Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Art of Language (...and vice versa)

I'd been to an interview a few days back....for one of those proposed cultural exchange programmes for Europe. Visiting a place abroad means so much to me at this stage, especially when I'm traveling within a group of fellow-countrymen. My artworks have had their trips around the globe, but not me in person. And as I get poised to enter the overseas sculpture-symposiums arena, this visit means so much to me. Yet a gentleman at the first round of interview suggested that I perfect my language before I apply again...next year. Sounded hard, from the situation where I stand.

There were around six-seven judges on the interview panel, thankfully most of whom sympathized with me. Having viewed my Art and portfolio, they were perhaps in a dilemma whether to reject a worthy candidate purely on account of his verbal language barrier. "You are taking a visual artist along", I attempted to explain, "Art speaks for itself, it communicates with each observer differently.. If a piece of Art needs to be explained, it must be plain ineffective". All attempts were vain as the exchange programme perhaps did not include creation of artworks in the month-long trip to Europe, I learned later. Visual artists were only expected to hold lectures and yakk away their knowledge to an assembly of other parrots.

How would I survive, how would I communicate for one long month, they wondered, they were genuinely concerned. My concern lay elsewhere. Next year, when I would have already attended half-a-dozen overseas ventures with my same set of limited language skills, would it hold value to me to participate in their Cultural Exchange Programme later? Today, on the other hand, if I gain the chance, it would remain forever special to me - my first foray abroad - a push much needed.... and ON TIME. Influence of global exposure on an artist's creativity cannot be underestimated. Ans so, the gentleman's advice sent me into introspective mode. Is there really no other way for a Visual Artist to exchange culture except to talk a lot?


Don't people in Europe give birth to children? When their child is born, how do they communicate with it for two long years before it learns to babble? Or do they keep mis-communicating... offering toys to their baby when it's wailing for food? That's almost an improbability! Verbal language is just one mode of communication - its limitations are too many and its alternatives, too undervalued.

When I visited Tamil Nadu State (in India itself) for an International Sculpture Symposium a few months back, I had the same language problems that foreigner could have in India. Most villagers did not understand any language beyond Tamil - their local dialect. How did I survive there for a whole month? How did the Swiss sculptors survive? The Swiss did not know English either - and their German was far different from the language of Germany. We not only survived together, we created some very beautiful sculptures... and with the daily assistance of local artisans. If only my current interview panel had witnessed this, they would've seen humanity in all its glory!

There is a common communication code in the universe, much higher than the self-imposed verbal barriers we call 'language'. And this code is no different for a person in Europe, than it is for a North or South Indian. People in touch with their inner codes would agree...


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