Taking India’s gods into the streets - the artist way

July 10th, 2008 - 2:54 pm ICT by IANS  

By Neena Bhandari
Melbourne, July 10 (IANS) With his `When the gods came down to earth’ installation of luminous moving images of Hindu gods and goddesses Chennai-born, Toronto-based artist Srinivas Krishna invites people to think about the power and magical aura of images, the meaning of their ritual function and what makes them sacred. “There is a prevailing notion in the West that mass produced images lose the power of the original and their potential for sacredness because they are merely copies. Yet this is simply not true. Millions of people (Hindus and others) routinely and readily surrender to the worship of an image, even if it is a mass produced image printed on a cheap piece of paper or duplicated on a video,” Krishna told IANS.

“I was inspired by the magical ways in which Indian artists have been visualizing the gods since they began using the technologies of mass media and pop culture a little over 100 years ago - the printing press, posters, comic books, cinema, television,” said Krishna, whose installations are on display at the city’s cultural and entertainment landmark, Federation Square.

“In India, this use of mass media took the gods out of the temples and into people’s homes. With my installation in Melbourne, I am taking the gods out of people’s homes and into the streets,” said Krishna, who has also lived in the culturally vibrant cities of London and New York.

Melbourne, a city of traditional charm and modern panache, has been bathed in the warm glow of `The Gift of Light’ festival as its diverse communities and artists, including Indian, explore the idea of light, enlightenment and hope. `The Gift of Light’ festival’s artistic director Robyn Archer invited Krishna for the world premiere of his installations, which will be at Federation Square until July 17.

“This event is about linking contemporary creativity and strength of our communities. We have had various projections of illuminations encapsulating wonderful stories of light, enlightenment and hope,” said Federation Square’s chief executive officer Kate Brennan.

The festival brought together nine different communities - Indian, Indigenous aboriginal, Vietnamese, Afghan, Japanese, Hispano-American, Sudanese, Turkish and Tuvalu-South Pacific - to create their own light-based installations.

“Art work is always symbolic of a deeper meaning… the exhibits focus on challenges of climate change, the economic times we live in today, the experience of refugees and other vital issues,” said Brennan, who wants to gradually extend this annual festival, which started as a spark last year, to include more communities over the next five years.

The response from the wider community has been fabulous and for the 85,000 and growing Indian community in Melbourne, it has been a moment of great pride to be featured in the festival.

“The (Gift of Light) display reflects the proud and beautiful symmetry of diverse thought, custom, culture and tradition that we are all derived from today. Just as a prism reveals the different colours that make up the composite structure of light, so too do these rich aspects reveal the singular unity of modern India,” said Shabbir Wahid, president of the Federation of Indian Associations of Victoria and former Australian consul general and trade commissioner to India.

“The display also symbolises the dynamism and youthfulness of India together with its competitive place in the current global economy,” said Wahid.

The installations will most likely tour India and other countries.

“The Institute of Contemporary Culture at the Royal Ontario Museum, along with the Toronto International Film Festival, will be presenting it in Toronto this September. I would love to show it India,” said Krishna, who is also a filmmaker and is currently directing a documentary titled “Ganesh: Boy Wonder”, which is about a child in India and a doctor in Canada.

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