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March '07

art gallery
New Delhi

Curated by
Johny ML


Probing the LaVA Times

In this feature C S Venkiteswaran, the noted journalist and cultural critic reads the nuances of the discourse generated by the LaVA project of Bose Krishnamachari and raises a few questions.

Bose Krishnamachari

“(Arts’) is never given in the form of individual works but is constructed as a category in relation to a complex configuration of texts… (the exhibition system marks) a crucial intersection of discourses, practices and sites which define the institutions of art within a definite social formation. Moreover, it is exactly here, within this inter-textual, inter-discursive network, that the work of art is produced as a text”
- Mary Kelly
(Re-viewing Modernist Criticism, Screen, 22 (3) p.58)

The true is what he can; the false is what he wants”
- Madame de Duras


LaVA, an installation by Bose Krishnamachari, on show at Kashi Art Gallery, Kochi, from Dec 17 to Jan 15, “is a contemporary-temporary laboratory for the people. This archival project comprises a collection of records of contemporary visual art practices that have been culled from museums, institutions, galleries, shops and streets from major art capitals.”

In the words of the artist, “I am trying to make available, within my limitations, what I really missed during my student years. The Laboratory manifests my ambition to extend this project, as an ideal place for visual art practitioners and theorists, as a museum of total knowledge: a room within an institution, an art project within a museum.”


It is like entering a dream space, where, if you are an art lover, whatever you wish and wished for is already there: DVDs, music albums, books on film, artists, cultural and media theory. After one gets over the initial tremour of exhilaration and meander through the maze of books and DVD players, one gradually begins to feel ‘at home’.

What strikes one immediately is the ‘dream-like’ quality of the place, for its impermanency is something one has to contend with in any case. Even when one ‘inhabits’ it, you cannot exhaust it. For instance, how many books can you read while you are there? How many DVDs can one watch? Definitely it is more about experience of being there rather than consuming or ‘having’ it for oneself. So, if it is not about ‘consumption’ and only about experience, is it not leaving in the viewer a bitter envy rather than a liberating experience? Or, is it the sheer presence and excess of these art-cultural objects that any art lover would love to possess, and the excitement that it creates in us that the installation is working at?


As one enters an imaginary space of art like that of an installation, by its very nature it is one place removed from one’s mundane, everyday reality. By entering that installation I am entering an oneiric space, unreal yet very concrete and present, for I can touch, read and see them. But when I go back, what does it leave within me? Would it grow with/within me or will it remain a dream place outside my ‘real’ life? Maybe it is one question that the installation raises and works upon.

The real challenge is the way it traverses the thin edge between ‘art space’ and ‘space art’. Installations, in fact re-drew and redefined art in various ways, and one crucial aspect is its distribution through space, or its synergy with the space that surrounds it or it encloses. So, the challenge is about creating art out of a space and converting space into an art experience. So there is always this question whether it is something that one enters into and then leaves? In an age that is weary of meanings and significations, what does this dream-island of art mean to the viewer? Will it be just another dream or a counterpoint to his or her lived lives, less real and less dreamy too.


“LaVA is an intervention that poses a challenge to existing institutions and their outmoded pedagogy. It reflects Bose’s interest in architecture, design, furniture, and provides more than just a functional space for the visual-reader, it also represents the dynamics of information-gathering.”
Sure, it does deconstruct the ‘sanctity’ of the gallery and renegotiates the interaction between the viewer and the ‘art object’. While creating an ‘art space’ and a ‘space art’, one that stands as a counterpoint to our everyday reality, does it prompt the viewer to critically engage with ‘reality’, “tending not to destabilize our self-identificatory mechanism but to affirm them, and collapse into everyday leisure”? (Bishop, C. Installation art : a critical history. Tate, London, 2005). In other words, the question/ing of space cannot be limited to the space of the gallery alone, but definitely extends to the emotional/social/political world that surrounds not only the gallery but also the viewer. (“My spectator is not just sitting in my theatre, but also in the world” Bertolt Brecht)

This brings us to the question of the historicity of space and time within which any art exists and communicates. Its positioning within the gallery and the kind of viewers who will and are expected to visit it etc surely determine the public nature, personal experience and social function of an open art form like an installation, into which the viewer can virtually walk into.

According to the artist himself, it is a coming back, a kind of ‘homage’ or recourse to his own student days. Obviously, there is a sense of nostalgia running through it, both in terms of space as well as one’s real and physical access to the art world, in the form of materials – books, CDs, DVDs, art theory etc. It is not only a compensation for what one didn’t have, but is also the creation of a space that ought-to-be. So at one level, the most poignant question would be how this installation would relate to the contemporary art student in Kerala (in that case anywhere this traveling project has gone and would go), his own successors, whose situation is no better than that of the artist’s own student days. Will this art space that he has created for them be liberating or tantalizing? For the viewer, will this be a dream space for him/her or something he/she would have to always y/earn for? Is the senior artist and curator here opening up before them a new world of experience, made accessible and tangible, at least temporarily? Or, is it just another space of yearning, momentary yet searingly present?



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