SNOW is the upcoming group show of works by 12 artists around the theme of Kashmir and the situation there. Curator Ranjit Hoskote talks about what prompted him to take up this initiative and what he hopes will be the gains of the show. Edited excerpts:
How did the idea of a show on the theme of Kashmir originate?
SNOW has its origins in a series of conversations that some of us with a Kashmir connection—friends and colleagues—have been having over the past few years. The show is hopefully the first of a set of initiatives. The aim behind the show is:
1. To sensitize Indian artists to the situation in Kashmir.
2. To initiate cultural exchange between artists based in Kashmir with other artists based elsewhere in South Asia.
3. The political situation in Kashmir has taken over other aspects of life. There are, for instance, vibrant cultural energies in Kashmir—musicians, painters, those who create video art.
There has been a peculiar implosion in Kashmir over the last 20-odd years, and a great isolation. It is important for artists in Kashmir to be brought into larger assemblies and dialogues. Normalization will not happen by political and military means; what is required is cultural means.
The note on the show says, “As an exhibition, SNOW is intended to act as a platform for critical reflection on one of the key public urgencies of our time.” Could you comment on that?
Twelve Indian artists went there (to Kashmir) and spent time there. Apart from the two Kashmiri artists, none had been there earlier. Once there, you experience the thrum of feeling. There is a kind of immediacy of impact. This exhibition is one manifestation of a larger process of transformation that we want to contribute to. Art is a transformative force. For instance, you won’t accept the biased reporting that goes on there.
How would you characterize the range of responses?
There are those who have responded as returning natives; theirs was a diasporic response. Veer Munshi left Kashmir 20 years ago; Gargi Raina’s (ancestors) left 300 years ago. You still have a strong sense of belonging there; the link persists. Also, artists for the first time saw what militarization can do. In each case, there was a prompt transformation of consciousness, that may or may not be explicit. This is but a small role in a far larger set of initiatives that we need to develop in India.
Artistically, some artists offered reflections on territoriality. Gigi Scaria has a lovely image of a trifurcated Kashmir. Veer Munshi’s work has to do with ruined Pandit houses, critically addressing nostalgia. Gargi Raina does the same by processing her parents’ memories of Kashmir (they went for their honeymoon to Kashmir). She uses photographs from her parents’ album.
Can an art show affect change in mindsets?
That can’t be quantified. Even if it helps alter the temperature of debate in a small way, it can transform the way people look at things. It can’t change situations but it can change perceptions.
SNOW will be on display from 3-24 April at the Palette Art Gallery, 14, Golf Links, New Delhi. For details, log on to www.paletteartgallery.com -