Mapping the unseen Anand

Deccan Chronicle.  | Meera Manu

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Among the many art exhibits, author Anand’s essay is going to be one in the upcoming edition of Kochi Muziris Biennale.


When Bob Dylan was named for Nobel Prize in literature, the world wondered aloud how a musician could be seated in the legion of T.S. Eliot, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Toni Morrison and Samuel Beckett. Drawing an analogy with what an author said sometime in the past, an ‘oak in a forest of willows'’ always stands out and is looked upon sceptically. Whatever is said, ruminate on the philosophical undertones of Dylan’s most celebrated ‘Blowin in the Wind’ to shut all these critics up.

Ever thought about the need to attribute the ways of rewriting established codes to the west when we have our own examples? In a little more than a month’s time, here in Kochi, we will get to see a whole new dimension to art. The upcoming Kochi-Muziris Biennale is showcasing a piece of writing among the numerous art exhibits.

Author Anand’s essay ‘Map Makers and Map Breakers’ is to be installed in Aspinwall House as a prominent display to be sported along with a set of his terracotta sculptures.

At first, the author himself took the invite from the Biennale organisers with a pinch of amazement. Other than delivering an Art Talk in October on the sidelines of Biennale, he is a first timer — as participant and spectator — to the mega art event.

He’s a writer who spoke volumes on the human-nature-society connect in his award-winning Jaivamushyan. But in this context, he’s being made to repeat what he has already said and accepted for.

“What they told me is that they are including everything that is an art, even writing. Considering art in a wider sense, literature is a form of art beyond painting, sculpture, music, dance and fine arts. My view is that even the very life can be art,” says the writer.

“We build up our individuality from the common material known as society. We create our individuality and return to society. People can’t stay aloof. As we interact with society, we give sort of a meaningful expression,” the author clarifies.

Anand’s vocation with sculpting dates back to the time when this former engineer had a stint in Bengal. “I don’t claim they are great works of art. I have received no training in art or literature. I found the suitable material (clay) for sculptures lay right on my courtyard. That was in the 1970s-80s period after which I have not done anything at all,” he explains. This lesser-known side of the author has also come out in the form of a book.  

How his essay transfigures into an art form for the Biennale is still under contemplation. A connoisseur can certainly hang on to see how it manifests into, sometimes as a large plaque of literature, as an installation or a thing that may break all our presumptions.

Biennale curator Sudarshan Shetty, a prominent face in contemporary art in India, has just done a thorough perusal and note-making of the writing. So when quizzed on the rationale of bringing literature into art, he says: “I am interested in bringing newer things to the Biennale and try the ways I can do it. It’s an opportunity for all of us to see what kind of conversation it generates and how it can converse with others. I am not trying to expand anything. Each work is expansive in many ways; it spills over its geographical space.”

In Shetty’s terms, the reason for selecting this particular essay of the author is this: “It’s sort of an interface between the idea of facts of fiction. The writer is taking map as an analogy. He’s proposing to say that map is something that allows traversing geographical boundaries on one hand and on the other, something that restricts your boundaries. Humans create imaginative figures and boundaries. So it is like referring to all that through the analogy of a map,” he says.