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1 July 2008

Art and the city



This is a sculpture at a busy and main Mumbai intersection near Mahim and Bandra.

It was installed recently- maybe a year ago and due to its location and size can barely be missed. Yet, to my surprise it elicited little or no interest or comments from the media or even the average citizen (a.k.a. blogs ). Which I find significant because it is almost the first prominent public art display that I have seen in Mumbai.

I concede that the average practical Mumbaite ( me included) does not have much patience to appreciate 'weird stuff'. It is too much at odds with a city culture that places a very high premium on a practical, pragmatic, no-nonsense, make the most of every minute ethos.

And yet, a complete lack of any kind of natural beauty , added to that a lack of any 'bohemian' influence makes the city what it is- a sad, weary, troubled one. No time to stand and stare -slowly it makes us humourless, petty and mean spirited.

Urban spaces, or lack of it is more appropriate in a city of Mumbai has seen increasing land grabbing by building and construction industry. While parks and open spaces are under threat and some hobbly- wobbly approach continues in supporting heritage structures; one more aspect of urban spaces as good as dead or non-existent in Mumbai is to do with Art & Culture.

In contrast to it's northern counterpart New Delhi the capital, Mumbai has no Dilli Haat, India Habitat Center, or even an Arts Council (which is really ironic considering Charles Correa lives in Mumbai). Chennai has a Dakshin Chitra, Artist Village, Goa has an annual carnival- I don’t know what Kolkata has – but last I knew the whole city had ‘kolchure’.

Installations, city squares and public spaces - large (or small) open friendly central areas where people can meet, congregate, celebrate, experience art, music and festivities & culture is non-existent. Small, sporadic, scattered efforts are at best just that. The rest are exclusive. While space is a constraint, lack of any public policy is what really distressing - which means there are no guidelines or governing principles.

Music, art, dance, pottery, puppetry, craft? What is that? Fairs, exhibits, exhibitions, carnivals, cirque de soliel?- will only elicit puzzled confused looks from the harried citizens who can barely make it to work and back. Isn’t that for Page 3 people? Public libraries, town halls- you gotta be kidding right?

Compare this to other global cities -which is why
this article caught my attention. It speaks on the importance of creating and preserving urban spots where artists and poets converge as critical to growing urban centers. This article that also has a picture of old New York city precinct by Ed Yourdon, my twitter friend who pointed me to it.

So when I see
this update on Twitter by someone who lives in New York, I , wonder, will even the next generation in Mumbai ever post a similar update.

If the current situation and state of the city is any indicator then it seems highly unlikely.

9 comments:

Rajiv said...

maybe its because bollywood completely dovershadows everything else in bombay.

Maneesh said...

I guess it comes from the background most of us come from...

For most part of Mumbai's growth the mass has been playing most of a survivors role.. most if not all.. and that doesn't leave much time for appreciating art.. places like delhi never had that problem ..on the other hand as the need changes from survival to lifestyle growth..like we are seeing now.. the effort at appreciating and growing urban art and centres will come in.. the fact that we have this work in bandra is an acknowledgement to this fact.. and maybe it is not far away.. I am sure the teens of today by the time they get out of it will give you the culture sentiment you want...

ok long comment :P

and personally about the sculpture I think it is mindblowing.. never really got over the tag line .. in the hope tht i made sense.. i remain.. :D

Deepa said...

@Rajiv Very true. But, even with the Bollywood legacy the city still cannot boast of a anything like what MOMA offers, or like a walk of fame or such.

Thank you for stopping by and the comment!

Deepa said...

@Maneesh You have so rightly identified that survival to lifestyle growth issue. While there is a fairly active cultural scene and people involved,they do not get the required traction due to the lack of a policy and support which means most efforts are either too small or get involved in controversies or something else comes in the way. That is why I hope posts and comments like this help.

Long comment- pls. feel free to go on too :) In fact I'd be happy if you want to do a guest post anytime.

elsbar said...

elsbar was here too ;-)

Prateek said...

Just a week back we happen to pass that flyover when my mom pointed it out to me. I was amazed by it. 'Child gives birth to a mother'.. WOW. Dont know why I never noticed it before.

Deepa said...

Thanks Prateek for stopping by to say that. I was wondering how you stumbled here. All in the same week! It is comments such as yours that make me feel that my blogging as been worth the effort. It wasn't easy, stopping to take the pic with half an eye on the traffic police guy :)

Prateek said...

I am not quite sure how I landed here. I do a lot of mindless surfing and then one link leads to another. :)

Thejesh GN said...

Sadly all growing cities of India are becoming like that. Bangalore is becoming more and more like Mumbai..kind of already started missing my bengaluru :)

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