Politics of Real--- by Sanjeev Khandekar

Our new world of transgenic realities and virtual possibilities, hologramic existences and laser images, photocoagulative tissue fixing, in vitro fertilizations and ex vivo zygote building, possibilities of maneuvering and choreographing realities has made it possible to have a new order for the world. What is this new order is precisely the contestation that Chintan wants to put forward through his two shows starting in Mumbai, beginning of this year. The new order has to be necessarily viewed in the context of late capitalist consumerist paradise, which we are part of, as players and as viewers simultaneously. Hyper reality is the new order of the real, or ‘ireal’ is the new real, is the polemic that he offers through his new works.

The works are divided into two separate shows, one is his paintings (titled as Maya) and another is his installation (titled as Clone Vitthala) of sculptures. Both of them, i.e. paintings and sculptures are painted designed babies, what he calls the “Smart Alecs”, their bodies wearing extracts from Rajasthani miniature paintings, highlighting the typical ‘Kamsutra’ images, as an underlying motif of the works.

The announcement of Real, of its divorce from the real has been a concern for the contemporary social life for almost a decade or more.
Take one simple example of Cloning, one of the bio technological means that has enabled man to subject everything to the process of simulation, programming, and manage everything genetically and neurologically. The process shows an incapability of braving through our own diversity and reducing our existence to pathological eternity of self replicating cells to our viral origins as sexless immortal beings. It reduces history of mankind to a meaningless clutter of words and abates it to a meiotic decay or to an activity of composting machine.

The very murder of the real is the concern that Chintan is putting forward through a series of his efforts for last few years. ‘Maya’ and ‘Clone Vitthala’ is another ingemination that he lays out as if nestled meme machines in a specially designed gallery space. In case of ‘Maya” the gallery is painted red, carpeted red to create a womb like cave while ‘clone Vitthala’ is staged in a mirror gallery to create multiple spaces in a spectacular way.

For Chintan, the sculptures and his paintings serve as units of cultural information, symbols of political memes, they look like cyberblitzs, kind of cyber game objects, substance less, disinvested of material inertia, they represent the utilitarian de-spiritualized universe and open up the possibilities of new realms of reality. The realities here are ‘not real’ realities and their domains are nothing but false kingdoms, ‘to STAGE it in a fake spectacle’ as Lacan calls.

Subjecting of body as an artificial device to replace the body is one of the concerns that Chintan has in his mind. Jean Baudrillard has defined the problem as, ‘It is a genetic formula inscribed in each cell that becomes the veritable modern prosthesis of a body… If the prosthesis is commonly an artifact that supplements a failing organ, or the instrumental extension of a body, then the DNA molecule, which contains all information relative to a body, is the prosthesis par excellence, the one that will allow for the indefinite extension of this body by the body itself - this body itself being nothing but an indefinite series of prostheses.”. Baudrillard uses concept of ‘simulacra’ to describe the state of image and representation which our postmodern moment has created, For him, there are no longer any ‘true’ or essential identities, instead by virtue of our state hyper commoditization we are left with series of detached, distanced, alienated and isolated images which are merely ‘copies of copy’ holding no claims to the essential truth.

Creation of demonic space is a primary disposition of his ‘Clone Vitthala’ installation. And Demusculinization of fantasy kernel of our being is an underlined alarum that the viewer perceives when he encounters the copies of copy sculptures arranged in unending false space of the gallery.

The logic of consumerism is to initiate luxuriation, and hyper reality provides for a smooth wallowing. The hyper reality is a simulation of something that never existed. It tricks the consciousness into detaching from any real emotional engagement, instead opting for artificial simulation, and endless reproductions of fundamentally empty appearance. Fulfillment and therefore happiness finds their reflection in hyper reality, by overpowering an individual. Hyper reality thus swallows reality into its ‘not real world’.

Libidanility has been always a characteristic trait for Chintan’s works. ‘Maya’ and ‘Clone Vitthala’ are not exceptions. Biology as an ideology and libidinality as a political expression has been a trend for some time in contemporary art. Chintan’s babies are titled as Smart Alec, the dictionary meaning of Smart Alec is an impudent person, obnoxiously self assertive. Smart Alec is also the name of one of the most widely circulated of the early underground pornographic films. The short film has scenes of sexual intercourses and fellatio, which became popular.

Pornography has been always Chintan’s first preference to comment on cotemporary hyper consumer society. He uses porno imagery to unearth the reason of sexuation. The skin that the Smart Alec bears in his paintings and sculptures is, as mentioned earlier, a selection of leafs of Indian miniature paintings, often personating Kamsutra pictures or related elite porn , a kind of a monograph on desire. They lurk voluptuously on the bodies of his works, and sneak into the gallery hall that is filled up with red colour.

All of his works strike a strange angle, as a built in architecture, or as if default system, what hits your eyes every time is the infantile visage, almost theatrical and Mephistophelean, with the globus fat head, and then the inbuilt angle ushers viewer vision leading him to confront with the conspicuous genitals of the body, making a weird and wonderful relationship between head and genitals apparent.

Once we understand the limits of viewer’s gaze, the ideolological and fantasmatic coordinates of his works in the matrix of the late capitalist consumerist contemporary society get denoted, and find their location.

Smart Alec is his new real, a copy of the copy, without an original, It stands for a symbol of New Man, his biology and his sexuation entails a logic of deprivation of material languor. Smart Alec is predicament and a dilemma, his desire and death. Smart Alec is new myth that Chintan is building, predicative of outmoded utopia of renewal of perception.

(This is an extract of an essay written by Sanjeev Khandekar, on Chintan Upadhyay’s recent works for private circulation. Sanjeev Khandekar is a visual artist, poet and writer, he lives and works in Mumbai. “Ction show.)