‘Holy Shiver’ is a response to a State in deliberate conflict with its founding principles. The title ‘Holy Shiver’ is a reference to the conceptual strand discussed by Austrian zoologist and ethologist Konrad Lorenz in his book, On Aggression. Calling the behavioural tendency of willing to kill or be killed in defence of one’s own community, Lorenz talks about how this tendency physically manifests in the tingling sensation in the spine- a prehuman reflex for the raising of hair on the back of an animal as a preparatory step for a fight when confronted with an enemy. The communal defence mechanism can be thought of as a useful example of what makes certain people kill or be killed in the defence of the communities they belong to.
Komu draws on the philosophy of “militant enthusiasm” to produce a series of oil portraits, woodcuts, videos, installations, and archival prints that discuss the concept in light of the issues currently plaguing the country. He cultivates his thematic preoccupation with the figure of Gandhi by placing his portraits in dialogue with that of Ambedkar, thereby framing and establishing an interaction between two apparently disparate ideologies in the scope of a single frame. He places the Gandhi-Ambedkar debate as part of a larger political narrative and references the ideological paradoxes in the contemporary moment while challenging, in their photographic verisimilitude and invasive gaze, the short-lived nature of public memory. As our everyday lives are barraged with stories of animosity towards ‘the other’ and violence to establish a nationalised identity, ‘Holy Shiver’ is a timely examination and searing critique of the State machinery’s prevailing inclination to substitute faith in the country’s constitution and democratic framework with fear and loathing.
Komu’s work, which spans a range of mediums, is celebrated for its emphasis on human subjects. Carrying a strain of dissent in varying degrees, his oil portraits bear a tone of confrontation. These portraits have redefined the genre of portraiture as the close-up renditions of the faces act as a perpetual reminder of their predicament, thus extricating themselves from their prospective position as passive artworks on the wall. RiyasKomu represented the Iranian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2015 and was a participant in the 52nd Venice Biennale, curated by Robert Storr in 2007. Some of his solo exhibitions include ‘On International Workers’ Day, Gandhi from Kochi’ at Kashi Art Gallery, 2015, Kochi; SubratoTo César, Gallery Maskara, Mumbai, 2010; The Third Day, Lalit Kala Academy, RabindraBhavan, New Delhi, 2004, amongst others. He also co-curated the first ever International football film festival in India at Goa International Film Festival and Trivandrum International Film festivals in 2012. He is the co-founder of the Kochi MuzirisBiennale in India and he is now the Director of Programmes for the Kochi Biennale Foundation developing projects focusing on Art Education in India. In this capacity, he has also initiated the Children’s Biennale, Students Biennale and Artists Cinema and few other projects. The artist lives and works in Mumbai. He is the curator of the Young Subcontinent project,that brings together young artists from across the sub-continent, at the Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa, and the Founder of URU art harbour, a cultural hub, in Kochi.
Artist: Riyas Komu
Title: ‘Holy Shiver’
Dates: 2nd February – 3rd March, 2018
Time: 10 am- 7 pm
Venue: Vadehra Art Gallery, D-53 Defence Colony, New Delhi 110024