Friday, 4 September 2015



This is about an activity that Shiwalee has already mentioned in her last post, but I’ll remind you guys about it again. Last Sunday we had a great ‘art work out’ workshop with a really cool group of kids. As in seriously, their energy was off the charts! They were quite a handful (and they sent us home FINISHED :p ) but I thoroughly enjoyed myself  because they were very interesting. We conducted a colour interaction activity using awesome flour paint. (to read more about this activity you can refer to the material in the  previous post under the heading “colour interaction” )

The children started off spectacularly, some doing some intense colour mixes and smudges and others doing some cool Pollock like drips and to some extent they still had the main idea in mind, that they were required to make the colours interact. Shiwalee and I were so engrossed ( and slightly overwhelmed) with the whole thing that it completely went out of our minds to time it and it ended up going on for longer than normal. Which now, thinking back is actually a good thing because otherwise I wouldn’t have got to witness the things I did.

Now somewhere through the half way point, things started to go a little “haywire” they started pouring whatever paint they could get their hands on onto their papers, it was clear that they had already stopped thinking about which colour and why. They got really wild, it was crazy, papers were overflowing, the colours were starting to get lost in a sea of brown, and they were all mixing up and turning into this messy muddy mixture. Interestingly it was towards this point when Ananya (one of the girl participants) loudly said “this is so much fun!”, and the others started saying similar things. Some were vigorously moving their hands around the paper, playing with the paint- getting more and more engrossed with the “play”. (by this point It was certain that our initial aim for this activity had been long forgotten by them)

I would like to talk about one of the girls in particular, Aswati ( age 9 ) she too, like the other kids started off very composed, beautiful drips and a few swirls- she was doing everything very carefully ( or at least that’s what it looked like to me), but the minute the other kids started going wild she got pulled in, in fact I think she used the most paint out of everyone :p so she had the most “muddy mess” on her paper than the rest. She was roughly moving her hands on the paper aimlessly like most of the other children, but halfway through that, I noticed that she had started to get into her own rhythm. There was a grace in the way she was moving her hands around the paper, it actually looked like she was dancing, making symmetrical patterns, wiping them off, making more on top, overlapping them…then I noticed she started getting violent, she was slapping the paint on the paper with her flattened out hand, the paint was flying all over, it looked like she was punishing it. Then she did something which I found the most interesting. She would push all the paint off the paper, leaving it as empty as possible and then she would push it all back in and gather it to the centre. Then she would push out one half as she pushed in the other half as if the paint was taking turns occupying the space. Thankfully I was sitting closest to her so I was able to see her do all this, and without a doubt, it was beautiful. Her end product however left no traces of what she had been doing.

We had a meeting to discuss the event and while talking about this activity we knew for sure that in the beginning, after showing them interesting videos and having a casual discussion about colour activity that they had understood what we were saying. But they were not able to keep it in mind after starting the painting, they were side tracked by the “play” involved in this method of finger painting.

 Now in addition to this I also felt that the work they produced looked like a mess compared to what it looked like when they had initially started. So when we came up with variations for the activity to fix the problem of the children getting swayed away from the main aim,  at the back of my mind I was also hoping that these variations would help ensure that the children wouldn't “ruin” their work.

After the meeting I got home all pumped up to write a post, I already had an idea in mind, so I started jotting down my main points, but halfway through my list I started doubting what I was trying to say, something felt off. So I read my first post to try clear it up- and then…I was confused…confused as hell. Because I realized I was contradicting myself.

Yes saying that the initial aim was lost and that giving a time limit ( among other variations) would help ensure that this didn't happen made sense, because after all one of our main aims is for the children to explore, learn and think about art in a different way. But me thinking that giving a time limit as way to also ensure the children don’t “RUIN” their work?? Maybe I was wrong there. I had just talked about the importance that the Gutai group gave the process and how they believed it was more important than the final piece. And here I was thinking of a variation because the final product was not good? That didn’t make sense... Aswati’s final piece was so plain- no colours other than brown were visible, not many patterns were visible either, It looked  as we had said, “mud” splattered and mixed aimlessly on a paper.  I’ll be honest and say I definitely didn't enjoy her final piece as much as I enjoyed some of the other childrens’ pieces, but without a doubt, I definitely enjoyed watching her the most. 

Now keeping aside the activity we had deigned and our aims for it. I started relating what I saw Aswati doing to a performance,because I was watching her the whole time, and I am convinced there was some serious interaction between her and the work, maybe not in the sense we had originally hoped for, but it was an interaction nonetheless. Probably I'm reading way too much into it and maybe she had no idea about what she was doing and why, but its alright, I enjoyed the performance.In fact the thought that maybe she had no idea what she was doing kind of makes me enjoy the memory of that performance even more ( though I'm not really sure why :p)

The Gutai group feels process triumphs the end result. So much happens during the process that is just not evident in the final piece. This is how I like to understand it, the final piece is like a still shot from the last scene in a movie, it can only hint at what happened during the entire duration of the movie and oftentimes  not even that. That’s why I feel performance art is such an interesting area, and I would really like to explore it. Because performance art basically showcases the process. I enjoyed Aswati’s process because it was like a performance to me; I got to see everything happening. There is something that Yoshihara Jiro (the leader of the Gutai group) had insisted on that I really liked: that the performance was what mattered and that any physical remnants were mere "residue"An interesting Gutai artist, Kazuo Shiraga was into performance art, Shiraga had staged an action called Challenge to Mud which consisted of the artist hurling himself into a pile of clay on a stage and wrestling it into sculptural shapes. Even if he did not use the word himself, Shiraga's performances were "Happenings". These happenings often times would not show themselves in the product, especially the first and initial happenings that get overlapped and that could only be enjoyed if one had witnessed them actually HAPPENING.

                                                                                                                                     by shilpi

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