METAPHOR AS REALITY
By: PRITHVI YADAMA Dated: September 19, 2015
For artist MANOHAR CHILUVERU, art asks fundamental questions of the time we inhabit. “My work is all about questioning myself and discovering myself, and because it is art you need to share it with the public,” says the artist. Manohar was exhibiting his work at the Collateral Project of the second edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale at Fort Kochi.
Manohar Chiluveru, who has recently returned from Venice after showcasing his work at Milano Expo 2015, focuses on the conflict that surrounds man’s interaction with his/her environment. At the heart of his paintings and sculptures lie this essential human conflict that produces a parallel state of ‘questioning’ as it were of the human impulses that in the first place lead to such conflicts.
You talk about ignorance as sort of a nuclear explosion, could you elaborate on that?
I first thought of this nuclear mushroom cloud image, when I began thinking about my body of work. I had just met the founder of BML University Brij Mohan Lall Munjal in Delhi and he invited me for some artwork. During our discussion, he asked me, “what is knowledge”? That got me thinking about the kind of work I should be submitting. In that process I looked back into my work, my childhood, and T. S Eliot’s “Choruses from the Rock” came to mind and it triggered so many other images from history. When we come across the word ‘terror’, we pay attention immediately. The scientists probably did not want the nuclear explosion, but the politicians decided to go ahead with it. In science, invention is all about knowledge and information, but the way they are consumed, speaks volumes about our ignorance. If you are ignorant about the effects, a single ignorant decision can usher in untold damage. This applies to any sphere of our everyday life. My project seeks to address these issues.
Let us talk about your installation here at the collateral biennale. Your artwork is encompassed by art paper laden with images of E-waste and disposed of electronic stuff…
They say necessity is the mother of all invention. My entry here at the biennale was late for a couple of reasons, there were funding issues as well, and when it comes to an art installation like this one, the size of the installation matters. The idea demands a particular size, because at the end of day you want to create a visual impact. For me what matters is that solid ‘visual’ I have been able to give the audience. And without audience participation any art work is incomplete. I derived the idea for this work from a childhood game called ‘Lemon and Spoon’ we are all familiar with. In school we played this game as a sport, for fun, but it taught you a lesson that everyone was in a race to be successful or influential.
In science, invention is all about knowledge and information, but the way they are consumed, speaks volumes about our ignorance. If you are ignorant about the effects, a single ignorant decision can usher in untold damage. This applies to any sphere of our everyday life. My project seeks to address these issues...
Everyone had their own goals. But the game was essentially about keeping your balance while reaching your goal. You needed to win but you also got to see that you did not drop the lemon. So, in effect, it’s no longer just child’s play! To help convey the message or lesson I needed a big installation, so when I came here, I was not able to ship the work I produced back in Hyderabad. I started looking at materials here in Kochi. I looked around for old workshops and found the materials I needed. I wanted to use electronic items, because we have a lot of association with those images in day to day life. There is also reference to knowledge and invention, and at the same time I wanted to focus on E-waste. You look at any junkyard in India, they are filled with E-waste. I used flex to protect the installation against rain.
You have talked a lot about social cohesion?
I came here not with activism on my agenda. I am not an activist. I am an artist and I am a common man. I was not good in my studies and as a commoner I wasn’t much exposed to the world in terms of knowledge or literature. There are a lot of questions in my mind which I don’t have the answers to. So I am always curious and I am looking for answers. It has a spontaneous impact on my thinking process when I do art. The government bans plastic and cigarette. My question is then why can’t you then stop their production! It’s like a bullet in a gun, once you hit the trigger it will have its impact. You say it’s banned and on the other hand you are producing it… in effect, whatever you are going to produce we are going to consume anyway. These are the questions a common man has.
So what you are saying is your art is your way of sharing your questions with the people?
Fundamentally, my work is all about questioning myself and discovering myself, and because it is art you need to share it with the public. So the purpose of my work is finding myself and questioning myself, and whatever I produce in this process, I wish to share with the public.
What about social interaction in this digital age — artist with artist and artist with people? How do you think that has shaped art or artist?
I think everyone is an artist, but only few choose to be a professional artist! I think the digital age is an amazing age — you have a greater opportunity of sharing your art with the world. Besides, the dynamics of the art world is changing rapidly. For example, something that I find interesting is that if you have a movie script but no one is interested in it you can still produce it if you have the resources. Yes, you may have difficulties in releasing it, but at the end of day the audience will decide whether it was good cinema or not. On the other hand, in the art world, I find there is a lot of manipulation. Of course, we need committees and there is a selection process. But sometimes it works like a mafia. There are a lot of mysterious things happening in the art world — it’s not as transparent as the movie world!
You mean to say there are closed doors?
Absolutely! Sometime I feel it’s a matter of money. People are frustrated and fight for an opportunity, and whoever are eliminated might fight for it and be emotional about it. If you are not selected it does not mean you are not a good artist, and vice versa.
You also talk about individualism or individuality and committees. Is there a loss of self for the artist in this process?
What I mean is when you form a committee you need to be careful whether the said committee is capable of taking the right decision. For example, for an international meet in Hyderabad, authorities allocated huge funds to beautify the city. They appointed a committee that had no idea about art. How and what would they choose? Any project will have its own limitations, be it that of budgets or of time, but it will have a theme or concept. The system needs checks and balances and transparency to help fulfill the mandate of the project.
You have also been trained as a painter? But most of your art is through forms and sculptures…
From the beginning I never believed in style or medium. Academically I have been trained in sculpting, but I have been painting since childhood. Painting has always there been in my practice.
Do you find a sort of limitation in the two dimensions or the lack of that limitation while sculpting exciting?
I always find that both of them are very different experiences actually. I am more excited about exploring opportunities in new mediums or themes. So sculpture has its own limitations and painting is another game altogether. I also prefer to work without preconceived notions and let spontaneity guide me in my work. That’s the reason I keep changing my media and styles.
When we talk about the state of Andhra Pradesh or its bifurcation into Andhra and Telengana, do you think there has been a lapse of cultural cohesion between the people of the ‘two states’?
My project is a statement for that as well, because at end of day even if we are divided into two states or three states it does not matter, we are a part of India. But the question is, are we dividing the state into smaller parts to facilitate better administration, or are we doing it because we are unhappy about inequalities. If people are unhappy because of inequity — because politicians have completely ignored a certain section of the people — then they will fight for separation. In Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are expressions of that discontent.