We examined the unbroken tradition and discipline of Indian Aesthetics—broadly speaking, Rasa Siddhanta—in the previous part of this series as a backdrop. One of the distinctive features of this tradition was to analyse, appreciate, and critique a literary work purely based on literary and aesthetic standards and principles. In other words, how would a scientist citing Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code as evidence in support of his findings be looked at by the scientific community? This is exactly what has happened in the artistic and aesthetic realm. Thus, Aesthetics which held an extraordinarily exalted place, regarded as the brother-in-arms of Philosophy has today been reduced to…shit. Literally. Don’t believe me? Look at the picture below.
That is the picture of the faeces that “artist” Terence Koh ejected from his creative bowels and encrusted it in gold. It fetched $500,00 at Art Basel in 2007. Then there are themed art galleries dedicated to the artistic display of enormous human turds arranged in bizarre configurations each signifying some deep meaning. This news report describes one such exhibition in Rotterdam in 2018 where “there were four giant turds inside the 16,000 square feet of museum space. One mammoth piece of feces was reminiscent of a long, winding steel sculpture...One was a brown spiral. Another resembled an enormous chocolate chip. Yet another featured intertwined layers with a gap in between that I could have crawled through, if I had been brave enough.”
But there’s more.
The same report also describes how “All four sculptures of fecal matter sat on elegant Persian rugs, like welcome-home gifts left by a huge, vengeful dog.”
Not enough? Here’s some more:
There’s a fundamental reason why dystopian novels continue to elicit popular appeal. It is because they create impossibly futuristic worlds where the most extreme, the grossest, the most degenerate and the most unimaginable horror become normal life. Even in the 1980s, if someone told you that faeces of a stranger would be bought for $500,000, you would ask him to visit the nearest therapist. Yet, today, nobody bats an eyelid when this is increasingly becoming the norm in the “art” world. About fifteen years ago, a woman performed a…err…play on stage where she placed a mirror between her legs on the dais so her vagina was visible and mouthed a long monologue that was regarded as incredibly intellectual by reviewers.
This disgusting list is truly endless and growing even as I write this. Of course, there’s always the accompanying justification. To take the turd example, here are the turd-dipped gems from the museum director:
Make no mistake, this extreme perversion will infect India sooner than later.
As we’ve noted earlier, this pervasive degeneracy has occurred in less than a century precisely due to the massacre of the time-honoured and time-tested principles of Aesthetics at the altar of Leftist political ideologies which translated into social fads, a phenomenon which the late Tom Wolfe brilliantly narrated in his classic essay, Radical Chic. But Radical Chic came at a much later date when this ideology had pretty much established itself. But the roots go much, much earlier.
As far as India is concerned, the aforementioned unbroken tradition of Indian Aesthetics solidly held its ground roughly till the 1930s or generally speaking, around the time Communists began making steady and systematic inroads into art and literature. A key truth that has been successfully obscured in the two-millennia-long literary and aesthetic history of India is that at no point in time was art and literature an organized movement. Quite the contrary. Indian litterateurs and artists built upon the existing tradition in different fashions: by paying it due obeisance, by nurturing it, by transmitting it to posterity, by mutual inspiration, and more importantly, by improvising it without violating its core.
When the Leftists erupted on the scene, one of the first things they did especially in the realm of literature, poetry, fiction, and drama was to indulge in shameless cultism, a patented technique. Quite naturally, developing groups and cults was an extension of their politics because the combined power of well-coordinated but seemingly disparate groups united by ideology cannot be underestimated. Is long-term evil consequences are available for all to verify in what is known as the “cultural” space, dominated by Leftists even to this day.
From the start, the ultimate goal of the Communist infiltration and eventual takeover of the cultural space was entirely political. The mass appeal of art and literature and drama was both the incubator and vehicle for unhinged Communist propaganda through which they dreamt of establishing a Communist India modelled after the USSR and China. Yet, what was the fate of these arts in these “pure” Communist states? The tragic career of the acclaimed Russian poet and novelist Boris Pasternak is a great case study. A huge admirer of Lenin, Pasternak soon found himself as the target as soon as this pioneering Communist tyrant seized absolute power. Lenin no longer had any use for the selfsame fiery writings of Pasternak that had played a big part in the Great October Revolution. Suddenly the new Communist regime found that Pasternak’s works were anti-people and pro-bourgeoise. The hounding and ultimate tragedy of Pasternak makes for truly painful reading. On a more commonsense plane, we cannot name a single valuable work of true literature that has emerged from Communist Russia and China.
The parallels with India are truly eerie. Even without a total Communist rule, the kind of “literature” and “art” that has been celebrated as “bold,” “path-breaking,” and “revolutionary” for over seven decades is pure Communist propaganda. Needless, this propaganda wouldn’t have acquired such pervasive currency but for institutional takeover.
But what is the story on the other side?
The fact that despite such institutional stranglehold, individual stalwarts like Masti Venkatesha Iyengar, Kuvempu, Devudu Narasimha Sastri, Shivarama Karanth, Vishwanatha Sathyanarayana, Narendra Kohli, and Dr. S.L. Bhyrappa held their own against this juggernaut-like assault reveals the true reason why Communists didn’t succeed in India despite their dogged and dictatorial efforts.
However, in the same interim, the short-term damage that the Leftists have inflicted in this space has proved fatal, and in some vital areas like Aesthetics, it is almost irretrievable.
But the story of the Leftist infiltration into and takeover of the cultural space really begins with something called the Indian Progressive Writers' Association in 1932.
To be continued
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