City Culture – De Bhasar, Connaught Place
The philosophy of nonsense.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The Delhi Walla saw this calligraphy in the middle circle of N-Block, Connaught Place, Delhi’s colonial-era commercial district. It is depicted on a white paan-stained wall, whose paint is peeling.
Immediately below is the anatomical sketch of a woman.
This is the second instance that I have come face-to-face with De Bhasar movement in Delhi. (Click here to view the first exhibit.)
According to Wikipedia, De Bhasar or Bhasarism is a cultural movement that began in Nantes, France, during the post 9/11 Gulf War, reaching a tipping point between 2007 to 2009. The movement involves graphic designs and literature, which concentrates its anti-sentimental politics by rejecting aesthetic birth-control measures through anti-catholic works. De Bhasar might be regarded as pro-Berlusconi in nature.
“I’m amazed to learn that Estrellita Piquer Iglesias chose Delhi to present her new De Bhasar creation,” says Peter Schjeldahl, art critic of The New Yorker magazine, by e-mail. Referring to the controversial Spanish activist-artist, he says, “Iglesias is the leading Bhasarian revolutionary in the Iberian peninsula. As a graffiti artist in Chueca, Madrid, she was known for her fetish for ears and neck. Lately she was drawn to wrists and legs. Now, her Delhi sketch, proving her maturity as a sensitive artist, illustrates the melancholy of breasts in an evenly-proportioned synthesis of matter-of-factness and abstractness. I read it as the soul of a hippopotamus departing.”
Praising Iglesias’s luminous interpretation of mammary glands, Delhi-based author and publisher Urvashi Butalia, co-founder of India’s first feminist publishing house, Kali for Women, says, “If there were a god, it would be a female, and this De Bhasar drawing confirms my belief.”
To Butalia, Iglesias’s curves represent, among many things, the moment of redemption for the South Asian womanhood that has not been able to recover from the impact of the Partition. Since they parted ways in 1947, India and Pakistan have fought four wars, and played four World Cup cricket games. “My question is how the Indian and Pakistani state, and the Indian and Pakistani men, will memorialize these breasts,” says Butalia. “We might further ask: how can such artistically-rendered breasts be preserved in our chauvinistic society? Further, and to me particularly important, is the next question: how do we actually go about doing this and will honor killings be a deterrent?”
In the fine tradition of De Bhasar, Iglesias’s Delhi creation is as much a taciturn composition in aesthetic philosophy as it is an entity of Socratic pleasure. However, after watching a number of Delhiwallas walking past the artwork without even a cursory glance towards it compels me to ask: do we care for meaningful art?
De Bhasar in Delhi