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Review Article: Louder Than Words: A Review of Art Space Germany Exhibition 2017

Kamalika Basu

University of Calcutta. Orcid: 0000-0001-7867-568X. Email: kamalika.91@gmail.com

 Volume IX, Number 3, 2017 I Full Text PDF

DOI:  10.21659/rupkatha.v9n3.rv9n301

Abstract

A scholarly review of Art Space Germany exhibition organised by Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen, held at National Library, in February 2017, which is to be presented again in Mumbai in September 2017. This article presents a brief description of the artefacts, comments on the stylistic and technical aspects involved, contextualizes the artworks by providing relevant background information of the artists/genres, and offers insight into the overarching theme and message of the exhibition, which especially pertains to immediate socio-political concerns.

Keywords: art exhibition, Art Space Germany, identity, integration, ‘refugee crisis’.

In a world where words are conveniently politicized in order to represent dominant ideologies of jingoism and social exclusion of the other, the exhibition entitled Art Space Germany: Revisited brings together a wide range of artefacts that challenge normative interpretations of objects and images, and celebrates the integration of distinctive individual and cultural identities through art. Held at the National Library, Kolkata, from February 4 to March 5, 2017, this exhibition organised by Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (IfA) is scheduled to be presented again in Mumbai, at the gallery of Max Mueller Bhawan from September 9 to October 7, 2017.  According to the Director of Goethe Institut, Calcutta, the artists whose artefacts comprise this exhibition exemplify the “German policy under which artists not born in Germany, thrive, work and teach there” (Basu, 2017). The sketches, paintings, sculptures, collages, and mixed media installations created by the featured artists display a remarkable exploration of colour and texture.

Through their artefacts, the two artists, Armando and herman de vries, boldly demonstrate the Dutch tradition of presenting unique artistic philosophies that is marked by the celebrated Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh. The two large paintings by Armando selected for this exhibition, Woody (1984) and Flag (1985), resemble landscapes in black and white, simultaneously hinting at concealed alternate images within. The rough and uneven colouring suggests the expression of emotional turmoil, which seems to be further augmented by the use of the ‘impasto’ technique. This also renders to the paintings the impression of having the potential to become a three-dimensional entity.

The name Armando, one that the artist is now known by, is Latin for the phrase “by arming oneself” (Muller, 2013, p. 25). Born in 1929, he was witness to the German Occupation of the Netherlands and had grown up near a transit camp. Ursula Zeller, the curator of the exhibition, explains the work Flag as the reflection of his family’s sufferings under the Nazi regime (Basu, 2017). Armando himself explains his relationship with the two colours, black and white, in his book From Berlin where he writes –

“The past? The past is a patch of darkness. It’s black with a zillion shades of grey. The future is white. Feel free to scribble on it to your heart’s content” (Armando, 1996, p. 20).

Whereas the association of black with violence and white with hope is not surprising, the juxtaposition of the two colours to represent a natural setting is rather extraordinary as a concept. For Armando, nature is an accomplice of the violence that occurs therein and he thereby judges it to be guilty as it “grows undisturbed and erases all traces” (Muller, 2013, p. 25) of the perpetrated crime. While the titles of the two exhibits do not betray this association, his other large paintings in black and white have titles which translate to “Observation of the Enemy”, “Battlefield”, “Guilty Landscape”, “Prussian”, and “Head”. Since 1979, he has moved to Berlin, “the city of the enemy” (Muller, 2013, p. 25), where he has been working. This seems concurrent with his artistic fascination with places which act as the centre of an event and subsequently underlines the unique relationship between experience and art.

While Armando acquired for himself a new name that marks him as an artist, herman de vries uses small fonts to write his name in order “to avoid hierarchy” (Wright, 2015). The two artworks on display at the exhibition are titled “Terre Provençale” (1991) and “Two Days under the Hawthorn Hedge” (1992). Both the artworks display a pleasantly vivid variety of earth tone where, considering exclusively the aspects of form and colour, the former is structured in a grid-like pattern whereas the components of the latter seem scattered over the expanse of the frame. The art of this artist demands very little speculation. Simply as the titles indicate, the first artwork consists of mud rubbings on paper sheets from samples of different shades of earth of Provence. The marks of the artist’s fingers, visible over the gently rubbed base layer, add to organic quality of the artwork. The latter is a collage which the artist has created by placing a sheet of paper underneath a bush for two day and then pasting the leaves as they had fallen upon it (Basu, 2017). These artworks thus make it evident that the philosophy of such art is far removed from the idea of presenting a contrived entity whose meaning must be deciphered by convoluted thought processes. On the contrary, these seem to represent the simple beauty of nature which must be realised by complete absorption of all mental faculties of the viewer.

de vries, now an 86 year  old artist, has had a background in naturalism as he had attended a gardening school, been involved in agricultural work in France, and then pursued research on plant diseases and Applied Biology in his formative years (Timeline section, n.d.). He now lives with his wife in the Black Forest of Germany. Along with conducting research on psychedelic plants, he keeps what is referred to as his ‘earth bank’ which contains more than 8000 specimens of earth from different locations of the world. He is known to keep them unmixed in order for them to retain their original quality (Wright, 2015). Each specimen of earth thus captures the story of the place in its essence, including the lives of people living on it and the plants growing there. In the academic paper titled “Rendering Aesthetic Impressions of Text in Color Space”, the authors observe —

“Terre Provençale evokes more broadly than for a single person, potentially evoking specific meaning for a whole community of people, namely, the residents of Provence, and to a lesser degree, all of mankind, who share a common experience with the various shades of yellow, brown, and red earth” (Liu & Maes, 2005, p. 2).

