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Taste of Arts

Art doesn't have to convey a message, it doesn't have to convey meaning. A viewer's perception of art usually influences its meaning and as a viewer, I have found that art in itself can mean so many things. As people, we love boxing things under certain labels and definitions and it is rather easy to be fixated on those definitions and their corresponding meanings. My view on art wasn’t always the same though, I used to picture big fancy pieces on ivory stained walls when I thought of exhibitions and art galleries. However, my recent visit to the Kathmandu Triennale has changed my perception of what art is and what it can mean, to myself and countless other viewers.

As my junior’s orientation program came to an end, they were taken to The Kathmandu Triennale as part of their last activity. Thankfully, I happened to have tagged along with the lot and got to experience the grandeur and simplicity of art. Our college took us to two different venues, ‘The Taragaon Museum’ and ‘The Art Council', among five culturally and historically significant venues which featured more than 300 works. The venues displayed various art forms, ranging from photography, paintings to installations. The pieces discussed issues and themes such as landart, women empowerment, displacement, and identity formation and our visit also integrated discussions and talks, tours, and several inspiring activities.

Both of the venues had a lot to offer in terms of content and story and all of the pieces were so brilliantly put together. Among them, I loved the Mithila Art piece a lot. Done in primary colors, traditionally of natural origin but now with contemporary materials, the Mithila art narrates religious as well as mythological beliefs practiced in the Mithila region of India and Nepal. The art exhibited many hidden meanings, but what caught my attention was the contradiction between reality and its details. The pieces reflected not just what we see but what we wish we could see. As an art form, Mithila art subtly represents female characters going beyond their normal day-to-day life to express their feelings and thoughts, which have been passed on from generation to generation. Being able to add their own narrative in these pieces has given not just the artists but the viewers too, the opportunity to claim our own voices. Looking at them made me realize the power of narrative and how much freedom and autonomy one can have when they can voice their opinions by themselves for themselves. It also made a lot of us think about the difference it makes to be able to say, “I am here and this is how I want you to see my story” and somebody else saying it for you, “Here’s a story about someone”.

Along with it, there were many other pieces that made me think about things that I wouldn’t have thought otherwise. What would happen if there weren't any vacant land in the city or on the outskirts of town for people to live on? In the future, would everyone be obligated to plant trees around their house or on their terrace? There were many other interesting pieces too, like the one with a pressed green bottle made from bottles collected from Mount Everest and recycled bricks collected from all over the city, as well as a black box with a sketch of insects. Although on the surface they appeared to be simple pieces of artwork, they had the power to fascinate us and captivate our attention. There are and can be countless explanations for art, but I believe that's not the point, one can never know what it means truly. Rather, one just loses themselves in it and makes up their own storyline.

Despite not being able to attend the exhibition at ‘Nepal Art Council’ in person, hearing from so many people has helped me understand the importance and power of art. Alisha Bhattarai, a senior associate, one of the people who attended the Triennale at the council says, “It was an encapsulation of every intense emotion. The theme revolved around women, empowering women, struggle and rights of women, and opportunity for women”, about one particular piece. The artwork on display was created by female artists and depicted every theme outlined above. 

One of the walls was filled with sticky notes with real-life stories of women being harassed and assaulted along with encouraging comments from others. Once again, it showed me that art has the ability to bring out injustices and ugly truths of the world in a way that people can relate to and acknowledge. Simply put, the entire session at The Art Council was inspiring, intimidating, and extremely informative.

In addition to being a soothing experience, I got the chance to see art from a broader perspective as a business student. The opportunity to see the world through the artists' lenses along with my own and to see deeper meaning and truths in otherwise mundane things. At the same time, it also made me break away from the notion that art has to be a particular way.

It was an interesting experience to see art from global contemporary artists and it also made me feel somehow proud to be able to attend such a wonderful international platform in my own city. The Kathmandu Triennale was able to beautifully showcase in our experiences that art, in fact, does unite us together. While our visit was designed to educate us, the ongoing discussions among students in regard to the theme and essence had the potential to connect perspectives in an informal manner. After my experience cumulating the thoughts of many that attended the Triennale, I was able to have a pleasant and sweet taste of the vastness of Art.