Sunday, October 25, 2009

Palike gives Bangaloreans an art-attack

Palike gives Bangaloreans an art-attack

E Raghavan

It is most likely that many of you would have noticed tiles printed with portraits of gods mounted on the corners of staircases in public places with an equally prominent appeal not to spit.
The images of a Ganesha, Shiva, Vishnu or Jesus were not part of the architect's design when such buildings were planned. They were brought in later. The idea was that those who chewed pan and were in the habit of disgorging the chewed residue on staircase corners would eschew such a practice. It looks like this solution has worked because no one likes to spit on a divine image, though those who spit will do so elsewhere in open spaces.
It is quite likely that a similar thought motivated the BBMP to plaster all public walls with poster art so that there is no space for unauthorised film posters, graffiti and the like. The result, as many of you would have noticed for sure, is grotesque. Another columnist in this paper, Prakash Belavadi, has commented sufficiently on this effort of the civic body a while ago. It is undoubtedly creativity at its worst.
The intention here is not to dwell on whether there ought to be an effort to create an open art gallery in a city that lacks such visual delights. In fact, it would have been a wonderful idea if genuine artists, not those who are only good at reproducing images, had been commissioned to do murals, paintings and so on. Even freshers at Chitrakala Parishath, yet to hone their skills, would have done a better job than what is currently evident.
One may argue that there is no point in discussing this issue, because the damage is done and we have to live with the visual distractions till colours fade. That is true just as there is no longer any purpose served in feeling utterly helpless and sorry about the Metro running overhead instead of underground.
That precisely is the point. Why is it that bureaucrats take it upon themselves to take decisions that affect six or seven million residents of the city who, by any reckoning, are the primary stakeholders in the city and ought to have a say in such matters?
Why is it that every commissioner of the BBMP, lasting in that office for a year or two at best, thinks that he ought to leave his own signature on the cityscape? Other than the commissioners, you have ministers in charge of the city and chief ministers; each of them trying to put their own stamp as well.
Because every one of them wants to leave a legacy, projects that have high visibility, even if they are whacky or cost huge sums of money, are considered, and not practical and readily available solutions. For instance, the current establishment will never consider putting pressure on the railways to use the existing railway infrastructure, add a bit to that if necessary, and provide reasonably fast and inexpensive connectivity to the airport. Those who know the city will tell you that such a scheme is eminently feasible and at a fraction of the six or seven thousand crore rupees that is to be spent on the proposed high speed rail link to the airport from the city centre. It appears the railways actually have a blue-print but the state is least interested in this because such a project does not earn it the right to put its own chaapa on the city. That is true of the high speed rail link that might be much more expensive than the airport itself, as well as the mono rail that might cost probably as much.
Imagine most of the Metro in the sky and the mono rail, being actively considered, also in the sky. Imagine all the flyovers and roads on stilts planned. You may actually end up with two Bangalores — one on the ground and another on stilts!

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