The latter artwork is thus seen to reinforce the recurrent theme of recognition and acceptance of the inherent plurality of identity, while the former represents an aesthetic unification through the integration of seemingly disparate components.

Per Kirkeby’s untitled abstract paintings which seem to depict images of the natural world also display a penchant for capturing the shades that permeate the earth. The visible etchings and brush strokes render to the works a texture that resembles the coarseness of organic material which pervades all natural entities, regardless of their particular forms.

Candice Breitz’s exhibit, Factum Kang (2009), appears as a dual-channel video installation with two vertically-mounted plasma displays placed adjacent to one another. A sitting bench with headphones attached to this system is placed in front of it. Two videos of apparently the same person appear on the screens in an endless loop, with one of the screens going blank at times. The only point of distinction to the observer’s eye would be the difference between the partings of hair of the interviewees. Once the audience takes her seat and puts on the headphones, she can watch an interview edited across the two screens and realise through the respective speeches that the interviewees are indeed identical twins. Depending on the specific point of time when the audience begins to participate in this piece of installation art, she becomes privy to a part of their stories. On listening at length, it is revealed that despite their apparent likeness in physical features, similar body language, identical make up, costume and setting of the shoot, and years of shared childhood, the twins portray very distinctive, sometimes contradictory, personalities by presenting different perceptions of their lives and of the world at large. The interviews seem to be edited to synchronize at points and sharply break away at others. As one undergoes the audio-visual experience as a third person and understands the differences underlying the similitude, by following the sudden cuts in the editing process, one also detects a gap in communication that exists between the two siblings. Again, despite the disparate trajectories that the twins have undertaken, the fact remains that they share a profound connection that is rooted to the very core of their unified existence.

Breitz is a South African artist, presently working in Berlin as a professor, who works primarily in the domain of video and photography. The artefact selected for this exhibition, Factum Kang (2009), is an artistic work created out of the interviews of the monozygotic twins Hanna and Hanjoo Laurie Kang, who were filmed on separate days for five to seven hours each, in the absence of the other sibling, while being interviewed on the same set of questions (Breitz, 2010). Factum (2010) is a collection of the edited interviews of eight sets of twins, including one of triplets, whose title is inspired from Robert Rauschenberg’s almost identical paintings named Factum I and Factum II (1957). The direction and editing style of Breitz plays with the ideas of fact and fiction, and the generalised association between the two. The artist implements this idea of impressions created by fiction and reality with regard to human identity most interestingly in her recent work Love Story (2016), which is a seven-channel installation that “interrogates the mechanics of identification and the conditions under which empathy is produced” (Breitz, 2016). She works closely on lengthy interviews of six individuals who have fled from their native countries due to some oppressive conditions, and recreates the same narratives with the help of famous actors in order to highlight the tendency of the audience to render more importance to the fictitious enactment by personalities they recognise distinctly rather than the true accounts of these individuals they ‘otherise’ as refugees. Her works therefore throw light on the usual human propensity for typecasting people based on apparent similarities and differences rather than recognizing the nuanced elements that defines their distinguished identities. Such art seems to appeal to the citizens of the global community to look deeper and to acknowledge people as individuals rather than reducing them as an insignificant part of a nebulous whole.

The artefact titled Flotsam (1997) is a sculpture created by the British artist Tony Cragg out of laminated plastic. A series of what seem to be some of his sketches, incidentally titled Sculpture (1997), that are based on shapes and forms melting into one another, is also on display. The abstract shape of the sculpture, along with his sketches that are on display, exemplify his keen interest in the form of objects. The allusion to the ‘refugee crisis’ is repeated once again in the title of the artefact, which refers to “people who have no homes or work and who wander about in a helpless way” (flotsam, 1997) as much as “an untidy collection of unimportant or useless objects” (flotsam, 1997). While the second definition holds literally true because Cragg is known to use material that are disposed of by others, the metaphorical reference to idea of people adrift in the sea under desperate conditions having consequential potential seems equally obvious. Regarding the material of his craft, he says to Emma Crichton-Miller, “These are not at all things that people need for any practical purpose in the world … But they do reveal so much for me as I am making them. They offer me a new way to see the world, and that is all I am interested in” (Crichton-Miller, 2011). Most of his other works are also a result of organisation of discarded material, but the activity that he seems to delight in is the creation of “the things that aren’t there. There is no point in copying what is there – the role of art is to open a door onto other realities” (Crichton-Miller, 2011). This is reminiscent of Oscar Wilde’s wish for an artistic world in The Decay of Lying where “over our heads will float the Blue Bird singing of beautiful and impossible things, of things that are lovely and that never happen, of things that are not and that should be” (Wilde, 1902, p. 76). Cragg’s Flotsam appears to be such an artefact that attempts to map the invisible, imperceptible space through matter and to capture possibilities through form. Abstraction, for this artist, is therefore not merely a stylistic approach but a necessary step that engenders imagination.

