• Subhasree Biswas

Concerning FORM & other COLOURS

Updated: Apr 9, 2019

It is an ongoing inquiry for me as a visual artist what is the role of ART to bring about change both in individual level and in the wider community.

The Hymn of Creation

”There was neither non-existence nor existence then. There was neither the realm of space nor the sky beyond.
Death was not then, nor was there anything immortal
no sign was there, the Day’s and Night’s divider.
Darkness there was concealed
in darkness this all was indiscriminate chaos.
All that existed then was void and formless
By the great power of Warmth was born that One.”

Rig Veda

In the beginning

There was One Mass, devoid of form, and colour. Then it moulded into form and colour what we call mother earth. Or is it our perception? Who knows? Who will proclaim? The creator was first or the creation. It is an eternal enigma!

The elements of creation always deals with forms and colour. What is an infinite oneness, we tend to dichotomise. We divide into million fragmentation according to forms and colours. As a visual artist how I react to this separation which leads to racism, war , denial. Is there a way to heal all the negativity?

I am looking at it from the recent condition of our world. Which is all about the fragmentation, intolerance, a pre set for destruction or even war.

I observe myself and other fellow artists. Reflect and act, become aware and responsible. I have a parallel enquiry, ' why academia takes other ways of knowing for granted. Why is art considered as the cherry on top? Or embodied knowing, which is the most primal ways of knowledge, always takes back seat?

Looking In

I was wandering around at Tate Modern. I was not looking for anything particular, but was just soaking in the ambience, feeling at ease in that Art milieu. A confirmation bias was intensifying inside me, that this is where I belong , here is my existence and in Art, I believe.

I was back from Schumacher college which reminds me of my school, Santiniketan.

In fact, Dartington estate and Schumacher college are inspired by the philosophy of Rabindra Nath Tagore, founder of Santiniketan, Visva Bharati. At Schumacher the community living or vegetarian food is very much a part of my upbringing, I felt at home and reconnected. Community is all we have left with once we turn off our gadgets, our souls don’t “light up” for notifications, but for real connection.

We learnt about Theories of Gaia in the session in Schumacher. Relating to the theory of Gaia was easy for me as the notion of the mother earth/goddess is very much present in my Indian culture. India is the only country where the mother goddess is still widely worshipped till today. The feminine principle, Śakti, evidence of feminine ultimacy is widely present in India. Whether worshipped as Nature or the Life Force, as Mother or Virgin, as Great Goddess or as the Ultimate Reality. Śakti means power, force, the feminine energy, for she represents the primal creative principle underlying the cosmos. The whole universe is the manifestation of śakti and she is the Supreme Reality.

Further, Anne Marie Culham's session on extended epistemology was deeply reassuring that Sustainability is everyone's business. Though it is often seen through a scientific lens. Recently, the scientific community started acknowledging the value of trans-disciplinary action . But still, the prospects of others way of knowing overshadowed by cognitive knowing.

" We need to know the world in many ways beyond the intellectual. How we receive, understand, and respond to ourselves, others, and the contexts we are part of comes from tacit and explicit knowing through our senses and bodies as well as the ideas, assumptions, and theories that live in our heads. Yet in the West such ‘more-than-intellectual’ knowing tends simultaneously to be dismissed as worthlessly ‘not-academic’ and reined as ‘Art’ with a capital ‘A’" (Seeley,C.)


We live in a society that separates us from such simple activity of connecting with each other connecting with nature, be in the arms of mother earth.

In a beautiful autumn day, I was walking in the woods with a feeling of the autumn in my finger.

I was smelling the wet leaves, listening to the murmur of falling leaves. There was a riot of colours, a feast for my eyes, I became a compulsive voyeur! The whispering willows , the yellow, orange, red leaves beneath my feet. I was trying to sense HER (mother earth) breathing below my feet. I felt a sudden rush of emotion inside me, an urge to lie down naked , completely surrender into the void, embraces the Golden Womb (Hiranyagarbha) of infinite space, luminous and blissful! while the leaves covers me gently, make me a part of the whole, a feeling of as if ' I am the origin, I am the mother'. But the rational mind hindered me . I started thinking of wet hair, sore throat, asthma, bad back! Alas!

Biophilia describes the connections that human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life. The deep affiliations humans have with other life forms and nature as a whole are rooted in our biology. What is natural we make it unnatural since the time Eve covered herself with the single fig leaf. For most of us, partly cultural, the body is a source of discomfort or shame. We’d much rather live in our heads. Yet the body has a wisdom of his own. If we listen to and learn from the body it has much to teach us.

Mind, Body, and the Soul

Embodied knowing is our first and most primitive way of experiencing the world, It is the root of all other ways of knowing including:cognitive, affective and spiritual knowing. It gives possibilities of inner freedom, to open and expand our heart. I know when I practice yoga, I am more centred, more connected. Sometimes when I am dancing or singing with my daughter, that transcendental moment I experience is deeply liberating (e.g. 5rythm dance meditation founded by Gabriel Roth, or Sufi dance.) In a world where changing the mind set or attitude are so difficult we need a language which reaches through. So, the vital question is ,does other ways of knowing make the world a better place, or is it quite useless? This is an unsolved riddle since ancient time. A similar question – has art truly had any impact upon society? can it change the mindset? Is it practicable in or relevant to society and its individuals’ daily lives? As an action researcher, we need to expand our knowledge from the cognitive intellectual paradigm.

The spoken and written word can be powerful ways to bring light to issues of any magnitude. But art such as painting, photography, videos , films , installation, music ,dance, theatre they have a universal language, even meditation, yoga or another form of embodied knowledge has the power of changing mindset. (e.g. back in mid 90's Mrs. Kiran Bedi1 introduced Vipassana meditation2 for the inmates of the Tihar jail, the biggest jail in Asia. The result was dramatic.) Vipassana is effective for everyone, as we are all prisoners of the negative habit patterns of our own minds. The practice of Vipassana can liberate us from this bondage.

Does Art matters?

Here, I shall discuss extended epistemology more in the context of art. Art is the most effective way of communication, it allows people from different cultures and different times to communicate with each other via images, sounds, and stories. Art has the power of breaking through prejudices where others can't . To see things in different ways, and arouse emotional response with it's audience. But Art is not necessary always aesthetically appealing, in fact, it can be quite disturbing

According to Joyce Carol , it can Provoke, disturb, arouse emotion, expand sympathy, in a direction we may not anticipate or even may not wish. Each person can have different message or emotion from a same piece of art, and that is the beauty of art. The good art always engages it's audience.

Here are the key lies for Art activists. For a lot of Artivist (art + activist) it is fundamental to arouse the sensibilities that are dormant inside us. A growing number of artist and arts organisations advocate passionately for the value of creative responses to the major concerns of the 21st century climate change, biodiversity, water, food , social justice . The artists use a wide variety of media , drawing, sculpture, photography, music, theatre, dance, film and ephemeral interventions . Like any activism , art activism can sometime be edgy, provocative , explicit or offensive, Often if it is related to gender issues. Which is in academia neglected as populist, flippant and trivial.


The programme is on along side with COP22 in Morocco, which connected hundreds of thousands of people to the climate challenge through an extensive global programme of over major events; installations, plays, exhibitions, concerts, performances, talks, conferences, workshops, family events and screenings – plus a whole range of people power gatherings and demonstrations. Climate is culture, so it is important to engage the citizens worldwide for greener, sustainable future .

XII FEMSA Biennial Poetics of Degrowth. How to Live Better with Less?

By asking "How to Live Better with Less?" this edition of the FEMSA Biennial extends its narrative through the phrase "Poetics of degrowth" to reflect on how to decolonize our imaginaries from the promise of happiness sustained on consumption, accumulation of material goods and economic policies of unlimited growth.

What is art to me? Am I an active agent of my own story? Do I belong to that fertile edges between art and activism? Am I able to respond, reflect and provoke me and my peripheral enough to get concerned and take action?

There are recent events which provoked me/us is the Brexit ,followed by the US election. Why has the richest and most prosperous country in the world now elected a climate denier who is racist, sexist, misogynistic, and xenophobic? It is a time to take a pause and reflect what gives such consequences. Initially, I was shocked, angry and in denial, but as the day passes and I get to hear so much hates and disgust , I can't justify the negativity and I deeply feel the world needs a mass healing from the hate and dehumanisation of the others. I come across an interesting article by Otto Schramer, but I think the graph says it all, how our mind works .

The world may be an absurd ,irrational, hopeless place, a diabolically cohesive reality. But it’s important not to lose faith. In the period of aggravated chaos, we need a new kind of empathy, probably love, as opposes to disgust.

Art of Healing

I believe that we are fighters, we are survivors, we are resilient souls. We are also so much stronger than we give ourselves credit for. In response to recent event, I reflect and act, the way I best can, through presentational knowledge.

Art helps me to heal from the wound of separation, from the fellow human being and the mother earth. Art as a therapy is an established format and it has the potential to heal the world as well.

BUT, does everyone believes in that? NO, not even artists sometimes.

We live in diabolic coexistence, the pessimist and the optimist, the positive and negative in the same karmic cycle. Aa a part of the whole . There will be denial , hope, destruction and creation in the cycle of successive existence . such is the enigma of Saṃsāra!

“ I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge-even wisdom, like art. This is precisely the time when artist goes to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear . We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal. - Tonni Morrison

#artmattters #rigveda #art #extendedepistemology #otherwaysofknowing


Rig-Veda, Upanishad

Candi Purana

Mother in the making,Moulding the Void : Peter Bjørn Franceschi, Minati Kar, Andra Loseries

Uncharted territory: Imagining a stronger relationship between the arts and action research

Chris Seeley

Heron, J., & Reason, P. (2001). The practice of co-operative inquiry: Research ‘with’ rather than ‘on’ people. In Handbook of action research: Participative inquiry and practice (pp. 179 – 188). London: Sage.

On the Making of Trump—The Blind Spot That Created Him Otto Scharmer, Huffington Post, November 11, 2016

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