G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

W H Auden: "But in my arms till break of day / Let the living creature lie. / Mortal, guilty, but to me/ The entirely beautiful."

Will Self: “To attempt to write seriously is always, I feel, to fail – the disjunction between my beautifully sonorous, accurate and painfully affecting mental content, and the leaden, halting sentences on the page always seems a dreadful falling short. It is this failure – a ceaseless threnody keening through the writing mind – that dominates my working life, just as an overweening sense of not having loved with enough depth or recklessness or tenderness dominates my personal one.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Art Spiegelman: "You know words in a way are hitting you on the left side of your brain, music and visual arts hit on the right side of the brain, so the idea is to pummel you, to send you from left brain to right brain and back until you're as unbalanced as I am."

विलास सारंग: "संदर्भ कुठलेही असोत, संस्कृत, इंग्रजी, बुद्धिवादी, तांत्रिक, इतिहासाचे, खगोलशास्त्राचे, आधुनिक पदार्थविज्ञानाचे, शिवकालीन व पेशवाईतील बखरीचे, अगणित ज्ञानक्षेत्रांचे, अशा वैविध्यपूर्ण ज्ञानावर लेखन- विशेषत: कवितालेखन- उभं राहत."

Monday, November 02, 2009

So oft in cultural wars, the disputants rail on in utter ignorance

John Godfrey Saxe's (1816-1887) poem on the famous Indian parable "The Blindmen and the Elephant" concludes like his:

"...And so these men of Hindustan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right
And all were in the wrong.

So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!"

In 21st century Maharashtra, I see all around, men of Hindustan, first disputing loud and long, and then fighting 'theologic' and cultural wars, railing on in utter ignorance.

Vasant Sarwate's वसंत सरवटे cover of Lalit Diwali 2009 ललित दिवाळी is based on world famous M. C. Escher's woodcut print "Sky and Water I", first printed in June 1938.

The original print is reproduced at the end of my commentary and Sarwate's picture is embedded at the bottom of the post.

Wielding a sketch pen in one hand and a sword in the other, the artists in Sarwate's picture are ready to slit each other's throat to make their own perception prevail.

In fact, the sketch pens in their hands, which look more like spears than drawing instruments, seem so ferocious that they remind me of a chilling scene from Batman (1989) when the joker proves the adage "the pen is truly mightier than the sword"!

Killer weapons in their hands make a poignant comment on the current intolerant environment towards art (and artistic freedom) and history in Maharashtra.

No wonder Shiv Visvanathan observes: "Three great modernised societies in India — Maharashtra, Karnataka and Gujarat — are deep in the throes of rightist groups who use bans as a way of sustaining politics."

(Some people say Bal Thackeray and Raj Thackeray are artists first and then politicos. I wonder if the two artists in the picture are them because both claim to understand "Marathi culture" better than the other.)

Have the artists from Sarwate's picture seen the "elephant"?

Commenting on his own picture Escher said: "In the horizontal center strip there are birds and fish equivalent to each other. We associate flying with sky, and so for each of the black birds the sky in which it is flying is formed by the four white fish which encircle it. Similarly swimming makes us think of water, and therefore the four black birds that surround a fish become the water in which it swims."

This print has been used in physics, geology, chemistry, and in psychology for the study of visual perception.

GILBERT ADAIR: "...M. C. Escher, the Dutch-born graphic artist whose images of endlessly diminishing birds, fish and lizards, the tiniest of them bunched up at the edges of the picture frame, constitute a remarkable approximation of the counter- intuitive results obtained by adding up an infinite series of fractions (e.g. 1+1/2+1/4+ 1/8+1/16 … equals not infinity but 2)..."

I guess it's the first time it has been used in a cartoon.

To appreciate full esthetic value of 'Sky and Water I', see a short film by National Film Board of Canada on youtube here.


Artist: M. C. Escher, "Sky and Water I", 1938


Artist: Vasant Sarwate, Lalit Diwali 2009 ललित दिवाळी

(notice Sarwate's use of colours instead of Escher's B & W, warrior on the left is made of curves and one of the right of straight lines, only top three rows have fish-water/bird-air...)

Click on the respective years to see Sarwate's covers of Lalit Diwali 2008 and 2007.