A DAY after artist Subodh Gupta was accused of sexual misconduct on an anonymously-run Instagram account, Scene and Herd, a group of art writers, curators and artists Friday emphasised on the need “to come together to address concerns regarding sexual violence and our shared vulnerabilities” at the ongoing Kochi Muziris Biennale (KMB).
“What the art world has consciously or unconsciously perpetuated is a culture of silence and oppression, where people don’t feel comfortable speaking about the exploitation that takes place at various levels,” said art writer Rosalyn D’Mello, who had initiated the discussion.
Gupta, 54, who stepped down as curator of the Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa, has called the allegations against him “false and fabricated”.
Speaking to an audience — including some of the prominent names in Indian art world, including artists Mithu Sen, Atul Dodiya and Dayanita Singh — D’Mello, at KMB, said: “What we need right now is a radical transformation and dismantling of hierarchies.”
While the group underscored the need to create a “safe and proactive community and wider solidarity in the cultural sphere”, it also directed some questions at the Biennale Foundation, especially regarding an investigation against KMB co-founder and secretary Riyas Komu, who stepped down in October this year following allegations of sexual misconduct raised by the same Instagram account. “Is the investigation of Riyas Komu underway? What is the timeline for the investigation to be completed?” they asked.
Underlying the importance of asking questions, artist Anita Dube, also the curator of the ongoing edition of the Biennale, said: “This is a space for insurrection and discussion. It is important to raise questions.”
A statement issued by the Foundation said that “though the foundation has received no formal complaint (against Komu), we are collectively committed to ensuring zero tolerance to any harassment or misconduct”. The foundation has formed a committee to investigate the allegations.