Bharti Kher on India’s Absence at the Venice Biennale

Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart shares Bharti Kher’s letter on the absence of India at the Venice Biennale

To Whom It May Concern (if at all)
As I sit these mornings and look at my mailbox something about where I’m from and at bothers me as the news from Venice Biennale filters in:  pavilions from Angola (population 19.6 million, civil wars 1975 to 2002) Azerbaijan (9.173 million) Bangladesh, Tuvalu (population 9,847)  …yes smaller than Lajpat Nagar! Iraq, Kuwait, Maldives, Montenegro, special participations from Palestine, Tibet…. etc. We didn’t bother to make it happen. Again. It’s a catalyst perhaps to move, a truth of other happenings that remain unresolved. Nagging issues that plague us in India.

A country with no art is like a child with no parents. The child grows up unable to love without envy and mistrust. Deprived of affection warmth and care, most likely develops poor and problematic social skills. The orphan will rarely laugh at itself when self depreciation is a fundamental tool of critique and wont know a mother who has stories to share and songs to pass on; an accumulation of associations that are sweet even sublime just pass by. Skin that can be caressed and the smells of those things primal and intrinsic have not been etched or marked on the body. Instead, memories and lessons are hard and practical: survival, power, money, and make friends with those you need.

The fear of the future and possible failures are veiled in arrogance and bravado. Who cares anyway, no one is looking at me, so why bother with how I look, forget outwardly appearances or more poignant perhaps: why bother with my soul, when no one has nourished it? Self-respect or pride isn’t the problem; there is that in abundance, to oblivion. Its indifference and apathy, that runs like a wild rabid dog, frothing and foaming. Insipid bile that rises from an empty stomach, electric envy of green; staining blood red, Judas yellow, Kali’s black teeth, and the whiteness of that albino whale, crashing-crushing like the battle inside the belly of that dog.When we sent our specialists(i heard 35 or so) from the Indian government last year to witness our first participation in 116 years, with their junkets and ice-cream coupons, didn’t they see that Venice
was about the art and sharing of ideas and not fake handbags or
collecting masks? Maybe they forgot, maybe they were busy eating ice cream on a hand carved wooden gondolas. What was I doing?  What can I do now? If we cant play with the stuff of dreams anymore, where will be the invention? If we can’t bear witness, how will there be a memory of the things that should never be forgotten.You can say, “who cares” … nationalist agendas are not relevant anymore. I agree. Art is not relevant because it cannot change the world. I agree. But we can’t escape apathy and indifference and I’m not talking about politics, I’m talking about love.

Boston 28th may 2013

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