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Column - Delhi Sketchbook - Johny ML

Our ‘own’ Gossips

‘JohnyML writes a lot of gossip these days,’ commented a friend to another friend of mine. This guy immediately passed the message to me. Now I am writing about that here. So now you know there is a grain in the first buddy’s comment. Yes, I like gossiping.

A second thought reveals a bit more. What is this art scene of ours made up of? Dreams? Then it should be very poetic. Love is made of dreams. Art too is made of dreams. Love engenders gossips. So is art. Our art scene thrives on that. Sitting here in Delhi, I get a lot of gossips through phone calls and emails. Even gossips come through SMS (not MMS).

Oscar Wild said once, “When two women meet, the dignity of a third one is destroyed and vandalized.” I would modify that to suit the occasion. “When two artists meet, the third one’s dignity is vandalized.” Very true. You nod your head in approval as you know if you are in the art field you are either at the smoking end or at the burning end of a gossip.

Good ol’ man George Bernard Shaw said: Cigarette is something with fire at one end and a fool at the other.

Who said this? “Marriage is a like a circle. Those who are inside it would like to come out of it and those who are outside would like to go inside.”

Gossiping too is like this.

In February 2007, I became the victim of a gossip campaign. Bob Marley has said, “Your best friend could be your worst enemy.” So a best friend of mine decided to go against me. He telephoned most of the artist friends and said, “Look, JohnyML is a goonda. Don’t collaborate with him. He threatened me over phone saying that he would destroy me, if I don’t give him works.”

In fact, I came to know about such a verbal exchange only when others told me about it. Good. I thought. Andy Warhol had said in 1970s. ‘There is only one kind of publicity. That is neither good nor bad. Publicity is publicity.” Hence, I got a lot of publicity.

This campaign had its bad effects though. An artist who painted ‘Your Terrorist Our Freedom Fighter’ or something like that stopped attending my telephone calls. When I met him in Mumbai he said, “Let the confusion get over. Then I will speak to you.” I told him, “Dear friend, you at least know now that you are confused.” So gossips have a good effect on some buddies.

A few months back a girl who works with a gallery in New Delhi called me, “Hey Johny, there is major error in your website.” I asked her to tell me more about that. She said, “In your column, Denzel Washington’s picture is published.” I said, “Dear, Denzel, in this issue represents me.” She giggled and said, “People will laugh at you.”

Poor girl. She does not know that in this column, I behave more like an artist than a critic. Those photographs are my ‘performance art’. I perform my identity through those photographs. If Orlan can undergo multiple plastic surgeries to do her art, while reciting poems and reading out art theories live, if Cindy Sherman and Pushpamala can impersonate identities, why can’t I? I perform in this space. I impersonate.

Gossip is a space to impersonate. Gossiping is a form of art.

Let those artists stone me to death, who have never indulged in a bit of innocent gossiping.


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