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For the conveners of Jaipur Literature Festival, touted as the world’s largest free-literary event, institutions and art do not go hand in hand and “governments have no role to play in arts.” Institutions, both public and private, may support and facilitate the growth of the arts but it is essentially not possible to control its fluidity, according to them.
“Bureaucracy or government deals with things in a prescribed way, and art does not fall into any prescription. Hence, there can’t be a happy equation between the two.
“Yes, they may provide resources towards arts. But you cannot have the government controlling arts because potentially there is a conflict between the two,” said JLF Producer Sanjoy K Roy.
He was speaking at one of the sessions titled, “Festivals and beyond” at the Lila’s Prism lecture series. The discussion which revolved around the theme ‘Institution as Practice’ also had historian-author William Dalrymple and writer Namita Gokhale on the panel.
The talk, chaired by art critic and curator Alka Pande focussed on the role played by institutions in the promotion of arts.
A staunch believer in the “power of arts,” Roy said it was important for people to see art as “tangible wealth” and not something merely abstract.
“Art creates intangible wealth we all know. But, time has come to talk about and spread the word about its tangible wealth. It creates tangible wealth too just like banks, hotels and steel industries etc. This is how more people will get involved in this,” he said.
According to Gokhale, it is the “rigid” nature of any institution’s functioning that prevents it from becoming an authority of arts, which more than often transcends beyond any set definition.
“Rigidity makes government institutions irrelevant. What is required from them is more of flexibility. I find the institutions supportive and reasonable too, but with the bureaucracy you never know when it turns the other way round,” she said.
Dalrymple, who has researched and written extensively on the history and art of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Middle East etc, too felt that it was best for artistes to “avoid institutions.”
“Through my works I have made a huge point, and that is to avoid institutions. I was lucky enough to survive through my art and my books sell enough. So I had never had to become part of any institution,” he said.
Talking about how artistes from across genres have been victims of hostility in the recent times, Roy said, “With anyone involved with art being seen as an anti-national, surely enough we realise that the time we are living in is not good for debate.”
“Look what happen with Nawazuddin (Siddique) who was banned from playing a role in Ramleela (citing a harassment case filed against him). All I will say is, it is everyone’s responsibility to speak up.”
Even though she admitted that the existing times were indeed a period of “disruption,” Gokhale remained optimistic that the turmoil would soon fade away.
She said, “No matter what, art transcends everything be it books, paintings or music. We are facing a disruption, but it won’t stay for long.”
The lecture series which include 13 interactive sessions are being held since August and are set to continue till December.