There’s a small booth with fibreglass sculptures that’s producing much mirth among ordinary spectators at the fifth edition of the India Art Fair. Gautam Bhatia may run the risk of a ban or an FIR considering the current climate of “cultural emergency” in India. But his deeply satirical sculptures on politics and Indian politician has got people to stop, stare and engage.
It’s no surprise, why. One of the works titled ‘Rajya Sabha’ shows three politicians sitting on a toilet seat. Another one titled ‘Lok Sabha’ has sculptures of two seemingly nonchalant politicians placed a little deeper into the commode. Yet another called ‘The Great Indian Debate’ targets the general apathy of the elected heads towards policy making. It’s hard to miss the various stages of sloth depicted in each sculpture meticulously placed on the parliamentary bench.
Bhatia, who’s a Delhi-based professional architect, says his work may not be considered “serious” art but it was his intention to engage people by putting together the grim reality of what the nation faces in a visual narrative. “When you consider the indolence and incompetence of the political class, the only picture that comes to your mind is of flushing them in the drainage of the city and getting rid of them forever,” he says.
That’s a thought that may find a lot of takers, but surely putting it out there can mean trouble for any artist. Bhatia agrees that India is not exactly a haven for artists who decide to challenge authority. However, he feels it’s time art descended from its reclusive world onto the public platform. “There are so many countries that have great forms of public art to get people thinking. The maximum we have in India is a statue of Gandhi or Ambedkar,” he says. He feels the art fair is an apt platform to allow art to engage with a larger audience, which in many ways is the same as what one would get at a car and bike show.
One of the peculiarities of Bhatia’s sculptures are the scribbles on them that are more of satirical value than aesthetic. “Wanted Bigot. Fanatical political group requires racist leaders, must be willing to wear large badly stitched shorts,” reads one of them.