There is an entire generation that has grown up and is practicing adulthood through the decade of the late 90s and the 2000s. At least in the urban cosmopolitan pockets of India (the pockets in which ‘contemporary Indian art’ largely thrives) ‘coming out of the closet’ has largely begun to signify freedom, rather than the fear of social stigma. The Delhi High court Judgement de legitimising Section 377 IPC has undoubtedly opened up new horizons. However (along with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender movements) one cannot ignore the impact of feminism in opening up our understanding of gender and body, and challenging the patriarchal heterosexual framework.
“As we wait for the judgement of the Indian Supreme Court, to decide the fate of non-heterosexual and gender non-conformist people who have faced repression (due to their individual sexualities and gender identities which do not conform to the widely accepted hetero-normative and procreative orientation) from discriminatory and patriarchal value systems, it is a ripe time to voice our concern and rebellion against such narrow-minded and controlling oppressors. It is time every thoughtful artist gets a chance to display their understanding of sexuality and gender identity in its entire vivid spectrum, in their own way, without the fear of censorship from those who want to epitomize heterosexuality as the one and only accepted colour in the spectrum and thus any other form of sexuality or gender identity which questions this blind faith or moves away from this singularly coloured path is immediately trampled upon as immoral.” – reads the description of ‘Broadening the Canvas| Celebrating Blemishes’, an exhibition to watch out for.
Now, there is a young generation of artists working with a new freedom for expressing body, sexuality and gender, and this is what ‘Broadening the Canvas| Celebrating Blemishes’ focuses upon. ‘Broadening the Canvas| Celebrating Blemishes’ – an exhibition based on the theme of expressions of Gender and Sexuality identities, organized by the Kolkata Rainbow Pride Festival (KRPF), is being held at the Bengal Art Gallery, ICCR from 9th to 15th June.
Solidarity, Art and Sexuality for Dignity and Equality – KRPF is an open collective of individuals, networks and organizations, which believes that sexuality is a key element of human existence, fulfillment and enjoyment. They hold that no individual, community or section of society should face stigma, discrimination or violence because of their gender and sexuality. Formed on May 1, 2011, KRPF was formed in the first meeting itself. While based in Kolkata, the festival is not limited to participation from the city alone. The festival raises funds and resources through fund raiser events, individual donations, and sponsorships by organizations.
The attack on Balbir Krishan’s last solo at Rabindra Bhavan Delhi (one of the last remaining significant ‘public’ spaces for art in India); showed that in this world of false morality, not too many people like the rainbow yet. The acceptance of alternate sexuality is not simply a change of taste, but marks an important stress line in our battle against heteronormative patriarchy. It is under such circumstances that the organizers feel the historical need and opportunity to do an annual art exhibition of the contemporary visual culture of alternate sexuality.
Aiming to generate dialogue on diverse expressions of gender identity, sexual orientation, sexual identity, sexual and romantic relations as also associated socio-economic issues like health, education, law and the domain of work, this show aims to be a platform for expression and dialogue, and also a zone that makes contestation possible.
The exhibition has been designed in three sections – Body, Mind and Soul. Prominent artists like Balbir Krishan, Anuradha Upadhyaya, Deepak Tandon, Jayna Mistry, Mandakini Devi, Manmeet Devgun, Moumita Ghosh, Prakash Kishore, Rudra Kishore Mandal, Syed Taufik Riaz, Tapati Choudhury, Jose Abad and Vidisha Saini will take part in the exhibition.
(Rahul Bhattacharya is the curator of the art exhibition. He is also the co-founder of Regional Arts Performance and Events and Joint Secretary, Performers Independent )