In Kallol Datta’s work I am struck at first by the sheer boldness of an aesthetic which challenges standard gnomes of how the body can be seen – anti-body-form silhouettes create a sense of drama on their own, and effect us with a new way of looking at ‘beauty’ itself. More so, in an Indian context where retail allows for a certain kind-of product outreach which caters to more conventional markets. There is strong intentionality in his work which attempts at creating an anti-fashion idiom: A response to a ‘bling’ mainstream pushes him to work with textures and prints; one season – other designers quoting their work as avant garde without really understanding the word’s radical layer – prompts him to go back to ‘basics’ by working with simple patterns; An otherwise shy and introvert personal persona is disguised by a shock-creating provocative self-image?
Can one see him and his work ‘political’? And can such a perspective allow us to observe the very nature of dynamics between an individual artist – his work, in relation to the larger fashion industry?
He confesses that back home in Kolkata, he has a small circle of friends and rarely converses its streets. Negotiating the narrow gullis of chandni chowk in Delhi, he shares a familiar experience of ‘people’ phobia, where on being thrown in such a mass-space, he tends to retreat to a cocooned sense of it. His work has often been seen as belonging to a context of the culture and city he lives in, so I find a fascinating irony in it : Large sack-like tunics hide clever churidaars, a risqué interpretation of Indian silhouettes take on a punk-like street demenour, a dark sense of humour rejects an outer world but also effects it; all, reflect also a background informed deeply by a western education and living abroad.
It helps me arrive at whether it is relevant at all to observe and comment on ‘Indianess’, and does not the equally inherent conversation between various influences create a ‘contemporariness’?
And does this contemporariness essentially not reflect what is a ‘vernacular’?
Through his work I search intensely for the expression of an identity that cannot be typified in a general ‘local-global’ structure, where its individuality reflects diverse regional-national-international subjects but is also in some ways universal in its appeal.
I also wonder about our shifting sense of spaces and how it informs our work and what we do. If the body is seen as a space inhabited by itself without any space-time continuum, imagine the inner-outer dramas where what we wear creates all magic!
Creating for fashion and is time-ness, a certain timelessness.
THE IDEA OF FASHION, A residency on Fashion opens on 17th February, 2011 at Khoj Studios, S-17, Khirki Extension, New Delhi; at 6 pm. The works presented show diverse interactions with fashion by Photographer Anay Mann, Fashion designers Arjun Saluja and Kallol Datta, and visual artists Manisha Parekh and Mithu Sen.
The show will remain open till 21st February. For more details about Khoj and how to reach there, please see http://www.khojworkshop.org
Opening remarks are below:
THE IDEA OF FASHION
Anay Mann, Arjun Saluja, Kallol Datta,Manisha Parekh, Mithu Sen
Through this 2- week residency exploring Fashion; Khoj continues its enquiry into, and conversation with practices like Sound, Design, Architecture and Ecology. In creating a platform for a process by which art can converse with fashion, it allows for an expansion of its own understanding of an artistic practise and phenomena which, in Khoj Director Pooja Sood’s words ‘has always appeared as something happening to someone else, somewhere else’. It has also allowed fashion to understand and reflect on itself better, without restraints of its commercial viability.
On first glance, art and fashion may seem like separate worlds: Art, a pursuit which may be seen as an end in itself, created for contemplation, and for poetic consumption; and also one that takes itself seriously in its own role in society. Fashion may be seen on the one hand as a utilitarian ‘trivial,mundane’ matter of what people wear, and on the other, as an elitist exercise operating in the realm of superficial conversations and expensive brands. Both function today as massive industries, with diverse players and varied impacts. Both can also be seen as important tools and instruments in society which shape contemporary culture; reflecting changing aspects of relationships, identity, communication, politics and the economy.
Three large, general directions became important guides through which processes for the participants played out. One, was to look at fashion as a construct and artefact where it is studied more anthropologically, and in how it provides us a mirror to understand the world and people around us. Here, questions related to the very need/role of art, design and fashion were explored. Second, was to look at the ‘making’ of fashion as a creative process informed by its own specific technology and concerns. And the third, was to explore how art and fashion can converse with each other through their similarities and differences.
Emerging out of a photographer, visual artists and fashion designers with strong practises; the works presented here reflect a conversation with each other in layered ways. Each’s work is an interpretation of how their work relates to fashion, and these diverse meanderings make use of its ingredients and inherent intentions. But perhaps the most important shifts took place for all of them, when they started to see ‘fashion’ as not merely synonyms with ‘clothes’ : In whatever way it is experienced or understood, fashion is essentially a product of time. Its ability to reveal aspects of human motivation and inspiration, suggests itself as an important mark of civilisation. In its poetry, it can tragically show us our frailties and failures.
The triumph of this journey ultimately though; is how this pause and interaction with a seeming ‘other’ has allowed each one of us to reflect on our own practise, and to understand what remains the same while observing its ever-changing nature.
Mayank Mansingh Kaul
Co-curator & Critic-in-Residence
17 February, 2011