– Summer 2014

Midnight Dreams: The Tragedy of a Lone Revolutionary

Anita Dube

K.P. Krishnakumar, Untitled (Squatting and Bust), 1985, ink, watercolour on paper, 38.1 × 55.88cm. Courtesy Amrita Jhaveri

As soon as I desire I ask to be considered. I am not merely here and now, sealed into thingness. I am for somewhere else and for something else. I demand that notice be taken of my negating activity
in so far as I peruse something other than life; insofar as I do battle for the creation of a human world — that is a world of reciprocal recognitions.

— Frantz Fanon1

As I sit down to write this paper on 
K.P. Krishnakumar and the brief history of the Indian Radical Painters and Sculptors Association, popularly referred to as the Radical Group, I think of Marina Abramović’s performance Cleaning the Mirror (1975), in which she sits scrubbing a skeleton with soap solution. On my part, it calls for an excavation: of a time and place far away, in both a historical and emotional sense. It is a vexing task for an outsider like me, an upper-middle-class woman from the north of India (two significant categories in what we are going to talk about); it is nothing but painful, to say the least. Whatever I write cannot be outside of caricature, so perhaps it is best that I caricature myself, to start with.

A silence

  1. Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks (1952, trans. Richard Philcox), New York: Grove Press, 2007, quoted in Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture, London and New York: Routledge, 1994, p.8.

  2. The Radical Group held an art workshop and camp in a small village named Alapad, in the Thrissur 
district of Kerala, in early December 1989. They worked on paintings and sculptures along with local art students. Villagers participated in discussions that focused on ideas of art and modernity, and slides of pre-Renaissance paintings and René Magritte’s work were shown. Group members collected donations from visitors.

  3. Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection (trans. Leon S. Roudiez), New York: Columbia University Press, 1982, p.2.

  4. H.K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture, op. cit., p.15.

  5. Ibid., pp.20—21.

  6. Roland Barthes, ‘On Racine’, Barthes: Selected Writings (ed. Susan Sontag), New York: Fontana/Collins, 
1982, p.174.

  7. Walter Benjamin, ‘Moscow’ (trans. Edmund F.N. Jephcott), Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms,Autobiographical Writings (ed. Peter Demetz), New York: Schocken Books, 1986, pp.97—98.

  8. Ibid., p.98.

  9. See Jacques Derrida, Politics of Friendship (trans. George Collins), London: Verso Books, 2005.

  10. W. Benjamin, ‘Moscow’, op. cit., pp.97—98.

  11. ‘Questions and Dialogue’ is a manifesto I wrote as a spokesperson for the Radical Group.

  12. H.K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture, op. cit., p.19.

  13. Ibid.

  14. Timothy Hyman was a visiting professor at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Baroda in 1981. He gave a series 
of lectures on R.B. Kitaj, Peter de Francia and Pierre Bonnard, arguing for a return to narrative painting.

  15. Kumar Shahani, eminent film-maker and scholar, presented a paper in Baroda in 1981, speaking of 
the archetype and epic modes of narration. A student of Ritwik Ghatak, Kumar’s ideas came from his 
study of Ghatak’s films.

  16. The exhibition ‘Place for People’ at the Jehangir Art Gallery in Bombay (9—15 November 1981) 
and Rabindra Bhavan in New Delhi (21 November—3 December 1981), which Geeta Kapur helped organise, included Bhupen Khakhar, Gulam Mohammed Sheikh, Jogen Chowdhury, Vivan Sundaram, Nalini Malani and Sudhir Patwardhan.

  17. The group exhibition ‘Alekhya Darsan’ was curated by C. Raman Schlemmer at the Centre d’art Contemporain, Geneva and travelled to Abbaye Royale, Fontevraud.

  18. W. Benjamin, ‘1927’, Reflections, op. cit., pp.116—17.

  19. H.K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture, op. cit., p.11.

  20. Anita Dube, Seven Young Sculptors (exh. cat.), New Delhi: Rabindra Bhavan, 1985, unpaginated.

  21. W. Benjamin, ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’ (1940), Illuminations: Essays and Reflections 
(ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn), New York: Harcourt, 1968, p.263.

  22. H.K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture, op. cit., p.11.

  23. Ibid., p.6.

  24. Ibid.

  25. See Edward W. Said, Orientalism (1978), New York: Penguin, 2003.

  26. W. Benjamin, ‘1927’, op. cit., p.121.

  27. Ibid., p.120.

  28. Ibid., p.116.

  29. W. Benjamin, ‘Conversations with Brecht’, Reflections, op. cit., p.209.

  30. An earlier version of this essay was presented at the seminar ‘Questions & Dialogues: A Radical Manifesto', organised by the Office for Contemporary Art Norway and CoLab Art & Architecture at the School of Art and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi on 16 January 2010.