A similar experimentation on space with matter may be detected in Giuseppe Spagnulo’s artefact Cerchio Spezzato (1972) which is cast in iron. As the name suggests, the piece represents a broken circle, but remarkably one that has more than two dimensions. Installed at one corner of the room, the artefact attracts attention by dint of its sheer volume and bold display of strength. The abstraction of this artwork appeals to the spectator to seek more information about the artist and his art who had worked actively in steel mills, blast furnaces and workshops, where he created art alongside the workers. The paintings exhibited in the gallery created out of thick layers of coal in order to resemble barrels and lids used by labourers are significant in highlighting the heaviness associated with such labour. The fact that he joined in the protests of 1968 is evident from most of his works as their enormous dimensions themselves underline the dangers and the vigorous labour involved in the process of industrial production. Like Tony Cragg’s work, the art of Spagnulo seems to play with the idea of space. He is noted to remark on his interest in experimenting with “the quantity of space that a form manages to set into movement” (About Giuseppe Spagnulo, n.d.). Despite being grounded in reality, the genre of his work marks a tendency towards conceptualism. In keeping with the rest of the works in the exhibition, his creations seem to highlight the fact that art renders significance to ideas and objects which usually go unnoticed.

The genre of conceptual art is further exemplified in the installation of Joseph Kosuth which presents an enormous photograph framed in wood and its ‘reproduction’ in the German language. The content of the text seems to be expressed in the corresponding photograph and vice versa. Without any verbal explanation, it becomes clear that the artist is presenting the same idea through different media. This idea itself is the art, as Kosuth would claim. One of the pioneers of conceptualism, Joseph Kosuth refutes the idea of equating art with the material object that represents it (Osborne, 2002, p. 232). The medium or technique is therefore rendered redundant when compared to the essence that is conveyed by any means chosen for it. In fact, one of his noted works titled One of Three Chairs (1965), which comprises a chair, its photograph taken at the site of the particular exhibition, and its dictionary definition presented in words, demonstrates that a concept remains constant even though the relative elements like the place and time of its display are altered. This presents a unique point with respect to the other exhibits as it attempts to find a pulse that runs deeper than the apparent differences and underlies all of existence.

A set of three photographs, Marianne Eigenheer’s artwork named Your time, my world (1998) captures in images monochromatic portraits of people, postcards, toys, and paintings on a wall. While the yellowish tinge to the photographs displayed at the exhibition imbue them with the notion of passage of time, the presence of images of photographs within photographs denote the multiple levels associated with thought and memory. The objects in the photographs appear to be material manifestations of a lost past. The idea of being framed as a photograph itself reinforces the idea of nostalgia and the common human desire to hold on to memories of a time that cannot be retrieved.

The title of the artwork indicates the intersection of time and space, where the two phenomena may pertain to two different people such that the remnants of one’s time in the form of memorabilia continue to occupy the space of another’s world. Again, the words ‘your’ and ‘my’ may refer to the audience and the artist respectively. The private world of the artist encapsulates and evokes sentiments with which the audience may relate a specific time of their lives, despite the fact that the artist and the audience hardly know much about one another. This establishes an unspoken bond between human beings which is more fundamental than the mere difference in appearances. Much like Kosuth’s artefacts, Eigenheer’s works subtly imply the existence of certain inexplicable intrinsic yearnings which reveal the capability of human beings to relate with each other. The Swiss artist, Marianne Eigenheer has been a student of music, art history, and psychology. Her works, which include painting and photography, usually trace the notion of thoughts and instincts which are indispensable to the human psyche.

The three photographs by Marie-Jo Lafontaine are representative of her fascination with the element of fire, which is epitomised in her installation titled We Have Art so that We Do Not Perish by Truth (1991) where she “contrived to render the Glyptothek in Munich transparent by pasting photographs of flames into the recesses of the dome thus creating the illusion of looking through apertures in a building that is being consumed by fire” (Elwes, 2015, p. 13). The combination of colours in each of her three exhibits – Every Angel is Terrible (1991/92), Homme cagoulé portant le feu (1986), and Bateau de feu (1996) – accentuates the image of flames. Although her art is based on specific social issues, “she looks for the general in the particular, and delves into the basics of human existence” (Grosenick & Becker, 2001, p. 294). For instance, the artefact Every Angel is Terrible is based on the war in the former Yugoslavia and the riots in Los Angeles, but the image of flames represents the state of chaos that is rampant in the entire planet (Castant, 2011).

