The year was 1961. Henri Matisse’s final works were being displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. One of his works included a painting he called ‘Le Bateau’ or The Boat. The painting hung in the walls of the museum for 47 days – many art critics and lovers came and sang high praise of his work. On the 47th day, a stockbroker came to see the painting. Being a fan of his work, she realised that the painting was actually hung upside down. On inspecting the frame, the curator realised that the pegs were on the bottom of the painting, and the stockbroker was in fact, correct.
This begs the question, what is good art and who decides it? Was the painting hung at the MoMa only because it was a Matisse? If the name under it was Frank, or Syd, or Bindu, would that painting have been deserving of that pedestal?
The Art Circuit has always been an exclusive and guarded place. There isn’t much, if any, logic to say that X is a good piece of art whereas Y is not. Stripped down of names and titles, we’re still unable to quantify the goodness of art. Take colour for example. Colour has never been proven. What I see as blue, you might in fact see as brown or yellow. The lack of nomenclature to describe the look of a colour causes this serious gap. We know of around 10,000,000 shades that exist, but the English language only has around 170,146 words. We have been taught as kids that the grass is green and the sky is blue. But no one has yet proved that what I perceive as blue is also what you perceive as blue. Everything is based on a reference and a true scale is yet to be established.
This brings us back to the question – what is good art? Who said that red text on a black background is sacrilegious? Maybe it’s only unappealing to a few, but rather striking for the vast majority, yet is categorised as a big ‘no-no’ in the world of design.
This protest against the convention dictated by the few is one that is ongoing. From Dadaists, to beat poets, expressionists and even punk rockers, all have gone against the grain of acceptance. Of course today, they are popularly accepted because it’s only a matter of time before a counterculture becomes a norm.
The big deal is in being the first one to go against the norm. Whether it was Govinda’s fluorescent fishnet shirts, or the cinematography of Bandit Queen, films have time and again pushed the limits of acceptance. Celluloid has always been divorced from the circuit and has belonged to the people. It is a medium that is unforgiving and honest. Everyone knows and loves Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, but his later works like Spies and Woman In The Moon have almost been erased from memory.
To keep cinema unpolluted, it is necessary to explore and support local production houses. Production houses in Mumbai have to a certain degree become very exclusive and a circuit in themselves. Independent houses, like us at Curley Street Media, however still thrive by putting the art first, back to the street, with the people. Every project we take on is built from the ground up, with the same passion as the last. We are more than just a film production company in Bangalore. We like to believe that we’re the pulse of the city, the pulse of the people. The film itself will always precede the title of the maker’s at Curley Street.
If there ever was a MoMa for films, we know that it’s up to you to make sure the right ones make it on display.