Riyas Komu’s art speaks beyond aesthetics of social and political injustice and significances. The co-founder and former curator of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Komu did his BA and MA in Fine Arts from JJ School of Art, Mumbai. He arrived in Mumbai in 1992, a crucial year in the history of the Indian nation.
A notebook titled I AM PLURAL is distributed amongst the delegates at the Kerala Literature Festival. The notebook is an extension of installation work by Komu, and includes content that poses questions about the current socio-political scenario in India and at the same celebrates the power of the constitution and the art inside it. In the three-part installation, titled FEAR-1, Komu has digitally scanned and printed 26 pages of the Indian Constitution. The set of the same 26 pages is reproduced as X-ray images of the original and is dark and illegible. The work FEAR -1 was a part of his last solo project Holy Shiver.
Holy Shiver is a chronicle of the interesting times we live in. The title of the exhibition is inspired by a concept discussed by Austrian zoologist and ethologist Konrad Lorenz in his work, On Aggression. Lorenz explains it as the behavioral tendency of willing to kill or be killed in defense of one’s own community, which physically manifests in a tingling sensation in the spine -- a prehuman reflex for the raising of hair on the back of an animal as a preparatory step for a fight when confronted with an enemy. It helps to understand the philosophy of “militant enthusiasm”, the zeitgeist of our times that manifests in the lynchings, the many hyper-nationalist acts, the macro-politics of violence that has injected fear and uncertainty into ordinary lives. The works included -- oil portraits, woodcuts, installations and archival prints framed in space, time and context -- are self-explanatory. These are stories inspired by experiences from the daily lives of a people and nation. These are also conversations with history. The images -- people, incidents, places -- are pauses in this narrative of pain, peace, dissent, dialogue and destruction. In between, we see Babasaheb and the Mahatma in conversation. Holy Shiver is both a recall of history and a journey in search of a Dhamma Swaraj. It is also a pointer to the histories of public action waged in defence of constitutional rights.