Art Summit for a non-artist
It was a room filled up with commodities we see around us in our everyday lives – a CRT TV here, a wooden bench there. All of these were part of the theme of a section in the Dhaka Art Summit 2023. My non-artistic braincells might not be able to comprehend the art shrouded within but I knew how to appreciate it, respect it, and not touch anything.
So, on the fourth floor, when my friend and I came across a few t-shirts on a hanger and my friend started browsing through them, I went ahead and cautioned him not to touch the art in the gallery. With CRT monitors, wooden benches, sands and bags of cement already being a part of the exhibition, I was certain that the t-shirts were also pieces of art.
That was, until I was proven wrong when one of the kind volunteers there told me that the t-shirts were indeed for sale. I was left utterly humiliated realising that my non-artistic coarse brain couldn't differentiate between what's art and what isn't.
But not for once, did I feel unwelcome. The atmosphere, however pretentious or snobby it might seem for the common Joe, is definitely a much-needed change of pace in the chaotic mess that is Dhaka. Being surrounded by all sorts of artsy things is bound to make you feel cultured.
Until you come across a sculpture so obscure and perplexing that you can't help but question the art behind it. I was too insecure to ask the volunteers for help. I tried to dissect the art myself by reading the description which didn't really help me understand any further what I was looking at. I looked around and found two kinds of people. The ones who were genuinely interested in the paintings, the sculptures and the meaning of it all. And the other kind who'd be in every exhibition, book fair, concert and all things trending in Dhaka with a singular goal in mind: to score social media points.
But then across the room, I found someone just like myself. Insecure of his own ignorance and fearful of his curiosity, a guy was staring at a bench in the middle of the room.
He couldn't decide whether the bench was a part of the exhibition and whether it would be against the rules to sit on it. Asking someone whether or not the bench was an art piece would make him look like an uncultured fool, which he didn't really want anyone else to find out. Standing in the room, full of people who either understood art or pretended to, it finally hit me.
I wasn't the only non-artist in the room after all. Maybe enjoying art isn't about understanding the metaphors or comprehending the artist's chain of thought. It isn't about interpreting the shades of colours or the strokes of brushes. It's about sharing an experience outside of deadlines, assignments, mid-terms, traffic jams, smog, and everything traumatic this city has to offer. It is about creating memories with your loved ones that does not involve restaurant hopping.
Maybe art is about staring at a wall long enough before you realise that the exhibition ended in the previous room, and it's just wall paint that you've been staring at for the past ten minutes.
Remind Ifti to be quieter at [email protected]