Anita Dube and resistance, everyday

Remember that image of a little boy with a stone in his hand, confronting an approaching tank during the Gulf War? ‘Stone Mountain’ by Anita Dube, a work composed of 365 stones commemorated in red velvet, that marks each day of a year refers to that image and also reverses the saying — ‘to make a mountain out of a molehill’.

Part of ‘City Tales’, an online exhibition by KNMA, Delhi-based Dube, the first woman curator of the Kochi Biennale (2018) has been taking notes and making plans for several conceptual works nowadays. “This is a very necessary empty time for me — a time for renewal of my creative energies,” she tells IANS.

An MFA degree holder in Art Criticism from the M. S. University in Baroda, Dube, whose work is known for its political and social essence was part of the Indian Radical Painters’ and Sculptors’ Association. While her practice is primarily based in sculpture, it also includes installation, performance and video. Using material drawn from the ‘industry’ — wire, plastic; craft and the body, the artist, calls her trajectory “a slow journey of self-discovery which is ongoing delves into themes of personal and social loss.”

Talk about the extensive use of found objects in her work, and she adds, “In found objects — the detritus of our society — I find the materials to unmask the hidden face and tell the stories of our reality.”

Stressing that she doesn’t consider herself an overly productive artist, Dube, who has exhibited at the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art (Helsinki), the Yokohama Triennale, the VII Havana Biennale, the Stephen Lawrence Gallery (London), does admit that not being able to move about freely (in face of the pandemic) in the city from where many of the ideas for work emerge is not really something welcome.

For someone who believes that within the market that favours quantifiable production values, women artists often find themselves to be out of tune, she adds, “Today, we also need to think of how difficult or near impossible it is for the underprivileged class/caste men and women to compete in the existing system.”

Believing that for her, like any other thinking citizen in this country, an awareness of economic and political factors that affect the wellbeing of our public sphere is a major concern, Dube says, “And things that affect me inevitably find their way into my work.”

Talk to her about ‘self-censorship’ in the art world, and the artist is quick to assert, “I would like to believe there is a lot of underground work that is happening in these repressive times.”

At a time when major art events have been cancelled, but not the Kochi Biennale, Dube feels that it has developed a very resilient body that continues to stand against all odds. “And I am happily looking forward to the strategies they use to realize this edition.”

Missing physical exhibitions, which she says can never be replaced by the digital realm, the artist states, “But in this time of crisis, it is a very welcome addition to our possible way of functioning and remaining connected.”