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THE eyes of the future

The poster-print exhibition at Max Mueller Bhavan offers us a chance to look at ourselves through the eyes of the future


A BOY IN a checked shirt carries a skyscraper-high pile of myriad-hued books to a corner of his classroom. The blackboard behind him proclaims the day's homework, beginning with a mere 1,000 sums! The desks and chairs are in vivid reds and blues, oranges, and greens. There are no browns and mottled greys in sight. For, in the world of Rudra Kumar, eight, from Gujarat, this captures his vision of Utopia.

Rudra's is just of one of the 46 poster-prints on display at the local Max Mueller Bhavan, from July 15 to August 7. He features among the selected entries by Indian children aged six to 15 from Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Gujarat, co-ordinated by the city-based Chandana Art Foundation International (CAFI), for an international contest, titled `Utopia: The future is what you make of it.'

Conceptualised and curated by Molly Nesbit, Hans Ulrich, and Rikrit Tiravanija, it was triggered by questions arising from the 2003 Venice Biennale exhibition. What will the future bring? What will the world of the future look like? How will we live? The final utopian show by contemporary artists, to be hosted at Munich's House of World Culture from October 7, 2004, to January 9, 2005, will run parallel to a global, child-centric one.


In the latter, children across continents will envisage the future in paint. Their answers could be "intriguing, funny, whimsical, thought-provoking or interesting... The future is, after all, what our children make of it," according to a Chandana press release. And these scintillating Indian entries — downsized as prints from the 45 x 65 cm. original posters — do stand a fair chance at Munich.

Purple human silhouettes loom against arrayed computer terminals, just as the world explodes in streaks of red outside glass panes, in Vaishali Shah's (12) worldview. Pooja Raje (13) assembles expressive faces from distant lands against a backdrop of graffiti that declares: `Girls can only win.' Khwati Shukla (12) renders a dramatic portrait of a wired-up child. Could he be a cyborg of the future? Divya Gagnani (13), shares a dazed face in a corner of the print, watching a high-tech machine zap plant and human life with unspecified rays. Jinita Desai (13) depicts a terrifying battery of steel-grey weapons zeroing in on a solitary human figure caught in an aureole of fiery red. Sahana S. comes up with an idyllic landscape of a hut by a waterfall-fed river, with a slogan to match: "Greens make heroes/ Pollution makes zeroes."

Looking around the MMB display, selected from the hundred-odd entries that Chandana received, makes us question the grim world our children mirror for us. Could this possibly be their dream of Utopia, which the dictionary defines as "an imaginary island described in a book of the same name by Sir Thomas More (1516) as having a perfect political and social system"? Have we given them a today in shades of grey, a vision shorn of wonder?

Though at least a dozen entries, each executed over two months ago, were remarkable for their original palette, sheer raw vitality, and unhampered imagination, this selection raised some troubling questions. Were the young participants not told of the significance of Utopia?


To what extent were they cued in by their art teachers? How democratically were the participants chosen? Why were entries not drawn from the larger canvas of India?

These puzzles apart, the show deserves a visit. For the charitable trust Chandana worked in tandem with the International Child Art Foundation (ICAF), to offer us a chance to look at ourselves through the eyes of the future. A chance to revisit the sites of our childhood, and celebrate the vision that might have been. Isn't that reason enough to check out the utopias rendered by Rudra Kumar and his young companions in art?

(The show is open between 9 a.m. and 6.30 p.m. on weekdays, 3 p.m. to 5.30 p.m. on Saturdays).

ADITI DE

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