Internet Resident (1997), a complex machine resembling a robot created out of surveillance cameras, Polaroid camera, and laser disc player. In this piece, the artist orchestrates disparate objects which act as complicit components of the machine. The other exhibit, entitled Candle TV (1975), may indicate observation to be the source of light and knowledge. In the tradition of the Fluxus movement, Nam June Paik’s artwork presents something unforeseen and radical, disturbing the status quo, which opens up new avenues both for production and interpretation of art.

A series of ten photographs called Atlantic Wall (1995) appears in monochrome, in each of which a fragment of the fortification seems to be melting into the landscape, being reclaimed by nature. This sequence is preceded by an expansive map that traces the complete length of the extensive belt of defensive structures built by Nazi Germany along the coast of continental Europe and Scandinavia in anticipation of an allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe from the United Kingdom. An excerpt from Paul Virilio’s Bunker Archaeology (1994) is also provided, possibly in order to provide context to the exhibit. Each photograph in this series by Magdalena Jetelová has a caption projected upon the relics such that the meanings of the words seem to pervade the objects themselves. The positioning of the font of the words corresponds with that of the images. According to Ursula Zeller, the “long exposures and twilight cast a misty veil” (Basu, 2017) upon the photographs. To the observer, it seems that although the fragments are a concretized reminder of atrocities perpetrated by the Nazi regime not only against mankind but against the universe as a whole, the images of the ruins being devoured by the elements of nature seem to reinforce the idea that no wall can withstand the force of time. Such a strong message, with reference to one of the most abhorrent events in the history of human civilisation, serves as reassurance in times of rising threats of segregation and xenophobia.

The image of the wall returns in an entirely new connotation with Christine Hill’s People’s Boutique Official Template (1999), which demonstrates a form of interactive art. If one visits the gallery a few days into the exhibition, one may expect to find a wall on which some sheets, designed to a particular template, have been put up, along with the photographs of strangers and a few words about them. A Polaroid camera, a number of unfilled sheets and pens may be found on a desk nearby. The spectator will eventually realise that this wall is constructed out of the profiles of the visitors to the exhibition and with their thoughts, histories, and identities etched on it through photographs and scribbled words. The spectators are therefore encouraged to participate in the creation of the artwork and, in the process, become artists themselves. The beauty of this artefact lies in its process of ‘becoming’, and its accommodation of multifarious personalities who come together for the sake of art to construct a wall which integrates instead of creating divides.

The final artefact Here and There (1989), created by the Turkish artist Ays?e Erkmen, is placed at the farthest end of the exhibition gallery that is elevated above the rest by a small flight of stairs. It consists of sixteen trapezoid metal bodies that are actually parts of differently coloured old cars (Basu, 2017). They lie scattered here and there, just as the title of the artwork suggests. However, it is interesting to know that despite the apparent disharmony among the different pieces, the spectator may rest assured that when arranged properly, the disjointed parts form a remarkably organised piece of art in the form of a multicoloured arch. The image of the artefact thus arranged can be seen on the photograph on the exhibition catalogue.

Although the exhibition builds upon the premise of the biographical journey of the artists who have chosen Germany as the locus of their creative pursuits, a strong undercurrent of a socio-political message is manifest in all of the artefacts on display. The background of each artefact is inherently related to the minds which have nurtured them, thus leading to such a rich variety of creative expressions. The history of the conception of the artworks, coloured by the disparate places of their origin, reinforces the fact that the success of the German tradition of art (Art Space Germany, n.d.) is a result of not ignoring individual identities but of celebrating them. It is important to note that, even if one discounts the intentions of the individual artists which we have explored, the organisation of this exhibition at this juncture in history of mankind is a momentous occasion. In the context of a progressively fracturing world, where interpersonal relationships and personal opinions of the common man have begun to be tainted by the increasingly normalised politics of hate, fear and xenophobia, the bold statement of this exhibition, advocating the necessity of plurality in contemporary society, is a welcome counter-discourse. The idea of recognition and acceptance of distinct individual identities without prejudice passes effortlessly from the realm of art to society in general. This becomes plainly evident in the unspoken dialogue among the various artefacts in this exhibition, each with a unique perspective and yet sharing a common message — an appeal for assimilation without homogenisation. Thus, the perspicacious spectator may expect to experience the silence of the exhibition hall speaking louder than words.

References

About Giuseppe Spagnulo. (n.d.). Artsy. Retrieved from https://www.artsy.net/artwork/giuseppe-spagnulo-cubo

Armando. (1996). From Berlin, 20.

