAP, Bengaluru, whose vision is to bring art to the heart of the community and to build bridges between art forms and diverse audiences. “Art is Life: SoundFrames” celebrates music and its power to bring people together. The three-day digital program held in December 2021 featured more than 25 music-inspired events, including concerts, performances, panel discussions, film debates, educational workshops and exhibitions. MAP has invited musicians and artists, across genres and geographical boundaries, to be part of this festival.

Christopher S. Washington