Is This It?
Yeh Wo Manzil Toh Nahi
Art & Breakfast.
Its India’s Independence day and I would invite people to think of freedoms we can still aspire to.
host: Hemant Sareen
venue: S-71 Annexe Panchsheel Park
address: S-71 First Floor Annexe, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi, India
open hours: 9:30 - 12:00
capacity: Table capacity is for 6 to 8 people but standing space is for 20 people
Admission fee: free
Yeh Who Manzil To Nahin/Is This It?
Art & Breakfast, New Delhi, 15 August New Delhi
Art & Breakfast in New Delhi was made to coincide with India’s Indepence Day on 15 August to encourage visitors to imagine newer freedoms. The title is from a 1987 film of the same name that was about three friends who had been part of India’s struggle for independence from British rule return to their boarding school’s centenary celebrations to become witness to an eruption of local political violence that made them to rumnitae on the causes of the new unfreedoms in whose genesis they find themselves equally implicated.
To catalyse this imagination, I had kept copies of four texts I thought would become conversation pieces and allow freely thinking around the concept of higher freedoms than political ones that are enshrined in constitution of the country as basic rights.
The main among these was a conversation between political philosopher Leela Gandhi and anthropologist Brighupati Singh that recently appeared in e-Flux:
In her writings Leela Gandhi critiques the Western political legacy of Enlightenment and offers philosophical alternatives from non-Western traditions as more resonant with Enlightenment. In the conversation as also in her book The Common Cause, she evokes Indian mysticism and one of its “spiritual practice, sadhana, or a practice of descent: falling for, rather than flying from, the world.” Gandhi calls it “inconsequentialism” and cites the example of the saint from Bengal, Ramakrishna Parmahansa, as an example atavistic Indian tradition of democracy. This self-abasement is offered as a contrast to the “reactionary desire for an enclave of excellence, rank, and exceptionality within democracy [that] resulted in a shared ethos of perfectionism across the new imperialisms, fascisms, and new liberalisms of the era.”
Another text was a Wikipedia entry on Ramana Maharishi a saint from
South India whom I proposed as part of a tradition of self-abasement and withdrawal from the world that was not just as a spiritual exercise but one that stood as a counterweight to temporal power. Then there was a page from Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception about Mescaline being homologous with adrenochrome a substance produce in the body spontaneously. Not so much an advocacy of freedom to experiment with drugs rather it was an attempt to draw in the discourse on the State’s relationship to the inner life of an individual and how strange that a psychosomatic experience should be under State regulation.
Finally, there was an introduction to CS Cockell’s book The Meaning of Liberty Beyond the Earth, Springer (2014) exploring a new dimension of freedom.
I was proposing for the visitors to Art & Breakfast to think within these reference points an enlarged concept of freedom.
The visual display was a series titled Descent, and abstract photographic work, and a series of photos shot in a temple that was also the home of the head priest with his very large family through which I was hoping to point to a space between the religious and the secular where freedoms are negotiated between religious strictures and societal norms.
The main display was a series of large photographic prints titled Retreat that evoked Thoreau’s Walden and Indian notions of withdrawal from the world to gain perspective on the self and the larger world that Gandhi adopted to take on empirical power with spiritual strength.
Thanks for creating an opportunity to socialiize and think about art and its larger context.
Art & Breakfast Internatioal Vol.2