Art Space Germany. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.ifa.de/en/visual-arts/exhibitions-abroad/fine-arts/art-space-germany.html

Basu, A. (2017, February 4). Art that transcends borders. The Telegraph. Retrieved from https://www.telegraphindia.com/1170204/jsp/calcutta/story_133964.jsp

Breitz, C. (2010, July 21). Factum Kang. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/13514467

Breitz, C. (2016). Love Story. Retrieved from http://www.candicebreitz.net/

Castant, A. (2011). Marie-Jo Lafontaine: Dans le cabinet du bâtonnier de Bruxelles. Alexandre Castant: essayiste et critique d’art. Retrieved from http://www.alexandrecastant.com/texte.php?texte_id=82

Crichton-Miller. (2011, July 29). Edinburgh Festival 2011: Tony Cragg interview. The Telegraph. Retrived from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/edinburgh-festival/8668954/Edinburgh-Festival-2011-Tony-Cragg-interview.html

Elwes, C. (2015). Installation and the Moving Image, 13.

Flotsam. (1997). In Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary.

Grosenick, U., & Becker, I. (2001). Women Artists in the 20th and 21st Century, 294.

Liu, H., & Maes, P. (2005). Rendering Aesthetic Impressions of Text in Color Space. International Journal on Artificial Intelligence Tools, 2. Retrieved from http://www.hermandevries.org/articles/archives/article_2005_liu-maes.pdf

Muller, S. D. (2013). Dutch Art: An Encyclopedia, 25.

Osborne, P. (2002). Conceptual Art: Themes and Movements, 232.

Timeline section. (n.d.). herman de vries. Retrieved from http://www.hermandevries.org/timeline.php

Wilde, O. (1902). The Decay of Lying, 76.

Wright, K. (2015, May 21). herman de vries: ‘Other artists work with mechanical things. I work with nature. Independent. Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/features/herman-de-vries-other-artists-work-with-mechanical-things-i-work-with-nature-10267144.html

Kamalika Basu is a recent MPhil graduate in English from University of Calcutta. She has completed her post-graduation degree from the same university in 2014, after having graduated from Presidency College in 2012. She research interests include modernism, postmodernism, and Foucauldian discourse analysis. She has authored a thesis entitled “Death of the Artist: A Study in Two Texts”. She has also published two articles entitled “In Search of a Selfhood: Metropolitan and Individual Space-Time in Murakami’s Novels” in the peer-reviewed journal Netaji Nagar Journal of English Literature and Language, Volume: 4, January 2016 Issue (ISSN No. 2320-4109) and “The Poetics of Wallace Stevens: Reclamation of Reality” in Efflorescence Issue 7 2016 (ISSN No. 2278-3873). She was a participant in T. S. Eliot International Summer School 2017, organised by IES, University of London. Apart from academics, she also writes opinion pieces and other articles for journals, and is interested in art, music, and social work.

The Subaltern Voice in Kylas Chunder Dutt’s A Journal of Forty-Eight Hours of the Year 1945

Paromita Sengupta

Sovarani Memorial College, Jagatballavpur, Howrah. ORCID: 0000-0002-3381-0726. Email: paromitaseng@gmail.com

 Volume 9, Number 2, 2017 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v9n2.23

Received April 11, 2017; Revised July 12, 2017; Accepted July 15, 2017; Published August 11, 2017.

Abstract

This paper reads Kylas Chunder Dutt’s short fictional text A Journal of Forty-Eight Hours of the Year 1945 (1835) as a postcolonial voice, engaged in the act of representation, and of interrogating colonialism much before postcolonialism took formal shape as a theoretical practice. The text represents the injustice of subaltern oppression, and, what is more crucial, more vital, prophetically uses the word “subaltern” in its present post-modern signification. Dutt’s writing enclosed within it the inescapable multi-tensions of the Bengal-British cultural negotiation, of which it was the product, but it was simultaneously implicated in the process of indigenous identity formation and in the formulation of subaltern consciousness.  The text not only suggests armed conflict as a tool of opposing colonialism, it is also prophetic in its use of the concept of the subaltern as far back as 1835- about a hundred and fifty years before Subaltern Studies was formally born.

Keywords: Identity, India, Nationalism, Subaltern

Professional identity for successful adaptation of students – a participative approach

Galina Akhmetovna Gertsog,1 Viktoriya Valerievna Danilova,2  Dmitry Nikolayevich Korneev,3 Aleksey Viktorovich Savchenkov,4 Nataliya Viktorovna Uvarina5

1, 3, 4, 5Southern Ural state Humanitarian and Pedagogical University, Chelyabinsk, the Russian Federation

2Kostanay State Pedagogical Institute, Kazakhstan. Email: nuvarina@yandex.ru

Volume 9, Number 1, 2017 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v9n1.30

Received February 10, 2017; Revised April 16, 2017; Accepted April 27, 2017; Published May 5, 2017.

