A Question of Art

A Question of Art

He swooped down like a dart, fluttered his wings and settled down on my shoulder; I was watching scenic landscape in front of Tate Modern Museum. Art invariably raises questions for me, it rarely provides answers. 

“Hi, such a pleasant surprise, Lulu,” I said as I pointed him to settle on my forearm. “It feels so nice to discover you here in London, Lulu.”

“You should expect me to join you whenever you visit an art museum. And Tate Modern is one I often visit.”

“Oh, Wow! I never knew it.” I said as I entered the Museum. “The entry is free!!”

“It is always free to the birds,” Lulu said as we entered. “Move left there is something you must not miss.”

I followed Lulu’s instructions. A small and well-lit room, I noticed. “Don’t enter, first read the story on the board,” Lulu whispered.

A text on the small canvas size board shocked me. ‘Tania Bruguera offers this smaller, more private space for us to think about the loss that migration entails…..Migration is presented as an ongoing crisis, and it often feels like we cannot change what is happening. To combat the resulting sense of apathy, the tearing agent in this room provokes a physical reaction that Bruguera describes as ‘forced empathy.’ Crying together in public breaks down our usual social barriers and leads to a shared emotional response.’

I stood inside. Tears flowed. Something inside was churning. Unbearable it was.

“I am thinking of Alan Kurdi, the two-year-old Syrian refugee, whose body was washed on a Turkish beach.”

Lulu looked at me. “An artist wants to heighten your awareness. If she succeeds, her job is done.”

I nodded.

“What have you to say on Rohingya migration?” Lulu asked. I had no answer. “Move on,” he said.

I used the elevator to move to another picture gallery. One room had this tower. Built of Old Radios. Two-in Ones. And several similar gadgets. All switched on.

“Look what the board tells us” Lulu, drew my attention.

“Cildo Meireles created this ‘Babel 2001’. ‘It is a tower of radios playing at once, it addresses ideas of information overload and failed communication.’ The board in the room informed. ‘Cildo Meireles refers to Babel as a ‘tower of incomprehension.’”

“Wow, tower of incomprehension! Reminds me of several dozens of news channels blaring various news and their interpretation at us. It is so difficult to decide what’s the truth.”

“Just stay in the moment. Observe how you feel looking at this Babel 2001.”

“Technology also is throwing information at us at such a speed, that we constantly live in the fear of never having understood the reality. You live perpetually in information overload. You can’t make any sense out of it.”

Lulu gave me a condescending look. “Brian Solis was right.”

“Who is he?”

“A digital analyst who speaks about disruptive technology. He said, ‘Information overload is a symptom of our desire to not focus on what’s important. It is a choice.’”

“I get the point, Lulu. Two important messages here. One tells us to break down social barriers for a shared emotional response, the other makes us aware of the overcommunication, confusion and the need to focus on the important. Good message.”

Lulu moved forward. “The art touches the heart. And it takes several days to fathom the depth of the meaning their work presents.” I smiled in agreement. Lulu and I looked at the Thames. Its deep blue waters were moving quietly.

Vivek S Patwardhan