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The CAVA building

CAVA: Another Apparatus

Taking Chamarajendra Academy of Visual Arts (CAVA) as an example, Bangalore based art critics, Rollie Mukherjee and V.Divakar explain how a state funded art institute indoctrinates students with hegemonic ideas, through its physical and conceptual presences.

“It is only from the point of view of the classes, i.e. of the class struggle, that it is possible to explain the ideologies existing in social formation. Not only is it from this starting point that it is possible to explain the realization of the ruling ideology in the ISAs and of the forms of class struggle for which the ISAs are the seat and stake.”
- Althusser in Ideology and Ideological State Apparatus.  

This essay is deliberately structured into two parts. The first part is a narrative and the second is a critique. We as writers, assume that the reader is aware of the Althusserian formulation of Ideological State Apparatuses (ISAs). The first part describes the physical apparatus of CAVA with its all shortcomings. We talk of certain institutional deficiencies because it helps the system to portray itself as a smooth and natural functioning entity. The second part is a critique of the ideology present in the material relations and functioning of the institute. Being the only institution run by the state in Karnataka it offers glaring and evident examples of state policies and ideology. The peculiarities owing to the cultural traits in this part of the country have defined and also clothed the ideology of the state in interesting ways.

CAVA in Old Building at Aloka.

The Institution

The Institute of CAVA (Chamarajendra Academy of Visual Arts) was established as a modernizing limb of the CTI (Chamarajendra Technical Institute) in 1982. It was visualized to fulfill the creative needs of the modern India and also that of Karnataka. C.T.I having already produced artists of prominence like K. Venkatappa, K. K. Hebbar, S. N. Swamy, Pavanje, R. K. Laxman, CAVA started with an ambitious idea of setting up an institute in the lines of Shantiniketan and Baroda. With Sholapurkar as the full time Dean, a group of lecturers was picked from all over India to take the responsibility of nurturing the young talents. The institute was given the Rajanilaya building in Aloka which is 10 kms away from the city of Mysore.

The serene and idyllic atmosphere was ideal for developing an institute in the lines of Shantiniketan. Yet time and again the college premises have been shifted to the C.T.I building. The reasons stated are the lack of infrastructure, transport facilities, stationeries and canteen facilities. Interestingly, without fulfilling all these requirements, the campus was shifted back to Aloka again and again. This has cost quite a sum for the institution and has affected in the academic activities of the students. Not to mention the leakages of funds in the process. Now the institute is situated in the city centre having lost the ideal Aloka. The building is situated beside the main road that leads to the Mysore Palace and is opposite to the Government K.R. hospital. The institution shares the building with other state government bodies. Even Cava is recognized sometimes only with the land mark of the State Handicrafts outlet called Cauvery Emporium or the State leather outlet Lidkar. The other part of the building is the city Central library and Chamarajendra Technical Institute. Situated in such a location which is a major tourist spot in the vicinity, the college has chance visitors. They peep into the otherwise idle gallery and then stray into art departments. At times they do buy art from the students and lecturers. Hence, such visits are always encouraged.

The main entrance to the institution is through a small doorway leading to upstairs and it ends in the gallery. The Dean’s room is located at the centre and adjacent to it one can see a dingy store room kind of place that accommodates the art history department. The painting department, when it was functional used to be opposite to the Dean’s chamber. This MFA department was the erstwhile administrative office. The graphics and the sculpture departments are towards the left wing of the gallery and painting, photography, library, applied arts and computer lab are on the right wing. The foundation classes are now housed in the CTI open halls. The administrative office and the sculpture MFA are now in a new building. Earlier the whole college used to function from a single corridor. Now the college shares the ground with CTI. The markets and other commercial establishments create an environment for the college! The bus stand and railway station and the famous Jaganmohan Palace museum housing a major collection of Ravi Varma are within a two kms. There is a reason for giving such a detailed description. This ambience provides representational source for the students.

