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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...

Formation of a ‘viewer / spectator’ subject: 
An interest is created in the readers in themselves through the pictorial feature zones in periodicals. When looks at the periodical page he/she saw him/ her self. Words illustrated all photos and pictures in the same manner, whether it be the Big Ben clock tower in London or a sea face of Calicut or a street in Bangalore or the newly built church building in Thrissur. The pedagogic literary and journalistic interests underlined each picture as if it were reiterating itself. Colonial Malayali psyche functioned in such a journalistic space that illustrated all visual impressions with meanings.

But meaning of a picture can be destabilized by its uses at variance to situations. This was particularly recognized by only one editor in the first half of 20th century. It was M.R.Nair who published two periodicals for four years. They were ‘Sanjayan’ and ‘Viswaroopam’. (1936-1941). He often absurdly mimicked the format of photo features in many magazines of the time, M.R.Nair used cartoonish sketches of ‘reality’ and made it as a journalistic reference point. He also made series of ‘character sketches’ that matched very well with the resemblance to the persona but presented them in situations that are more or less comic and unequivocally imaginative.

The ‘reading class’ was till then constructed as ‘man’ ‘woman’ ‘literate’ ‘illiterate’ ‘labourers’ ‘salaried’ etc. ‘Sanjayan’ magazine for the first time involved in competitions and dialogues based on its cover picture’s interpretative possibilities. (fig6 ) Deepam magazine had conducted one competition of pictures but it was more like a pictorial puzzle of identifying people and objects. Modern citizens among the ‘reading class’ were supposed to involve in such mediatic interactive plans too.

Invisible political value:

By the end of 1930s we find an emerging space of literary and artistic thoughts as initiated by Kesari A.Balakrishna Pillai. He envisaged himself as an ‘individual force’, a ‘go-between thinker’ who brings in the radical changes that have already surfaced as a new ‘modern’ world (‘navalokam’, 1937) of Asian cultures into the local cultural folds of Keralam. He imagined breaking with tradition and getting ahead in time towards anarchist modernity like Italian Futurists. He idealized Futurists all of a sudden in the earliest surfacing thoughts on art in Malayalam through which he introduced European art to Malayalee readers. But he did not see it specifically that in Europe, tradition was shattered not simply by philosophical narratives but basically by technology. It is based on the classical and philosophical concepts of Art in Europe that Kesari and later M.P.Paul (‘saundarya nireekshanam’ , 1947– on ‘beauty’ )wrote about art in periodicals. It is into a situation that stood dry after Ravi Varma, that these highly philosophized narratives on art entered as ‘modern’ in sensibility. They floated rhetorical imaginations and observations of ‘aesthetics’ also into a mediatic situation that interfaced civic subjectivities and symbolic signatory system of pictures.

Photo features, literature-oriented illustrations and cover drawings functioned with no ‘aesthetic’ or ‘political’ claim of progressive break with tradition. This print media-world was the last space where one will look for politics of images. Since there were no other means developed to look at pictures and drawings on their own terms and functions, they were easily adapted by ‘literate-media rhetoric’ and hence the Political value of print-pictures at this stage was pretty invisible and un discussed.

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