Abstract

It is stated that in the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan as well as throughout the world the crisis of personal identity has become a big problem due to globalization in the society and multifaceted participation of people in social processes.  The article deals with the analysis of the concept of professional identity of the student on the basis of participative approach.  Professional identity is viewed as the main criterion and result of the student’s successful adaption to the learning environment, professional and creative activities as well as to changing social and cultural conditions.  The authors advocate for the proposition that the professional identity being the element of social and cultural identity allows students to overcome the state of anxiety, lack of confidence, tension, and dissatisfaction presenting the obstacles to the process of adaption to the changing conditions in the globalised world. The authors assume that   the study of the stated phenomenon of professional identification on the theoretical and empirical levels will allow implementing innovational technologies of coherent cooperation of social and cultural environment of the higher educational institution having impact on the professional growth of students. Professional identity is presented within the framework of both individuality and group.

 Key words: adaptation, participation, globalization, identity, professional identity, socialization, transformation.

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Writing Resistance: an Understanding of the Narratives of Empowerment in Toni Morrison’s A Mercy

C.L. Shilaja

Sathyabama University

Volume 8, Number 1, 2016 I Full Text PDF


Abstract

Language is the medium by which one’s psychological experiences, emotions and imaginations can be recreated in the minds of the reader or listener. Through ages language has been the vehicle with which humans have communicated ideas to each other. Language has not only the power to heal and to comfort but also to retrieve the suppressed experiences of an individual from the past.This paper seeks to discuss Toni Morrison’s novel A Mercy as a text that explores the common language uncommonly well in using it as a double edged sword. She subverts language in a rather complex play of words employing it as a powerful tool for the survival and continuance of existence for the voiceless. It becomes a means of identity construction as much as a tool of empowerment, for the marginalized to overcome their traumatic experiences.

Key words: Toni Morrison, Suppressed Self, trauma, identity, language

Becoming Krshna: Panchali’s Quest in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Palace of Illusions

Rajni Singh, Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad, India
Soumyajyoti Banerjee, Haldia Institute of Technology, West Bengal, India

Volume 7, Number 3, 2015 I Full Text PDF

Abstract

Women autobiographical narratives draw on the centrality of the female experience in light of the politics of representation. This paper explores that experience in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s novel. The study however, does not resort to standardised models of interpreting and analysing the female self, namely feminist criticism. It brings in Orientalism as a tool for interrogating that experience, primarily because the theoretical model of Orientalism supports the analysis of how the female self is created by a patriarchal hegemony and maintained through tradition. The study concentrates on the story of P?nc?li, the female protagonist of the Indian epic Mah?bh?rata as it is divulged in the novel. P?nc?li’s vision of herself and the world she inhabits is restricted by an orientalist culture that operates at the level of the nation as well as the domestic. The palaces she inhabits become more than just architectural edifices; they become embodiments of the motifs of a nationalist culture vitiated with orientalist concerns of cognitive dominance. P?nc?li’s efforts to break the shackles of tradition within the home and without it require her to counter such discourse with an entirely new aesthetic of narration and experience, one that is intimately connected to her ‘self.’ Her search for her own identity and space thus, turns out to be the search for her essential nature. Her futile efforts to construct a grandiose palace as a retributive symbol and her inadequacy at understanding the strength of the female self finally lead her to a self-sufficient, self-engaged rhetoric of completion. Hers is the story of a woman rising above the destiny which is set for her; it is the story of becoming K????.

Keywords: Orientalism, Panchali, Krishna, Quest, Identity

Krishna touches my hand…I am buoyant and expansive and uncontainable—but I always was so, only I never knew it! I am beyond name and gender and the imprisoning patterns of ego. And yet, for the first time, I’m truly Panchaali […] Above us our palace waits, the only one I’ve ever needed. Its walls are space, its floor is sky, its center everywhere. (Divakaruni, The Palace of Illusions 360)

When she wanted her tryst with history, P?nc?li, the daughter of King Drupada, born out of a sacrificial Yjña along with her brother Dh??tadyumna, never imagined that she would be the cause of a great Indian civil war, Mah?bh?rata. She was the fruit of vengeance; Drupada’s fury to consume his adversary Dro??c?rya. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni in The Palace of Illusions concentrates on this story. In the novel P?nc?li, the protagonist, narrates the story of her life, a story of her quest to find out who she is.

Her quest begins, unknowingly, at a very young age, when she muses on her father’s palace: “Through the long lonely years of my childhood, when my father’s palace seemed to tighten its grip around me until I couldn’t breathe, I would go to my nurse and ask for a story” (Divakaruni, The Palace of Illusions 1). The first lines prepare the reader for the centrality of space in P?nc?li’s life as it develops into a search for her own palace, a space she can call her own. It becomes the ruling factor in her life. Of course this search, as we shall witness, is the fundamental search for womanhood, born and bred in hegemonic patriarchy. In P?nc?li’s case, it is also an assessment of the tensions between how women see and are seen, judge and are judged, a search to carve out a space of their own; of their (“emph. Showalter’s”) wilderness (Showalter 345). P?nc?li goes on to comment: “I hated the thick gray slabs of the walls—more suited to a fortress than a king’s residence…I hated the narrow windows, the mean, dimly lit corridors, the uneven floors that were always damp, the massive severe furniture from generations ago that was sized more for giants than men. I hated most of all that the grounds had neither trees nor flowers” (Divakaruni, The Palace of Illusions 6).

