Delhi Node
Return to sender by Tushar Joag
  • What do I know about Kashmir? I know it is ridden with strife, a conflict area between India, Pakistan and China. Some of us know the historical and political facts but is it just a disputed territory? What about the people… the main stakeholders in this debate- People who have for decades not had normalcy in their lives? Can they sleep tonight, can they dream about tomorrow, can they read or write… compose… sing in abandon, sell, shop, love, play, go to school? Can their alienation,hurt and humiliation be acknowledged ortheir rage, anguish, rancor find validation?

It has been seen world over that military action cannot successfully guarantee security and lasting peace. Any so called victories thus achieved are mostly pyrrhic and newer crisis and situations arise in no time. This is because such a resolution to a conflict is always violent. It imposes only a silence by force and threat and when the dissent comes from within or is supported by the populace it is bound to return.
Art is a powerful tool and can play a strong role in conversations around conflict, it can open communications at different levels.
There is either lack or denial … over simplification or distortion of facts when it comes to understanding the issue and the people of Kashmir.As NanditaHaksarHuman rights activist and prominent lawyer says “The gap between Hindus and Muslims, India- and Pakistan and Kashmiris and Indians is growing. …There were Kashmiri Muslims who did not support either India or Pakistan. Also, they did not agree with the idea of militants. And their stories were not being told. They were suppressed and undermined.”

  • So can the Srinagar biennal tell these stories?

Biennales are always named after their host city but here we have the curious case of a biennale that goes by the name of one city but is not hosted by it. The circumstances will not allow for this.  This is a biennale without a post office-  when I say this it is not with the same melancholic strain of Agha Shahid Ali not because as he says “…each post office is boarded up”  but because  more and  more addresses have been created to house it. It is the‘becoming ‘  in the Deleuze and Guattarisense of,the various nodes towards the rhizome which forms the assemblage of the Srinagar Biennale. Each node or piece of the assemblage being such that it has the possibility of being drawn into the territory of the other, of fluidity and connectivity, changing its value as an element and creating a new unity and knowledge.

  • So will the Delhi node attempt to connect with the other nodes?

Yes …“any point of a rhizome can be connected to anything other, and must be…”
If the nodes function independent of each other it is neither a rhizome nor an assemblage.

The Biennials and Triennials world over are characterized by large-scale exhibitions of contemporary art, in enormous and dramatic venues.
  • So will the Delhi Node have large-scale exhibitions?

In all probability not… It will steer clear from the spectacle and will mainly attempt to initiate and creatively catalogue an inclusive data base,to gather and share knowledge, that takes into account the direct and indirect factors and stakeholders.
The main objective will be to contribute towards a better understanding of the ground realities in Kashmir, to create through art, networks in order to show alternative options to counter the prevailing debates and affect the perceptions.
Conditions of conflicts deemed intractable exist within India and globally and a blanket understanding of most such situations is reduced to ethnic or regional or religious affiliations. As propagated by Samuel P. Huntington in The Clash of Civilizations, today the commonly operative trope globally is ‘Islamic brother hood’ and ‘the rest’ that creates opposing binaries that can offer little hope for any resolution. 
Conflicts are dynamic, complex systems even if they fall under the same trope, each conflict in each area has local inflections and specific histories, events and incidents some experienced personally, which contribute to their intractability. Also not surprisingly even if the conflicts seem local there are undoubtedly larger global interests and players involved making the resolution even more complex. For a resolution one cannot use a generic one size fits all strategy. Yet if conflicts are to be understood as systems and a systemic approach can be taken there can be certain learnings  that can be gathered from one that can be useful not as an external solution but as a means at least in part  to enter or understand another. The Delhi node will attempt to involve for this reason artists and projects addressing conflict in other parts of the world.
- It will certainly comprise workshops and discussion forums.
What one sees is a war of doctored images and video snippets that are released from either side and the only images created are to fuel and support the beliefs that operate in opposition. Such images succeed in stirring an emotion of hate which as Sara Ahmed says ‘aligns subjects with collectives by attributing ‘others’ as the source of our feelings’. Can other images be produced that can create a sense of connect between India and Kashmir?
As an advisor to an organization called Art1st which works to impact art education in schools I hope to involve the middle and secondary level school children in pictorial dialogues with school children from Srinagar and other nodes.
-Letters, postcards and photographs will be exchanged

This may or may not take the form of an exhibition.
  • Usually a successful biennale will draw tens, even hundreds of thousands of visitors

No… the barometer for measuring the success of this biennale is not going to be calibrated by the number of visitors but by intangible means.

And lastly:

  • Why is this called the Srinagar Biennale a biennale is a large scale art exhibition that repeats every 2 years.  So will all the nodes come alive after every 2 years since their first activation? That is will the Delhi node slated to happen in Jan/ Feb 2019 get reactivated in Jan /Feb 2021?

That is for the community of the cities  to decide.

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