August Issue 2009
Gandhi’s New Avatar
This is Gandhi as you’ve never seen him before — listening to his iPod; tapping at his laptop; walking his pug dog whilst chatting on a cell phone in a style that emulates Paris Hilton.
This 21st century personification of India’s national hero is the brainchild of the artist Debanjan Roy. Until September, Aicon New York will display Roy’s alternative sculptures of Mahatma Gandhi, providing a social commentary on the lifestyle of contemporary India. The irony of depicting Gandhi with such blatant symbols of India’s current wealth and rising middle class is obvious: while Gandhi’s personal philosophy called for a rejection of material possessions, contemporary India has now abandoned austerity and embarked on an acquisitive drive. It is this combination of austerity from India’s recent past and the cultural and social issues facing it at present that Roy attempts to convey.
In the artist’s own words: “India is a euphoric mix of all kinds of forces. This churn creates the strangest of combinations. In my India Shining series, of which this is a part, I try to find humour in these often incongruous mixes. Mathatma Gandhi becomes a metaphor for an India of austerity that is fast disappearing. In my work, he keeps running into, and adopting, the ways of the new, materialistic India. I try to convey the notion that while many of the new-fangled ways may have been alien to the old India and sit a little awkwardly, Gandhi’s India is, nonetheless, open and receptive.”