The displays at Loyola College, Chennai were vulgar because the intention was not to illuminate but to hurt. It was cheap and crude because the idea was to provoke puerile polemics and not trigger lofty debates.
The kerfuffle over the provocative but tacky displays at an art expo in Loyola College, a reputable institution in Chennai, is wholly predictable and understandable. But the smart thing is to register the misgivings, if any, and move on. There is no point in calling for a ban or making a police complaint. Moreover, that is neither a mature democracy nor mature politics.
Whoever was present at the so-called art expo would have spotted the one-note and unimaginative nature of the displays. The theme was unequivocally anti-Modi, anti-BJP, anti-India and anti-Hindu.
They were decidedly low-brow and lacked in subtlety. Depth, creativity and heft, the attributes of good art, were squarely missing, however, that, of course, is no crime.
Neither is mocking a political leader or a party or even the Prime Minister. After all, dissent and differences of opinion act as the bulwark of a functioning and robust democracy. At any point of time, freedom of expression, despite Jawaharlal Nehru’s self-serving infamous “First Amendment” that put “reasonable restrictions” on free speech, has to be absolute in evolved societies like ours.
If sentiments are hurt because of the displays, then so be it. Filing cases or calling for action against the college is not only churlish but also fits perfectly into the definition of a knee-jerk reaction — a top-of-the-head reflexive response which doesn’t serve any greater purpose.
But what needs to be pointed out, loudly and clearly, is the hate and pettiness at the core of the displays at the expo. Make no mistake, the art exhibits while claiming to ridicule divisive forces, without any self-awareness, fulfilled only bilious revulsions.
There was no moral high ground there. Rather, the politics behind the expo were as dangerous, if not more, like the ones it allegedly sought to take on.
Art is all about making people think, which can be translated as a journey into the abyss of the mind. It has the capability to engage the onlooker in quiet conversations. It should neither be loud or crass. When a painter daubs a multitude of colours on the canvas, the idea is to convey the greys of life that cannot be grappled adequately with words.
But unfortunately, the art expo at Loyola College was nothing like that. The displays were vulgar because the intention was not to illuminate but to hurt. It was cheap and crude because the idea was to provoke puerile polemics and not trigger lofty debates.
The exhibition had the subtlety of a sledgehammer and that is why its real target was not difficult to spot: Hindu religion.
The real motive of the expo was also not lost on the campus of the Loyola College, which has hurriedly distanced itself from the exhibition. It has accepted that the derogatory exhibits were against a particular religious group.
This is the bullshit apology from Loyola College Chennai about exhibiting blatantly Hindu-hating, hate-filled, vicious garbage on its premises. How is it possible that the management was ‘unaware’ of the filth till it was ‘pointed out’? The legal action should continue. pic.twitter.com/GCjVuQLDUj— Shefali Vaidya ஷெஃபாலி வைத்யா शेफाली वैद्य (@ShefVaidya) January 21, 2019
To unfairly single out one religion, to illogically target specific communities, in a multifarious society is fraught with danger. It pushes even reasonable people into the embrace of intransigence.
However, in Tamil Nadu motivated attacks against Hindus have become sickeningly regular. The kind of toxicity let loose on Hinduism, its cultural symbols, its traditions and heritage are staggering.
One should remember that demonisation is diabolic and it is what engenders Hindutva politics in the first place.
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Last Updated Jan 21, 2019, 5:54 PM IST