This description of Drupada’s palace unfolds key points about patriarchal hegemony in the narrative. Drupada is consumed by his acrid desire for revenge, which consummates in P?nc?li’s birth. She is, thus, from her inception, a child of a nationalist power struggle. Drupada’s palace and all ensuing palaces that P?nc?li inhabits become representations of this struggle. The aesthetics of the palaces become important because “any and all representations, because they are representations, are embedded first in the language and then in the culture, institutions, and political ambience of the representer” (Said 272). We argue, therefore, that the politics of the discourse of women as the Other (physiological, societal, cultural, ontological and intellectual) and consequent representations of that otherness emerge from the micro-level of the domestic and gradually seep into the outside. We also contend that the domestic is the site where the identities of womanhood are constructed, de-constructed and re-constructed regularly. For women like P?nc?li, then, constructing her subjectivity, her identity, happens in the twilight zone: between the accepted discourse and her own sensitivities; between nature and nurture; between the self and its other.

Understanding the female experience, as we intend to do, in that light, becomes increasingly difficult and it is essential that due attention is given to how and why such perspectival categories are formed and maintained. This is where we deviate from traditional feminist critiques by bringing in Orientalism (as theorised by Edward Said) to form the theoretical framework of our study. According to Said, the Orient (thus the Oriental) was formed as a special category because it was defined and delimited by a set of knowledge-systems disseminated through culture. Interestingly, a similar socio-cultural delimitation is traceable for another specific category: woman. In his book Said writes, “So far as the Orient is concerned, standardization and cultural stereotyping have intensified the […] imaginative demonology of “the mysterious Orient” (Said 26). Something similar happens in case of women. Traditionalist, nationalist hegemony, as in the concerned text, solidifies mythical representations about women, which percolate the domestic where they are regularly played out. Said writes, “[…] knowledge—no matter how special—is regulated first by the local concerns of a specialist, later by the general concerns of a social system of authority. The interplay between local and central interests is intricate, but by no means indiscriminate”…Full Text PDF

The Portuguese Queer Screen: Gender Possibilities in João Pedro Rodrigues’s Cinematic Production

Antônio M. da Silva, University of Kent, UK

Abstract

The Portuguese filmmaker João Pedro Rodrigues has developed a significant cinematic production that has attained international recognition. The three feature films he made in the first decade of the 2000s (Phantom, Two Drifters, and To Die like a Man) engage with queer identities from different perspectives. This article examines the ways in which Rodrigues depicts these and argues that the films provide a spectrum of ‘performatively constituted’ identities that represent a challenge to patriarchy’s hegemonic subjectivities. It contends that such identities consequently represent abjection in a society that ignores them but also that the filmmaker gives them visibility and shows that their subjectivities do matter.

 

The transgender character Tônia in João Pedro Rodrigues’s Morrer como um homem/To Die like a Man (2009) sings a Portuguese fado in the final sequence of the film that opens with the line “Oh, how I’d like to live in the plural!” This line encapsulates how gender identities are constructed and depicted in the three feature films discussed in this article: they are ‘performatively constituted’ in the sense of Judith Butler’s (1990) assertion that “there is no gender identity behind the expression of gender; […] identity is performatively constituted by the very ‘expressions’ that are said to be its results” (34). In other words, these identities are ‘floating’ and not restricted to the biologically born gender.

In this trilogy-like set of feature films, which comprises his debut O fantasma/Phantom (2000), Odete/Two Drifters (2005), and To Die like a Man, Rodrigues offers the viewer a number of possible queer subjectivities. Queer means, in this case, all the identities that do not conform to hegemonic norms regarding gender and sexuality, including homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgenderism. Moreover, it can be argued that queer is also what represents “abjection” (Kristeva 1982), which is a view patriarchy exploits to keep heterosexual identities in place. This happens in a rather symbiotic relationship that arguably needs the queer as an opposite to reaffirm what heterosexual identities are (or what they are not). Such a symbiotic relationship is evident in many patriarchal contexts where masculinity is defined mostly in relation to queer: one is either a ‘proper man’ (whatever that means) or he is queer and thus subject to punishment.

Context therefore plays an important role in queer subjectivities, particularly the urban space where such ‘abject’ identities are less susceptible to punishment and are, to some extent, ‘freer’ from severe regulations. This is evident in the three films discussed herein, which show that Rodrigues’s characters become part of the Portuguese urban space, represented in the films by the capital, Lisbon—as will be developed later in this article. However, as Trindade (2010) argues in relation to the Portuguese film Lisboa, Crónica Anedótica/Lisbon, Anecdotal Chronicle, such characters are Lisbon dwellers but they do not constitute a collective entity (or identity). This is a crucial point regarding these three films because the characters’ ‘failure’ to represent the identity of a group (a ‘category’) to the detriment of each individual’s has been an issue critics have picked on. In other words, Rodrigues’s films show the viewer a spectrum of gender identities but these are based on the individuality of the subjects he portrays rather than trying to create a collective queer identity. Despite this, his approach to queer indicates that such a term can work as an umbrella under which various kinds of gender subjectivities are possible. This is strongly indicated by the director himself stating in an interview that each film is a unique story, even if it could be related to the outside world (Lim 2009).

