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May 2007

art gallery
New Delhi

Curated by
Johny ML


Art Gallery
Grosvenor vadehra, London
The Guild Art
USA Inc.
& Lal

Essay - Making of ‘visual behaviors’ in print

Making of ‘visual behaviors’ in print - Contd...

‘Like that is shown in the picture’:

Magazines could assume more personal and intimate interests than the newspapers. When domestic narratives were formed through pictorial entities in the production dissemination of goods and knowledge alike, pictures were no more used arbitrary.

When the ideas of symbolic narratives could disseminate through photo features and commercial designs, picture could operate as a very ‘visual’ and ‘real’ index.

Take an interesting example of an advertisement of a tire repairing shop that based on a photograph showing the three stages of getting a tyre repaired. One is a worn out tyre, then a tyre under repair and as getting the sole done, and then the fully repaired one. The ‘positive change like that is shown in the picture’ is a narrative of an imaginative object-world that can be derived out of ‘reality’ that is supposed to operate ‘like that is shown in the picture’.

These reality narratives emerged not into any ‘aesthetic’ or ‘artistic’ premises but into a particular publishing subjectivity itself devising pictorial zones of journalistic communication. Categories like photo features, fictional and informative notes based on pictures and illustrations specially made by artists for serialized short stories and novels.

The transient realities were imagined as physical appearances of the world and its materials. These can be subjected to special gazes suggestively designed through word-ings and title-ings for photographs. Technically reproducing daily ‘glances on reality’ through photo features and cover pictures of magazines there formed various narratives on changing life styles and wonders of meeting ‘other’ habits of, mostly ‘urban’ or ‘primitive’ societies. If analyse this huge chunk of visual materials and narratives produced, there is a glorifying tendency on pastoral identities in 1930s 40s and 50s. Formation of an ‘other world’ included all that were industrial urban and exotic folk.

Real and the imaginary gazes were demonstrated together. Photos of high court buildings beautiful seascapes of Kovalam were presented in similar scale of importance. If ‘news value’ was attached to the photo of ‘poolakkadavu’, small canal basin forming part of water management to calicut town at one point of time, next issue of the magazine showed naked fishermen taking their boats to the sea. This photo has an abstract air of ‘a scene’.

Photograph is rendered as illustrating the various momentary probabilities of ‘looking at the real’.

This photo is presented with title ‘moment from life’

Photos were also recognized as an authenticating instrument in journalism’s news caste. Photos of political events produced various progressive narratives. All these were multiple illustrations of reality for the construct of a ‘literate reader’ who is politically conscious of surroundings.

Picture as an informant:

As John Berger’s famous observation goes, in the age of mechanical reproduction, meaning of art is not tied to itself but is disseminated and grasped as‘information’ and like any information this can be either utilized or discarded. The doubly illustrated pictorial narratives are also like that. It is more open to the viewers and less charismatic than many institutional presentations of visuals like, say, in an art gallery. Diplomacies and negotiations of words, ideas of popularity and other cultural politics can be more clearly stamped on a print-mediatic visuality.

Right in mid 1930s, when Walter Benjamin illuminated us on the shattering of rarified tradition of auratic object at the moment it gets duplicated and multiplied by reproduction, western societies in general and modern art gallery practices in specific were in the process of sensitizing to the somehow authenticated ‘modern’ conditions of life. But in colonial societies like that is under discussion now, this knowledge came in an upside down fashion. Both the masterly magic of illusionism and the technological reproduction occurred together on this society and its print media contained these contradictory values as verbally negotiating on visual behavior. Wonder of a mirror- vision provided by camera was thoroughly attached to the wonder of a viewer who fixes an eye outside of himself to look at / witness his own land, body and mind. Mechanical and reproductive uses of reality occurred in a society that has no particular ‘traditional aesthetic’ of ‘illusionist naturalism’

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