Showing them the finger

Sep 02, 2012, 11:29 IST | Dhvani Solani

Is Visual Disobedience � an art community that purports to give a platform to edgy and emerging visual artistes across genres � the democratic answer to an art scene largely looked upon as elitist and limited?

It’s amazing how telling our utilitarian fingers can be. A flash of diamond on her ring finger will put an end to your flirting, while a wave of the pinky finger can do the talking as you dash to the loo. The logo of Visual Disobedience has the same philosophy it sports not a raised, but a shocking pink, folded middle finger in a strong fist.

Namrata Bhawnani, Jas Charanjiva and Saurabh Kanwar, with Kanwar’s mural on Hill Road,Bandra. PIC/ PRADEEP DHIVAR

Aiming to bring a fresh lease of life to the city’s art scene — a domain popularly considered the stronghold of stiletto-wearing SoBo ladies with a wine glass in one hand and a Louis Vuitton in the other — two month-old Visual Disobedience is a mash-up of visual art brought together for a common purpose — bringing art closer to the common man.

“We are an online community to bring together emerging visual artistes across mediums, and giving them a platform to showcase their radical works, collaborate with other creators and maybe even make bigger things like murals in public spaces,” says Namrata Bhawnani, editor of the site that finds its funding and gene in social media firm, Flarepath.

 Asthir (The Restless Series) by Amrita Bagchi 

The middle finger, they say, is for conventions, and other crimes against the imagination. Adds Kevin Lobo, Bhawnani’s colleague, “Art is something that is considered hoity-toity. We want to bring a younger, cooler dimension to it.”

Starting off by interviewing artistes across genres, including illustration, photography, street art, erotica, sculpture and installation, performance art, video art and graphic design, Visual Disobedience will then move on to selling pocket-friendly artworks at their launch party on September 22.

They plan to host bigger events in the future revolving around street festivals, collaborations and tie-ups with film festivals. With time, the focal areas will expand to include other kinds of visual art. Emerging artistes can also write in to become part of the community. “Someone wanted to get his car painted by a street artist so that it would become a conversation starter,” says Bhawnani. “We are arranging for this. We can also organise for murals to be painted, or work on street art that our city could really do with.”

Bhawnani and Lobo, both former writers with a tabloid, were steeped in the arts-and-culture scene for almost five years. But neither was an art critic. How do they decide what is ‘good’ art, then? Counters Bhawnani, “We are embedded in the art scene and our networking is comprehensive, but this is a fairly non-judgmental space in which we don’t set down rules. We will never say no to an artiste, but we might ask to go through more of his/her work to pick out what’s best in him/her.” They hope to get a curator soon.

On the website, we stumbled upon some works of illustrator-designer Janine Shroff, whose use of colour and themes like the anxiety a woman faces while travelling at night on public transport (‘Rape Rick’) made us reflect before moving on to reading an interview with Julius Macwan, always recognisable at social dos, thanks to the skirts he dons. It’s always a delight to know how and why an artiste worked on his creations, and in a video interview with photographer Sahil Mane, we found resonance in his sensual, edgy abstracts that revolve around the themes of orgasms and arousal.

An events section keeps you informed about festivals, residencies, exhibitions and workshops. The classifieds section lets you to put up ads looking for work, collaborations or jobs, and even design inputs.

Says Bhawnani, “We started with a focus on art because unlike spheres like music and photography, there is no dedicated space for it. We don’t realise how much art we need and make use of in our everyday lives. Art is for everybody.”

Sahil Mane, photographer
“What sometimes happens with a gallery and the way art is disseminated these days is that it becomes very elitist. Visual Disobedience is trying to make art more democratic, and giving a beautiful platform to artistes across genres to display their works. I find it exciting and liberating that here, art is not being judged as good or bad. The more important question is whether it is doing something to you. It’s exciting to see how it will evolve as a community and what sort of projects they can get for artistes hoping to collaborate.”

Vaydehi Khandelwal, photographer
“There are not many art forums in our country that support young artists, and it is especially heartening to see that Visual Disobedience is born in our own country. It has helped me showcase my works, and helped me discover works of artistes I wouldn’t have otherwise known about. It helps that they do not categorise me as an audience and that I am free to look at art across so many different genres.”

Viraj Gupta,  filmmaker
“The problem with Mumbai is that we don’t have any sort of a platform through which we can promote slightly grungy, edgy kind of art. It helps that Visual Disobedience works across genres because as a filmmaker, at least, what we do is very inter-disciplinary, and not quite standalone art. There is cross-pollination of ideas here, which is fantastic. However, it needs to go beyond showcasing art to curating it, so that you know that you will get to see art only of a certain caliber.”

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