The aim of this article is therefore to discuss the queer subjectivities Rodrigues constructs in his films and how these are related to the urban space in which the characters are placed. It will refer mostly to Julia Kristeva’s theorisation of abjection while discussing the characters’ subjectivities because these queer characters are part of an urban environment that allows them to get on with their lives as they are but makes them ‘socially invisible’ by treating them as ‘abject’ and refusing to see their existence…Access Full Text of the Article


The Portability of Indianness: Some Propositions

Pramod K. Nayar,  University of Hyderabad, India

We live in the age of portability. When the Government of India (GoI) offered Mobile Number Portability (commonly abbreviated as MNP) and the eventual abolition of national ‘roaming charges’ it was only one more instance of what might be called the portability-ethos of our everyday lives. Our everyday lives can go with us anywhere we go in India. Indeed, I am proposing here that we perform Indianness in the form of a certain portability.

The “Politically Correct Memsahib”: Performing Englishness in Select Anglo-Indian Advice Manuals

S. Vimala, M.G.R. College, Hosur, India

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Abstract

Examining select Anglo-Indian advice manuals written after the Indian Mutiny in 1857and during the ‘high imperialism’ period of the British Raj, the essay proposes that this cultural artefact served the purpose of constructing and naturalizing the English Memsahibs’ gendered racial identity. By reiterating the performance of gender, class and race imperatives to construct a unique identity prerequisite for the Anglo-Indian community as well as the Indian colony, these texts aimed at the crystallization of this identity that will strengthen the idea of the British Raj. Such reiteration- apart from revealing the imperial anxiety of the subversion of the Memsahib identity- were useful to caution the English women new to the colonial environment.  Reading these Anglo-Indian advice manuals produced for the consumption of the Anglo-Indian community, what the essay further proposes is that the performance of gendered-racial identity of the English women in India constituted not only the governance of their bodies and the Anglo-Indian spaces, but also their management of travel and material consumption including food.  Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble and Bodies That Matter provide useful insights to study the performance of the “politically correct Memsahib” identity and its attendant relation to the imagining of the homogenous British Raj.   

“I was not certain where I belonged”: Integration and Alienation in Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Avirup Ghosh, Bhairab Ganguly College, Kolkata

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 Abstract

The article will focus on the contrary impulses of alienation and integration in Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist that the central character and narrator Changez goes through in America while working as an employee at Underwood Samson, a “valuation” firm and his subsequent return to his native Pakistan where he assumes what appears to be an ultra-nationalistic political stance. This is to argue that Changez’s desperate attempt at assuming this stance has its roots not only in the cultural alienation and racism that he is subjected to in America, especially in a post-9/11 America, but also in his futile effort to naturally integrate with a Pakistani way of life.  By uncovering certain ambiguities in Changez’s ideological rhetoric, the paper tries show how Changez’s critique of American corporate fundamentalism stems from his lack of a sense of belonging and from a feeling of problematized identity.

Kittens in the Oven: Race Relations, Traumatic Memory, and the Search for Identity in Julia Alvarez’s How the García Girls Lost Their Accents

Natalie Carter

George Washington University, USA

Volume 2, Number 3, 2010Download PDF Version

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v2n3.10

Abstract

The search for an ever-elusive home is a thread that runs throughout much literature by authors who have immigrated to the United States.  Dominican authors are particularly susceptible to this search for a home because “for many Dominicans, home is synonymous with political and/or economic repression and is all too often a point of departure on a journey of survival” (Bonilla 200).  This “journey of survival” is a direct reference to the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina, who controlled the Dominican Republic from 1930-1961. The pain and trauma that Trujillo inflicted upon virtually everyone associated with the Dominican Republic during this era is still heartbreakingly apparent, and perhaps nowhere is that trauma more thoroughly illustrated than in the literature of Julia Alvarez.  Alvarez is a prime example of an author who utilizes narrative in a clear attempt to come to grips with lingering traumatic memories.  After her father’s role in an attempt to overthrow the dictator is revealed, Alvarez’s family is forced to flee the Dominican Republic as political exiles, and a sense of displacement has haunted her since.  Because both the Dominican Republic and the United States are extraordinary racially charged, concepts of home and identity are inextricably bound to race relations in much of Alvarez’s art.  Using theoretical concepts drawn from the fields of trauma studies and Black cultural studies, this essay examines Alvarez’s debut novel in order to illustrate the myriad ways in which culture, politics, and race converge and speak through each other, largely in the form of traumas that can irreparably alter one’s sense of home, voice, and identity.

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