So afler almost a year and a half in India, what did you find there that you had not found in the West?
Allen Ginsberg: A more intimate awareness of the relation between people and God. Just the very notion of Ganesh with a noose in one hand and a rasgoolla in the other, and his trunk in the rasgoolla, riding a mouse…. Such an idea of a god, such a sophisticated, quixotic, paradoxical combination of the human and the divine, the metaphysical and the psychological! You don’t often get that in Christianity, except maybe in some esoteric Christianity. The idea of an entire culture suffused with respect for that mythology, that religion and its practices, that poor people could under- stand its sophistication and grant things that hard-headed West- erners are still trying to kill each other over. That was a revelation: how deeply the sense of a spiritual existence could penetrate everyday relations, the streets and street signs . . . Naga sadhus walking around naked—people who would have been arrested in America . . . or for that matter—I remember writing to Kerouac—everybody walking around in their underwear, in striped boxer shorts. What would seem outrageous or strange to Americans was just normal—it was hot and people wore very light cotton—it seemed so obvious. That showed me the absurd artificiality of some American customs. . . . And then just the notion of somebody being a businessman and then renouncing the world and being a sannyasi and going around with an intel- ligent expression looking for moksha, that was such a switch from the American notion of business, such a good model, but it doesn’t work for even Indians now. . . . A n d then the availability of ganja and its use in religious festivals and ceremonies was a great source of release for an American used to government dictatorship of all psychedelic drugs (even marijuana), to prohi- bitions, murders, beatings, corruption.8 At least in India there was some familiarity with what it was.
Q: One of my professors at University in Delhi said that the difference between Eastern art and Western art, meaning literature as well, was that the Indian artist, in following a tradition, was making work for the audience, to please his audience. Whereas Western art was an expression of an individual experience.
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AK : I don’t think that’s true at all. Because there are good artists and bad artists, or not-so-good artists. This kind of East-West stuff is rubbish. I mean, for me, being an Indian artist is not important. What is interesting is that there have been a significant number, since the mid-19th century—everyone from Van Gogh to Picasso—of European artists who have been able to look East. Van Gogh was hugely influenced by Japanese prints. Evidently, Matisse was, and Picasso by African art. They’ve been able to look to the other world and make that part of the Western tradition. It’s never happened the other way around. Not significantly, other than Tagore, who we think of as one shining example, but it’s almost never happened. I think there’s actually a prejudice there. I don’t think it’s allowed to happen which is why it doesn’t happen. Every time there is some move by an Eastern artist, or a non-European artist making something which uses some kind of Western idiom or some combination of the two, it’s always seen as influenced. This is a way of putting things down. It’s only recently, really recently, Salman Rushdie and others now, are beginning to deal with something which allows for a real opening up of both traditions. Traditional art, Eastern or Western, can’t happen any more. What’s got to happen is something else. Folk art really only happens in very closed societies, like the work of Tibetan monks, folk art, or tribal art, in India or in Africa, in closed circumstances. I think that’s a battle that really has to be fought hard.
It’s something I’m trying to do myself, in making my work more than stones with holes in them. How does one bring in all sorts of other things which aren’t represented by the matter that’s there?
Source : http://bombmagazine.org/article/1273/