If the iconic Thames River in London can be resurrected then why can’t Yamuna be brought back to life: Bhushan Kalp | art and culture | Hindustan Times
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If the iconic Thames River in London can be resurrected then why can’t Yamuna be brought back to life: Bhushan Kalp

Meet the 37-year-old Mumbai-based artist Bhushan Kalp, who through his art, is bringing light to the ecological death of Yamuna in Delhi.

art and culture Updated: Nov 27, 2017 12:40 IST
Abhinav Verma
Abhinav Verma
Hindustan Times
Bhushan Kalp,Yamuna,Thames
In a conversation with HT, Bhushan explains how art can once again become the leading agent of change and what Delhi needs to do to revive Yamuna.

Over the years, social media has become the primary quasi agent of change. Now, inception of every social or awareness campaign takes place on social media, it’s the go-to medium. However, this was not always the case. A quick glance at history and you will realize that art, once upon a time, was the catalyst for society’s evolution, when social media didn’t even exist. And this is where Bhushan Kalp comes in. The 37-year-old Mumbai-based artist is using his art as a medium to showcase the slow and the tragic decline of the mighty Yamuna.

In a conversation with HT, Bhushan explains how art can once again become the leading agent of change and what Delhi needs to do to revive Yamuna.

On his motivation and why he decided to use art to express the degradation of Yamuna

When the batch of 2003 from Sir JJ school of Art [in Mumbai] decided to showcase their work under the theme of Lost and Found, I found it apt to use one of India’s holiest river Yamuna, in a hope that it can be brought back to life from its current state of oblivion. Unlike other rivers, Yamuna does not directly flow to the sea. Simply put, it can just swallow your sins but can’t really get rid of it. And that’s exactly what Yamuna is doing now as an antithesis of karma - she is giving what we deserve. Something we once served her.

On rise of social media as an agent of change

Despite the importance of art and culture in our lives and society for centuries, social media has thrived over the past few years as a tool to drive change. For me, it’s not an either and or situation but both - social media and art - can have a collaborative approach in bringing the best of both worlds. One can surely discuss and even microanalyse Taj Mahal over social media but you have to visit the monument to experience one of the wonders of the world. Hence, we need cultural centers, artists, arts organizations of all shapes and sizes across social media platforms to really contribute to spurring the collective imagination and generate enough interest.

How to revive art as a catalyst for evolution

I am a passionate believer in the transformational, uplifting power of artistic expression. Throughout history, art has always been a key catalyst and can divide a society or literally create the ground swell for real social and political change. Apart from generating economic value, arts and culture have already created economies of empathy. And because of that, we can have them play an integral part in building a wide range of social movements from growing intolerance to women safety in the country.

On reviving the mighty Yamuna

More than 50 years after being declared biologically dead, the Thames river in the UK has been hailed as an environmental success story and the iconic river been transformed. If Thames can be brought back to life then why not Yamuna? Delhiites need to be aware how they pollute the river, it’s their responsibility. They must not throw anything in Yamuna. Then the next step is to be taken by the authority. No sewer should go to Yamuna. And then, the cleaning would start. Every citizen needs to be sensitive enough as they are the one who pollute the river. Penalizing then won’t help but telling them about the legacy is the solution. If people are resorting to open near Yamuna bed, there should be enough toilets in slums to discourage them from doing that.

On re-energising the art scene in Delhi

Artists, globally, are known to challenge the status quo and give voice to those left out and left behind. I don’t see why Delhi should be an exception. Artists in the capital need to imagine a better city and inspire others to join in building it. Within India, Delhi is a prime example of having multilingual communities, all claiming to be part of it since the time it was established but always in dilemma as to who it belongs to. Artists need to own it through their canvas and move to bring hope, compassion, resolve and ultimately, action. It can be led through an organised entity that has the wherewithal to scale it up. It doesn’t matter if it’s through a government body or through an art connoisseur.

First Published: Nov 27, 2017 12:40 IST