March 19, 2010


Tits, Clits n Elephant Dicks might seem like a controversial title to an art exhibition, that it survived 8 days without event might have driven Sanjeev Kandekar and his simulacrum  into oblivion,  that he is now the subject of this article he has to thank Pushpa Vitula. But there are larger issues involved.

Did Sanjeev set Pushpa up? As in the perfect crime?

How to disagree with a point of view is a mature ‘civilised’ conversation. Is it appropriate to run to the police or a thug political outfit when you disagree with what is art or not in an art gallery? Can one persons claim that something is offensive stop others who might or might not think the same way. How are my civil liberties being honoured if your’s a day earlier prevents my seeing and deciding for myself.

Don’t art galleries have committees that decide what is appropriate to show in their spaces?

Do you run to the police if you did not like the syllabus that your child in school is subjected to?

When the police or political parties become arbiters of art and decency you have the beginnings of fascism.

If you took down a book because it contained offensive material to someone, anyone, there would be no library in the world with a single book on its shelf, the Bhagavad Gita, the Bible and the Koran among other holy texts included.

Shakespeare during his lifetime must have faced criticism as well as acclaim then came

Thomas Bowdler (July 11, 1754February 24, 1825 who published a censored edition of Shakespeare‘s work so that it would be considered appropriate for children. In all probability when you buy the complete works of Shakespeare for your children today it will be the original as offensive as the bard wrote them.

Lewis Carroll (Henry Dodson) wrote Alice in Wonderland, chances are that if you read the classic 10 or more years ago it would have been with two chapters missing, as the publishers then thought them inappropriate. Today Alice is the complete unabridged book. Would you gift this ‘perverted’ children’s book to a 12 year old?

Gandhi wanted to have the temples of Khajurao covered as he thought they were obscene.

Every generation, every culture, every religion as indeed every person has their own personal range of the appropriate and the offensive. Starting with burping and farting to what you say, how you dress, and how you express yourself. Janet Jackon might have wardrobe malfunction exposing her breast and yet on our pavements, in the trains, garments function popping out breasts to feed infants. The context varies. Is it prime time TV?

When dealing with the issues of censorship it might be interesting to point out the work done by the anthropologist Margaret Mead in the seminal, Growing up in Samoa and other work done in Papua New Guinea. Her thesis is that adolescent stress is a function of urbanity, and not of adolescence per se. The fact that birth, death and the processes involved becomes fragmented, alien, staccato acts to us rather than seen as seamless life unfolding, she suggests is the source of strife. If the birds and the bees, sex and sexuality were just processes with concomitant pleasures and frustrations rather than titillating merchandise that make the cash registers ring, our adolescents that grow into censoring adults might have a different take on the world and all that’s in it.

Helmut Newton’s sharp, strong nudes in stilettos were a constant source of irritation to feminists of his day, who labeled him Porno chic till they caught up with his oeuvre and then just called him chic. The list is endless.

Don’t we say things, wear things, see things, hear things that our parents might have been shocked by, they have become par for the course, Is this all degenerate, it might be retrograde to think that. The present is all we have and it would be wise to listen to our memory.

The world is not out there but in here, invariably its a case of the transferred epithet, the idiot box, it all depends on the idiot this side of the box.