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Debate: Nude vs nudity, what's art?

CNN-IBN
Jun 20, 2007 at 02:15pm IST

India's art fraternity up in arms against the arrest of two art students in Vadodara, accused by the saffron brigade of making offensive paintings

The two students of the Fine Arts Faculty of Maharaja Sayajirao University in Vadodara are spending their second night in jail because their paintings allegedly hurt sentiments of a BJP leader

The incident comes close on the heels of artists M F Hussain’s paintings controversy. So what does it mean for democracy when artists are put in jail or subjected to moral police’s treatment for simply painting their mind?

To discuss this issue on Face the Nation with Sagarika Ghose was eminent artist Vivan Sundaram.

Sundaram condemned the incident and said moral policing had crossed all limits. “It’s a clear case of police breaking the law. The university has a special privilege that police can only enter (its premises) only if VC allows. That a local politician - without an FIR or any papers - is able to do that because of his nexus with police – is crossing all bounds,” he said.

Sundaram also clarified that the paintings in question were not even meant for public display and were only a part of an internal examination. This wasn’t a public event. This was an internal display and the Viva-Voce has still not taken place. So university and teachers are right in demanding that they should a right to assess the works and we will be critical of it if required,” he said.

However, is it also not the artist’s responsibility to respect religious sentiments? Why should an artist give a free run to his imagination?

Sundaram said the country should be encouraging of students who dare to speak their mind. “I believe we need students to be brave, expressive and make mistakes. They should have the courage to say things. If we don’t then we’ll become a passive society. We will allow fascism and all things we don’t believe in,” he said adding that Vadodara has alwys stood out as an example for letting artists be with their imagination.

“Baroda has always been in the forefront of art. The city has allowed the freedom and has believed in avant garde. Because it’s been pushed by people who have nothing to do with religion and even les to do with art is a hard fact. If ovil society doesn’t stand up and say it’s enough, it wont happen,” Sundaram said while making no bones about admitting that Gujarat “is a fascist state. The police case is an example.”

Another debate that rages within the art circles is about nude versus nudity. What’s the difference between the two? “As moderns artist who are engaged in self-expressiveness, there are two things – nude and nudity. While nude is a very grand way of depiction, nudity is a notion that you wish to disrobe somebody. And VHP people are engaged in that depiction of nudity,” he said.

Sundaram concluded the discussion by saying that it’s the vision of the likes of VHP that’s perverse and India rather have courageous students and critical faculty and public instead of moral police.

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