There have been moments, almost everyday, when i have had a flash of clarity, an eloquent monologue to myself in my head.
Like today, i was home alone.
And i thought to myself of all the possible savage things i would accomplish in the confines of my unsupervised home.
So after making breakfast and giving my dog a nice long bath, i sat myself down with coffee liqueur with mind-numbing amount of crushed ice to keep it cool through the hot summer day.
Truth is i dint want to turn the A/C on, as that would mean closed doors and windows and cordoning sunlight and particulate matter 2.5 in my room. While it gives me allergy and a running nose, i still let them in like a lot of other toxic adventures for the sake of ‘experience’.
So as i found myself walking through the Yugoslavian war and the birth of a legendary artist in its wake, i realized i must do the laundry before i get to the 2nd half of the book.
Anyway, it rained last night so my head and the earth is cooler in contrast to the tar-melting month.
And the brain-freezing coffee liqueur when mixed with a good book can provide a lasting, cooling effect. You must try it.
Now here’s what happened. And this happens to me often. When i am doing something perfunctory, my mind transcends into another dimension and starts delivering epiphanies i have been too lazy to ever put down to paper, yet it changes my life in a temporarily heart-fluttering kind of way.
I put the dirty laundry in the washing machine, and switched it on, i noticed that my dog had followed me and now is staring at me.
The machine starts making the usual whirring sound, it slowly builds up into a tempo, a consistent 4 by 4. And i dont know when my gaze locked itself into the circular motion of the washer. I watched the various colors of different fabrics and fashion succumb to the foam of the detergent, a strangely satisfying visual to my cornea.
My head too starts spinning with the spinning motion of the machine, building into a whirlpool of looming thoughts and realization in colorful patterns.
It is a beautiful concept. Since childhood, i have been fascinated by all forms of it. And as i grew, i started to reject it more and more.
Everybody seems to want to believe and advocate some form of art. It has been a part of everyones lives at some point in time. Some continued to hone and and let it consume them while others had short-lived relationships with art which is now limited to the pages they ‘like’ and people they ‘follow’.
The thing with art is that people want to believe that it is a reflection of their character and personality and start weaving an intricately shiny web which eventually becomes a trampoline they jump on every now and then to come up for air, out of the stillness of life.
We all know people, or have been those people, who have figured out a way to disguise themselves as either artists or critiques.
They will read about the Renaissance period, hang Andy Warhol paintings on their bedsides, watch reenactment of Shakespearean plays, download macabre war documentaries and Japaneses noir films, write ‘Ginsberg fan’ on their social profile description, read elephant journal and Dazed magazine for sub-cultural fills.
All this to stir up an illusion of leading a culturally refined life.
I dont think artists are greater than the spectators.
Most artists are not the picture of pristine or dark cosmic truth that we so often believe their work to be.
They have been known to be obsessed, narcissistic and maybe even delusional.
We might argue that is what art truly is.
But really, isnt it a projection of their own epiphanies, weaknesses, memories and sometimes even madness?
Plagued by their own personal incurable scars of the past, or dreams of the future, they die a little every time with every piece of their itching flesh made available to the public to love, to hate ,to ignore.
Art is a disease. A life-long agony. Only a few are are fortunate/unfortunate to diagnose it and give their life to finding an antidote. In turn, leaving us more infected than before.
Their incorruptible faith in expressionism and magical realism draws a parallel to our own lack of courage to adopt art as life, and as death.
Would art be art if you weren’t there to understand , hate or reject it?
As the whirring of the washing machine comes back to the foreground, the thoughts lead me back to my own truth.
Why have i always been fascinated by forms of art but never quite able to entirely give in to the illusion of a deeper connect with it.
I started out as an painter, my earliest memory and acquaintance with art. My teachers believed that was my calling. Even i believed it for a while. But was never really able to use the paintbrush to transfer the images in my head onto the canvas. It always painted something colourful and beautiful, a complete departure from the damp and gloomy confines of my mind.
So i moved on, never to return again. But my mind never stopped painting pictures.
I moved on to music and dance. I was good at that too and my adolescent heart got attention, yet remained rancorously insatiable.
So i started writing. Nothing great. Poems and prose about teenage love, disappointment, elation, existentialism, fashion. The usual.
