Webbed #2

In this week’s edition of Webbed, the periscope focuses on idol theft in India, the ‘unusual prison art’ of Jesse Krimes, the return of Totenberg’s lost Stradivarius after 35 years, how Friends has made America embrace ‘anti-intellectualism’, the story of Hindi Cinema’s contribution to Daikaiju and Indian cinema’s exploration of homosexuality. Hope you enjoy 🙂

1) When ‘Gods’ go missing:- In the 2013 film Lootera, directed by Vikramaditya Motwane, Ranveer Singh leads a double life – one as an architect and the other, as an accomplice to his uncle, a smuggler of Hindu Idols. This reminds one of the art dealer Subhash Kapoor and his late father, Parshotam Ram Kapoor. They are responsible for thousands of Hindu idols stolen out of India over the past few decades. Last year, I happened to attend a talk by Vijay Kumar, who blogs at Poetry In Stone. His talk was focussed on the issue of Idol Theft. He was largely responsible for the arrest of Subhash Kapoor, currently undergoing trial.

The topic of Idol Theft is the cover story in this week’s issue of The Week. Lakshmi Subramanian has penned a well researched piece on a forgotten topic that needs to be discussed. Gods Forsaken gives you insight about this loot of idols recurring every year to be estimated at around Rs.40,000 crores. The Terrorist group, ISIS, apparently gets its funding through stolen art. Do check out this piece in The Guardian that came out last July.

Perhaps, India should take a leaf out of Italy. Recently, their special squad of Art Police (Carabinieri Art Squad) cracked the Verona Museum Theft Case nabbing 13 suspects responsible for the 17 painting heist that included masterpieces by Italian Renaissance painters Pisanello, Caroto and Jacopo Bellini.

2) The Art of a Prisoner:- At first sight, Jesse Krimes reminds you of the fragile hero, Cincinnatus C. in Vladimir Nabokov’s 1959 masterpiece Invitation to a Beheading.

Cincinnatus C. has been sentenced to death for the crime of “gnostic turpitude” and doesn’t have the privilege of knowing the exact time of his execution. He is not even aware that his cell mate, Mr. Pierre, is in fact his executioner. Everything in the cell, right from the windows to the spider in the corner is fake. The director of the prison, the jailer, the defense lawyer are the same person and they merely change roles and positions.

Cincinnatus C. tries hard by fighting with his instincts and takes refuge in writing as means for escape from the confines of the prison walls. He refuses to become like all the rest in the community.

Jesse Krimes was arrested shortly after his graduation from college in 2008 for possession of cocaine. He is falsely accused for possession of 50 kilos of the drug as he refuses to comply with the police. His sentence is later reduced after his possession of cocaine is found to be way less. During his time in prison, Jesse Krimes takes refuge in Art.

Jesse Krimes

Photograph Credits:- http://www.wnyc.org/story/american-justice/

Prison as a form of social control is violence and anyone placed within its walls is at risk of falling victim to its designs. – Jesse Krimes

Using just prison sheets, hair gel, plastic spoon and news paper cuttings, he painfully constructs visuals without its associated narratives. In the world of internet and social media, when we judge without a second thought based on the narratives that comes with a picture, he tries to blur the distinctions between visuals and context by providing them with different contours. As he states in his website, “My alterations of these materials often inverse their originally intended function within a given system to blur distinctions between intentionality and chance, interior and exterior, surface and structure, and representation and abstraction. Of particular concern, is how these elements transform and exist in various states at different points in time, depending upon ones frame of encountering them.  Often, my material alterations recontextualize the objects within site-specific installations.”

His masterpiece Apokaluptein:16389067″ created during his prison tenure is a collection 0f 39 prison sheets sutured together. “The title references the Greek origin of the word apocalypse meaning to ‘uncover, reveal;’ an event involving destruction or damage on a catastrophic scale; the numbers reference Krimes’ Federal Bureau of Prisons identification number.”

Do check out his wonderful talk at TEDx Philadelphia “How Art and Prison let us understand Life’s complexities

3) A Stradivarius returns home after 35 years:- Roman Totenberg, the late Polish-American violinist and educator played many concerts with his prized possession, a 1734 Ames Stradivarius. Shortly before his 33rd birthday, he purchased the Stradivarius. Back in 1943, it cost him a princely sum of 15,000 USD.

The Italian Luthier, Antonio Stradivari of Cremona was said to have made nearly 1,000 violins during his lifetime (1644-1737). It is estimated that around 500 still exist.

Geoff Edgers of Washington Post, wonderfully narrates the story of the late Philip Johnson. The musical prodigy who turned out to become the Violin Thief.

The violin was stolen from Roman Totenberg’s office at the Longy School of Music of Bard College on May 1980, where he was then the director. He would die in 2012 aged 101 never knowing about his stolen violin. The talkative and eccentric Philip Johnson would die to pancreatic cancer, two weeks before Thanksgiving in 2011.

The violin would finally return to the Totenbergs after thirty-five years.

4) Friends or the sitcom that triggered the fall of the Western Civilization:-

America continues to be the Land of Dreams for many Indians. And the sitcom that truly impacted the lives of Indians majorly was Friends. For 10 years from 1994 to 2004, Indians embraced it like no other Western sitcom before.

David Hopkins, in his piece “How a TV Sitcom Triggered the Downfall of Western Civilization“on Medium, examines how America embraced ‘anti-intellectualism’.

5) Celebrating the 50 year old Daikaiju ‘Gogola’:-

Daikaiju is a film genre that emerged in Japan that features monster targeting cities. The 1960s obscure B-Grade Hindi film, Gogola was of course inspired by the 1954 Japanese film, Godzilla. It remains Hindi cinema’s sole contribution to Daikaiju genre.

Rajesh Devraj brings out the story of how the movie got made in his piece for Scroll – Films that are 50: ‘Gogola? Kaun Gogola? Bada janwar? OK! OK!’

6) Portrayal of Homosexuality in Indian Cinema:-

‘Badnam Basti’ is a 1971 Bollywood drama film by Prem Kapoor adapted from Hindi writer Kamleshwar Prasad Saxena’s first novel Badnam Basti, which was later re-titled Ek Sadak Sattavan Galiyan.

Manish Gaekwad examines the story of the love triangle featured in the film in “The untold story of ‘Badnam Basti’, possibly India’s first gay movie



Author: Kavir Nair

A bespectacled lad from the filter coffee preferring south Indian coastal city of Chennai. The Japanese coined a word just for me - Tsundoku, which means the act of buying a book and leaving it unread, often piled together with other unread books. Although I must add, having an unread library is the way I could truly honour the late Umberto Eco. When not watching movies in theaters or beach walking on Marina, you can find me at home reading a book or writing a journal or Netflixing. While I do all this as Ravi Kiran, my alter ego - Kavir Nair needs an exclusive space to write. Hence, he has chosen this abode.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: