Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Kekee Manzil: House of Art

Over the weekend, I saw the documentary Kekee Manzil: House of Art screened at Arnolfini. The film was fascinating and I learned a great deal about the political and artistic history of mid to late 20th century India. 

In addition to the documentary recounting an autobiographical and family history, narrated by and featuring the footage of Producer, Behroze Gandhy, the daughter of Kekoo Gandhy, the film also exposed me to several modernist Indian artists, whose work blew me away. It was a treat to have Behroze Gandy, Dilesh Korya (Director/Editor) and Michael Poole (Executive Producer) do a Q&A following the screening and discuss the vision of the film and their approach to articulating the familial and political as well as a comment on the role of art in establishing connections amidst a diverse peoples. 

One word that repeatedly came up was the notion of 'cosmopolitan' and the feeling that, starting in the 1940s up until around the end of the 20th century, this movement of modernist artists and gallerists from a range of backgrounds including Muslim, Hindu, Zoroastrian, collectively tried to establish a national voice in the wake of national independence that was made up of a multiplicity of voices. This mixing and celebration of difference and a culture based on ideas of freedom of expression—the 'cosmopolitan' ideal—was felt to be in direct conflict with and largely lost as a result of divisive nationalist movements that ensued.

Other themes that arose for me included: Eastern/Western art and a national art identity as having a range or origins/sources ; the political charge/potential of painting ; liberal privileged artistic communities or intellectuals vs the rise of populism. 

Some of the painters featured in the film:

Tyeb Mehta

M. F. Husain

Bhupen Khakhar

Nalini Malani

Sunday, 19 September 2021

Sarah Bernstein, The Coming Bad Days

Really interesting novel by Montreal born, now Scotland-based author and academic Sarah Bernstein. Featuring a young woman academic, the prose reads very academically, which was interesting to read in the form of a novel. I could certainly understand how this book, whose unnamed protagonist is distant, vulnerable and hateful (mostly to men, but often finding many people or social situations abhorrent) would not be for everyone and that the elaborate syntax and unusual vocabulary could deter some readers (and at times myself), and impede following the story or the shifts in the narrator's thinking. In some passages, this elaborate prose reads as a 10/10 and exquisitely captures complex and layered emotional experiences. 

There are clear moments reminiscent of Rachel Cusk's trilogy where fleeting characters seem to open up to the protagonist without much introduction, and share extremely personal and conflicting feelings, memories or current situations. While I enjoyed these asides, which did work to reveal a new angle of the narrator, it felt improbable that she would be approached by strangers in this way. She is presented as quite the opposite of an emotionally available, stable and compassionate bystander and in fact, there is something dangerous about her, as if something might snap at any moment. While this may have attracted certain confessions, the more wholesome ones seemed less likely to choose her as a place of safe release. 

I found the descriptions of academic life compelling and relatable, especially the seeming intimacy and familiarity one may feel with one's colleagues alongside with the constant and ultimate whisper of opposition, rivalry and threat just below the surface of playacting prescribed and unquestioned roles at academic rituals, such as a weekly guest lecture. 

Keiler Roberts, Sunburning

Another one from D&Q. Extremely funny and relatable. Already on to My Begging Chart

Thursday, 9 September 2021

Machi Tawara, Salad Anniversary

Lovely book of poems originally published in 1987. Beautiful and simple fragments of love, longing and everyday life. 

Monday, 6 September 2021

Christopher DiRaddo, The Family Way

The Family Way was another book I picked up at Drawn & Quarterly while in Montreal last month. This novel felt so "Montreal" to me and really reminded me of my mid to late teens, spending a lot of time in The Village, supporting my gay friends as they came out. During this time, we were all starting to discover and seek out places in the city where we could learn how to become ourselves, how to be queer or non-normative/non-conforming, and where not fitting it in the larger sense of things brought about in these spaces a deep feeling of self-acceptance, community and belonging. 

The story was poignant and relatable and all the characters extremely likeable, inducing compassion in the reader and an acknowledgement of the different desires and challenges faced in a (gay) life about love, sex, loss, commitment, life partners, family (planning), friendships and one's chosen family, rejection and becoming who you feel you are. Very smart and tender as well as a compulsive page-turner.