I did everything to inspire the artist in me. Read the books i was too young to read, listened to classics, watched cinema, not ‘movies’. Doodled my thoughts onto paper that would find its way to the trash. Yet i remained philistine. unimpressed and uninspired.
Now the 1 minute alarm on the machine grows louder.
And thoughts gushed into the lanes of my brain like the treacherous water across a broken dam.
I am not an artist. Never was. Never will be.
No one ever really is. We are all just either really good at expressing something or really bad at expressing something. And we find a collective that understands that expression. And within that collective, you rise to become a master of your time. Because the lesser courageous expressionists hold you up high on a scaffolding made out their own jumbled pieces of beautiful and ugly thoughts and truths.
So i love art but i hate it too.
And this dichotomy is my disease. Much like the conflict between science and metaphysics. The very existence of art around me makes me aware that it is within me as well, else i wouldn’t have been able to believe in it or appreciate it.
Yet on the other hand, my state of self-awareness or the lack of it moonlights as a guard that prohibits me from projecting my very own imperfect,delusional, heightened version of it.
I see people and attach to people with the same polarity.
Pulled from one end, repelled by the other.
Eventually the magnetic field succumbs to this paradoxical force and there is only metal and dust left in the absence of clarity and art.
There are paintings in my head, but no canvas to grace it.
There are words gently pressed between my fingers and flesh, but the ink is invisible it seems.
There are songs and melodies that quiver in my throat, but never reach the lips.
There are moments of prancing joy but my fears bully them out of the park.
There is synchronized choreography routines in my feet, but the floor is made of quick sand.
Now the washing machine timer starts screeching into my ear. The spinning was about to halt now.
Like a finality to this temporary strain of thought. Everything cleaner than before.
I can see the spinner slowing down. The blurred colors now becoming more vivid with every turn.
My life, even yours for that matter, is a work of art.
I have only gradually closed in on this fact.
We are all gifted, in our insignificant ways. But if all gifts came unwrapped, there’d be no surprise, now would it?
To be great in a universe that will forever remain infinitely greater than all of our histories combined is a delusion that is art.
I personally feel that to analyse, assess and re-imagine the truth and flaws of one’s time and its people is good art.
But the testament of great art is to get outside your mind and try to infiltrate its nuances, bit by bit, day by day, like a spy. To understand the depths of your memories, actions, mistakes, to become completely obsessed by the only character in a story that matters: ‘you’, and how everything and everyone around you is helping you shape your art that imitates your life.
It’s not madness. Or maybe it is.
But more importantly, it is one piece of art that is only yours to keep, devour, hate, and maybe even someday share with someone.
That’s why i think Frida Kahlo was one of the greatest painters of her time. She was her own subject. But sadly it took a disfiguring accident for her to truly find herself. It was only when she couldn’t move or experience anything outside of bodily confines was when she found her greatest gift: herself.
That , to me, is deeply tragic.
Sadness, heartbreak or any other form of tragedy shouldn’t be the canvas for greatness. Yet it often is.
There are words trapped in books, songs shifting places in playlists, paintings hanging in bedrooms and hallways, but you and your art is a constant.
Living, breathing, evolving, learning.
The greatest performing artist is you, enacting your life, completely unscripted.
It’s only a matter of deciding whether you want to exhibit it on a grand opening night where every one walks in and tries to understand, draw parallels to their own life with what you have to offer, to seek some sort of sanction for their own art.
you choose to bundle it all up in a secret chest, piece by piece creating something so magnificent that it almost makes you sad, scared and happy, all at the same time.
Both possibilities are dangerous and magical and delusional, but then so is life.
I am still trying to figure out a way to find a balance.
The whirring of the washing machine has completely stopped. There is now an eerie yet melodious silence. It is gently interjected by cymbal-like addition of my dogs heavy breathing.
I stare back inside the washing machine, everything looks clean. I feel instantly repelled by it, the hypnosis was over. The chore was done.
I suddenly feel a sweat trickle down my back, as if a droplet of joy was racing down my back to let itself out of the confines of my pores.
My dog and i hurry back to my room, to finally succumb to the a/c, but not before i drained out all the filthy water left behind in the washing machine.
Photographer: Gopa Kumar
Editor: Kavita Gupta