Kristine Michael: Ceramic Culture as Continuity

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What I have to say can be honest only in clay.” Resonances were palpable on this last evening of the PRISM Lecture Series 2014, initiated in last August with another practice of touch: puppetry, with Eddin Khoo. Acclaimed and prolific ceramic artist Kristine Michael opened the doors of her own tradition of continuity. Continuity, and immediacy. “With clay, one has to start again each time. Even the fire we use is a unique event. Each time both predictable and unpredictable.” And from immediacy, back to time, and history: “Ceramic is also connecting us to the past. It allows you to touch pieces made 5000 years ago!” added Kristine.
Through the designs of ceramic, the environment and cultures of humanity come together . The works of Kristine testify to this matrix of inspirations.

KS Radhakrishnan: Bronze as Continuity

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The sculpture becomes. Here is one idea, one paradox that resonated through Gulmohar Hall, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, on the evening of December 4th, as sculptor KS Radhakrishnan invited a large and diverse audience through the journey of four decades of works. A hypnotising journey, when Radhakrishnan, screening through hundreds of artefacts, builds almost inadvertently on all that sculpture, and more specifically bronze, can tell us about creation, art, culture, politics and governance. “The sculpture becomes!” – the wave of inspiration started in 1974, and it grew and disseminated to reach shores all over India and across the world. “I get all this energy simply by doing, by making sculptures. Energy is generated this way, as a flow. It is like a wave: by losing, it gains. It brings us to the next wave.”

EP Unny: The Comic as Continuity

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“The boy is with me every morning. In the middle of all the problems of our times, he brings me solace, happiness… and laughter!” Ravikant’s introductory words felt like the gratefulness of two entire generations – all those who woke up with EP Unny’s cartoons over the last four decades. A cardinal cultural figure was with us for the ninth PRISM Lecture of 2014, but yet, just like his Newspaper Boy, a celebrity hiding behind his subtle humour, his respectful wittiness, his shy smile. “I couldn’t write. I could draw,” recalled Unny of his decision to become a cartoonist. “So, tonight, I face an unusual problem… word count!” The comic cartoon takes birth in the USA, in the first half of the past century. “Its purpose? To entertain.” Increasingly a vital ingredient of the newspaper, the cartoon soon enters its economy. “Initially, it was published to promote the paper, to bring audience. The cartoon creates characters – it permits characterisation.” And, through characterisation, an audience takes shape, following the daily remarks of this rather unique commentator. An early recurrent figure is Richard Outcault’s Yellow Kid, parodying high society antics. “With 20,000 cartoons, the Yellow Kid shows this art can become a rewarding career in the US.”

Tapan Chakravarty: Urban Space as Continuity

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Listen around: the city has become, too often, the very emblem of the discontinuous. Till today, we tend to see the city as the absurd reconstruction of an artificial environment, permanently mutating, changing, transforming itself, everyday moving further away from our natural roots. Grand parents regret the peace of the countryside, while parents are nostalgic of the city of their youth. “Pollution, crowd, or time act on us as markers of something,” argued Tapan Chakravarty, “and that thing is discontinuity.” “Space has been taken away in the city, they say…. But, is it really so?” How can we retrieve the continuity of urban spaces? That is the task of urban designers, Chakravarty explained, but the first challenge is one of understanding, for everyone. Continuity is all around us. “What is discontinuity? As long as time does not halt, there is nothing like discontinuity. It may be transformation, mild change, drastic change… but is it always continuity. Discontinuity can only be death, the end of everything.” To undertake this change of outlook, Chakravarty presented his two key words. “There is Thing, and there is Thought. A thing without a thought is useless. A thought without a thing is abstract.”

Ritu Menon: Biography as Continuity

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The genesis and realisation of a biography echo the way we deal with the relevance of others’ lives. Biographies attempt the full picture, the small details, the backside of the public image, on societal agents who have inspired generations. Such works aim at ‘humanising’ them, to replace the quantity of their achievements with the backdrop of their personal trajectories. But what, exactly, is at the centre of a biography? Is it the life of an individual, liberated from her own cautious confessions? Or, is it the continuous presence of an actor of change within the larger dynamic of a society’s history? As a part of the second edition of the LILA PRISM Lecture Series titled ‘Cultures as Continuum’, publisher and feminist researcher Ritu Menon reflected on the discontinuous-continuous space of interaction that the genre of biography draws into focus. Seeking to rescue its subject from her past by bringing her into the middle of the present, a biographer intensely studies history, its politics as well as its unsuspected roots in the realm of the personal. A biography is always a new take on the connection of historical periods with personal time.