Sudipta Das captures the emotions behind migrant concerns at India Art Fair 2018
The unending voyages of the dispossessed across cultural and political boundaries in human history serve as a vast backdrop for Sudipta Das’ artistic pursuit. It enables the artist to redraw her own identity as a fourth-generation Bangladeshi migrant in India, says a note from gallery Latitude 28.
Das' Soaring To Nowhere stresses on the non-existence and displacement of refugees through the figures which are suspended in the air. The gap provokes the viewer to ponder about the entitlement of the place of the people and their citizenship. We caught up for a chat with Sudipta, leading up to the India Art Fair 2018.
Please tell us a little about the artworks that you will be showing at the Art Fair this year. Is there an underlying message in your works that you wish to share with viewers?
Sudipta Das: My installation project in the India Art Fair is an attempt to express the emotional disoriented state of the refugees. The multitude of migrants and refugee crisis in today’s society and the disarrayed of cultural space and identities that we have fallen into has lead to a lingering sense of always being in transit. Our Homelessness has ushered us a restless state of disorientation – of being both here and there – always moving and re-moving.
This emotional distress, connecting the refugees with me, has become a repository from where this work stems. My installation, creating an imagery of a clustered crowd of migrants, huddling together as a fearful, vulnerable bunch is an embodiment of the harsh wounds of migration and alienation. Their obtruding presence is a remark on the exclusion and bewilderment that the migrants face from a culture, which doesn’t consider them as one of their own.
How do you perceive artworks that make a political statement? Would you like to produce more pertinent, and politically charged artworks as a part of your practice?
SD: In my art practice I am more concerned about a sensory and visual effect on the viewers rather than making a political statement. My works primarily come from a emotional concern. I don’t believe that there is a need to deliberately include politically charged debates and discourses into any artwork or art practice.
However, artists are no different than the society as a whole. Thus, matters of socio-political concern do pervade our art practices. I welcome those artworks that make a political statement as a viewer and an artist. However, I believe that in my practice such statements come up spontaneously and with an emotional connection.
Give us your overview, of the rise in political art over the last few years, as you have been witnessing it - as a viewer, and as an artist. Would you like to see more artists making powerful works with a socially relevant message?
SD: Frankly, I don’t subscribe to these kind of generalisations. I believe that any artwork or project reflects the socio-cultural and political context that surrounds it. While some are more blatant in putting out those concerns leading to them being categorised as ‘political art‘others are more subtle and thus their works voice those concerns in a more latent manner. It depends on the temperament of the artists and how they prefer to deal with these issues.
Give us your take on the idea that "All art is political in the sense that it engages society in some way, either influencing or influenced by it." Would you agree with this thought? And does this apply to your own practice?
SD: I do believe that all art is political in some way or the other. Artists are influenced by political happenings and they do seep into their art.
Coming to my art practice, I would have to agree that there are political issues that influence my art. However, such influences are spontaneous. I try not to deliberately include political issues into my work. Rather, I connect to them from an emotional point of view. Thus, the pain and anxiety of the migrants become important to me as I share somewhat similar emotions as descendant of a migrant family. Through stories and personal images I have developed a consciousness towards such issues and hold them close to my heart.
What, according to you, is political art - in essence?
SD: I would not distinguish political art as a form in itself. Rather, I would like the term to be more inclusive where even other formats or forms of making art in which the political statements are not so overtly expresses is considered within the term itself. Even without invoking the specific forms mentioned above, there are works of art which have latent layers of political messages.
How important, do you believe, is it for artists to take up the responsibility of making a political statement - to comment on current affairs, or draw the attention of viewers to larger issues? Is it essential for artists to make politically charged works, to possibly gain larger visibility?
SD: I don’t think that it is essential for artists to make politically charged works, to gain larger visibility. Good works, which are able to touch the heart of its viewers, would have a larger visibility whether it makes a political statement or not.
A lot of contemporary art tends to get discussed in closed and often select groups. How would you like to encourage further discussions on art among larger groups of people, and possibly extend art appreciation in a more inclusive, rather than exclusive manner?
SD: Regarding this issue, I believe that the larger problem is that there is a dearth of visual education in our educational system. While more or less everyone is well versed in language, visuals are something that we are not taught. However, with the advent of the internet, people encounter a lot of visuals. From these visuals, they tend to pick up only well defined images as symbols and shy away from the nuances.
This problem needs to be solved through a visual education early on in our life. On the other hand artists and art community should also come out of their endogenous spaces and interact with the larger public more.
There's also the final question about balancing the aspects of aesthetics, beauty and taste, with technique and skill. How important is it, in your view, for a powerful work of art to also be visually, and artistically pleasing and beautiful - perhaps, to emphasise the underlying message?
SD: I do believe that a powerful work of art is should also be visually beautiful to emphasise the underlying message. However, beauty is often reserved to something that is pleases the eye and makes us happy. An artist who wants to disrupt the sophisticated life of a privileged class would surely not produce something that would make them happy or please them.
But to convey what the artist wants to express there is a need to balance according to the aesthetics. In this case, I believe that the concept of Nava Rasas become pertinent where the artist should be able to evoke whatever he wants his viewer to feel. In doing so, aesthetics, beauty and taste, technique and skill will all have to be applied of disposed off accordingly.
A Soaring to Nowhere by Sudipta Das, supported by Latitude 28, will be on display at India Art Fair 2018, in New Delhi, February 9-12.