The students who join the institute CAVA are mainly from South India. The majority comes from the home state Karnataka and a few students come from the neighboring states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Generally the students are from rural and semi- urban areas around Mysore and Bangalore. The students who opt for the courses generally come with a background in signboard painting, traditional sculpting etc. Some of them are drawing teacher diploma holders and commercial artists. Many of them come from traditional artisan families. Yet another lot belong to rural art culture. And another group of students enroll for they find there is no alternative for them. The intake is however prescribed according to the lines of class and caste as seen in any other academic institutions in the state. It would be clear then how much allotment is given for the respective categories. The system is for 100/50

















The same system applies for the lectures and the administrative staff.


The curriculum gives stress on the importance of developing individual sensitivities in response to the immediate environs. This has been till now a major trait of CAVA. The students are encouraged to sketch in the market place, bus stand, railway station, hospitals, folklore museum, road sides and of course landscapes in and around Mysore. This daily activity casually finds its place in other assignments like creative compositions and memory drawings. The students are informed of the importance of developing a personal language. Thanks to the disparity in sensibilities amongst the teaching staff ideological clashes erupt at times. The sensibilities vary from academic, decorative, surface abstractions, radical movement’s motifs, popular images, quasi (pseudo) traditional indigenous tendencies and some times a mixture of many. Many a times owing to an absence of a rigorous political and theoretical background (Art Historical) the languages become stylistic and students are bound to be influenced by these tutelage.

This situation is further aggravated by the influences exerted by the state run academies like the Lalith Kala Akademy and Shilpa Kala Akademy. Many students participate in the annual shows and workshops and win prizes. A majority of the teaching staff even competes along with the students and also wins major awards. Interestingly, many of the staff members hold official positions within these academies. The state run academies generally prompt the artists to create decorative art (like Souvenirs and table top items). These decorative objects emulate modern and traditional elements in them so that they look pieces of high art while remaining assembly line products.


Though, officially the students in CAVA are not asked to do ‘Akademy sponsored kind of art’, they while helping out their teachers to do such commission works, naturally get influenced by this kind of art production. CAVA being the only state funded art institution in Karnataka, the nexus between the staff members and state run Akademies is quite strong and vicious. As the art history department is only nominal, perhaps, ornamental (one permanent teacher for all the BFA and MFA students), there is a very low chance of these students getting exposed to the History of art in a progressive way. Art history is taught in such a breakneck speed so that students learn it for the sake of writing ‘examinations.’ The students find their own ways of updating themselves in art history by talking to the practicing artists and referring to the newly available sources. As there are very few galleries in Mysore, students often rely on secondary sources for updating themselves.

The library boasts a collection of 5497 volumes with one qualified librarian and an attendant. The library made a recent purchase of books worth Rs.45,782/-. Interestingly, one finds that the purchases are not done based on the academic value of the book, instead even the advisory committee for purchases too has gone by the face value of the books. ‘Da Vinci Code’ is one amongst the recently purchased lot! However, this is one of the libraries that has a good collection of contemporary art and art history books. The students get immensely benefited by this library as the staff members are quite co-operating.

The department of Photography and Photo journalism in Cava is the only institute in India offering specialization in these areas. The department also has a Qualified Professor for Photo Journalism, a technical assistant for Photography and an attendant. It has studio facilities also. The NAC self study report 2005, suggests that the students graduated from the department are well placed in different media inside and outside the country. The department of Applied Arts has been instrumental in creating a conducive atmosphere without interference and influence which has enabled the students to work hard to develop and search avenues with their own skills and updating abilities.

Workshops and Seminars

The institution with its substantial funds is able to bring eminent personalities from the respective specializations for workshops and seminars once a year. Workshops are also conducted by willing artists, former students with national, regional and international recognition, related to respective departments through the state and central academies, through personal connections and visiting foreign artists. It is when such workshops and interactions happen the students are thrown open to challenges. If it is free from interventions (of state through funding and other technicalities and individuals) the workshops succeed in encouraging the students.   


