March 17, 2012

Using rail stations for art

Probe the sexual assault now!
Beware of the looters of the Univ!!

Welcome to Freshers! Strengthen the students movement.

Grafftti. Posters. Banners. Are an integral part of a university campus. They are in-your face, strident and cliched. And they have stories to share.

But when my host John Varghese, a professor of English at the English and Foreign Languages University in Hyderabad drove me into his campus close to midnight recently, a stark 100-watt bulb illuminated a creatively designed space announcing the EFL Cricket League matches and points!

The graffiti was all there to see and read that next morning when I took a walk around.

On the walls, on the signboards and on doors and windows.

Bolder were the slogans supporting the Telegana movement.

The agitation has had a stong base in the neighboring Osmania University and students have been at the forefront, crossing the lines, inviting violence and sacrificing their studies.

The EFL University is a small cousin, spread over 35 acres but its closeness to the Telegana tinderbox has generated smoke and fires now and then which makes people like John very concerned.

I understood his concern.

This is a varsity which has lots of foreign students - from Iran and Kazhakstan, from Kerala and from UP. And when ideologies and agitations, debates and graffiti dominate, sparks and fires light the corridors.

Graffiti is free expression, art and subversive too.

But it has its space.

At the north end of Elliots Beach, Besant Nagar on the wall of Spaces (now a space for arts, once guru Chandralekha's dance space), the graffiti has messages to share and adds colour.

But local police have been worried when walkers raise objections to images they see as violent and subversive.

Over time though, the wall has become the space to raise issues.

The walls of our metro and suburban stations have remained grey and grimy, as if to envelope commuters in a blanket of hopelessness and nowhereness.

So the effort by Art Chennai promoters and Max Mueller Bhavan to put art on the walls of the MRTS station in Thiruvanmiyur is commendable.

The Southern Railway has lent a hand.

This summer, we could get the kids from summer camps to exhibit their works and even art the walls.

The Art Chennai event must be followed. Use public space.

Leave it to commuters and my guess is our walls will be over run with love messages.

What do you think? Paan stains?

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