The creation of an illusion of freedom of speech is one of the more insidious ways to stifle dissent in the society, former Union Minister and Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor said. “There are many ways dissent can be stifled. The old fashioned school of locking people up and sending them to concentration camps but the other way is getting employers to hound them for instance.
“The more insidious and sophisticated ways are more dangerous because they preserve the illusion of freedom of speech,” Tharoor said during a discussion at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale here last evening. According to a release, the discussion titled “Dissent and Discourse,” was organised with an aim to explore the notion of dissent and its significance in public discourse, creativity and progress by the BM Anand Foundation as a collateral of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale.
Tharoor was joined by KMB co-founder Riyas Komu, politician Shazia Ilmi and art curator Alka Pande. Given the context of the Biennale, the conversation focused on the art and the role of BM Anand, specifically the subaltern, within society and the civic and social power of art as a voice of dissent and a tool for advancing social justice. Speaking from an artist’s perspective, Komu said dissent could be viewed in a multilayered manner and the Kochi Muziris Biennale has succeeded in creating “a site where many discourses can happen”.
“For us as a foundation the focus is to celebrate the diversity and cosmopolitanism of the historic Muziris region,” he said. “Within any framework of freedom, dissent and dialogue are an essential part of the society. I think like Leonardo da Vinci says nothing strengthens authority like silence so the need to speak out is important. Freedom and dissent are two sides of the same coin,” Shazia Ilmi said.
Alka Pande, who curated the first exhibition of BM Anand in New Delhi earlier this year, said the artist was “absolutely fearless in his language of art and never played to the market and was absolutely honest to his craft.”
Curated by young researcher and writer Shruthi Issac, the exhibition is a sampling of the estimated 1,500 surviving works by BM Anand, from scratchboards, landscapes, watercolours and sketches to commercial illustrations for books, posters, newspapers and magazines.