Other activities

The students in Cava have engaged themselves with a lot of other activities like theatre, cinema, organizing film festivals, writing, public works, sports, dance, commercial works, participating in workshops and camps organized elsewhere. As a community, students protest and conduct strikes for achieving their demands. The student community here celebrates festivals and even participates in the government sponsored festivals. Recently CAVA started an annual fair in order to bring more public participation. Students and staff members join their hands to celebrate festivals in the campus and rituals are simulated within the campus.



We have seen how the physical structuring of the institute creates certain attitudes and acts amongst the students and staff members. Now let us see how the ideology functions from within these physical structures. The centrality of the gallery cannot be missed at this stage. How does it help the students to reproduce the relationships of production within the academic structure? How does it create subjectivities within these relationships of production? The centrality of the gallery is not only the centrality of the building but it functions as the centre of all what is being produced there. The gallery becomes a space within the premises which defines the ultimate destination of the works being produced hence also the cause for a certain character of the works of art. It presupposes the trajectory of the journey of a work of art produced in CAVA or elsewhere; it has to reach a gallery. Though the students are not instructed to produce works of art for galleries, they are unconsciously conditioned to produce works for the gallery/ies as suggested by the central gallery of CAVA. The system reproduces or reinstates its modality of operation as work of art’s natural destination is only the gallery and the buyers thus creating conditions for the further reproduction of the same relations of production (art- gallery- art) and so forth naturally submit willingly to the naturalized system of labour- product – market/ investment – exploitation- labour..
If you again look upon the language preferences this idea dominates and hence the production to a certain amount is also effected. Also guarded are the disciplinary boundaries. Though experimentations are allowed, radical departure from the given is not allowed. If at all some one attempts such a departure it should be done very subtly, without affecting the personal and academic relationships.

The lack of female teaching staff (only one permanent staff in the Department of photography and photojournalism in the whole college) within the practical courses has created a lack of the ‘other sensibility’. As usual it is laughed at or neglected. The female students definitely lack this subjective support for guidance in understanding the artistic criteria and concepts. The masculine definitions of art and ideas are left with no critique subjecting the students to accept this subjectivity as natural.
The role of state Akademies is very crucial in creating consent on aesthetic production. These academies, as they are funded by state, through their activities, embrace dissenting voices and through persuasion and conferring of awards homogenize them ideologically. When the artists are encouraged to do quasi-modern and quasi-traditional works of art, in fact the state produces a particular environment for a particular kind of art. The relationship between the state and the works of art/artist is further reproduced through multiple engagements of the artists at various levels, especially when such levels are funded and protected by the state. The celebration of Hindu festivals within the campus shows how the students are indoctrinated with the state ideology in the name of national culture. The colonial legacy of incorporating the intelligentsia towards the achievement of social governance and control is carried forward when the state supports the artists/intelligentsia to reproduce its own outdated modes of cultural reproduction.

If you look through the untouchable issue of caste in education as the table suggests, the allotment refers to the participation and “accommodation” of different castes and class. The members of the teaching staff who were absorbed directly after a period follow the rooster system now. Incidentally, barring a couple of posts all the existing teaching staff comes under the privileged communities. If you look at the vacancies in every department, a total of nearly ten posts, one can see all belong to the reserved socially underprivileged communities. Due to obvious reasons they have been kept vacant till date. This would easily substantiate the kind of subjective leanings of the teaching. The reasons are sometimes openly hinted by the staff. Interestingly, in twenty five years CAVA has only three full time Deans and the rest as just in charge. Also except a few, most of the Deans appointed by the state are bureaucrats who have no knowledge about art. Sometimes it is felt that the vacancies are not filled in order to keep the students innocent. If new approaches are brought in by the new teachers, what would happen to the ideological structure of the institution? Though sounding naïve, it has some sense in it. Thanks to this, the CAVA graduates at times find it difficult to cope up with the art national art climate.


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